I spent hours sitting on benches in walled gardens, reading about Japan’s dominant religions, Buddhism and Shinto. I marveled at the concept of kensho, or satori—enlightenment that comes in a flash, a blinding pop. Sort of like the bulb on my Minolta. I liked that. I wanted that.
I was a castaway, a kind of modern Crusoe. I wanted to be home again. Now.
And yet. I was still aflame with curiosity about the world. I still wanted to see, to explore. Curiosity won.
Everyone knew that war was coming, and that it would be very ugly, very different. It would be a Lewis Carroll war, the kind in which a U.S. officer would declare: We had to destroy the village in order to save it.
All is vanity, says the Bible. All is now, says Zen. All is dust, says the desert.
I read in my guidebook that Michelangelo was miserable while painting his masterpiece. His back and neck ached. Paint fell constantly into his hair and eyes. He couldn’t wait to be finished, he told friends. If even Michelangelo didn’t like his work, I thought, what hope is there for the rest of us?
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in.
There were many ways down Mount Fuji, according to my guidebook, but only one way up. Life lesson in that, I thought.
Mr. Onitsuka also told Bowerman that the inspiration for the unique soles on Tigers had come to him while eating sushi. Looking down at his wooden platter, at the underside of an octopus’s leg, he thought a similar suction cup might work on the sole of a runner’s flat. Bowerman filed that away. Inspiration, he learned, can come from quotidian things. Things you might eat. Or find lying around the house.
Before getting down to brass tacks, Owen first wanted to tell me a story. Salesmen always do.
I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.
By nature I was a loner, but since childhood I’d thrived in team sports. My psyche was in true harmony when I had a mix of alone time and team time.
Yes, I thought. Confidence. More than equity, more than liquidity, that’s what a man needs.
The average person takes seventy-five hundred steps a day, 274 million steps over the course of a long life, the equivalent of six times around the globe—shoe dogs, it seemed to me, simply wanted to be part of that journey. Shoes were their way of connecting with humanity. What better way of connecting, shoe dogs thought, than by refining the hinge that joins each person to the world’s surface?
It’s one thing to watch a sporting event and put yourself in the players’ shoes. Every fan does that. It’s another thing when the athletes are actually in your shoes.
It’s hard enough to invent and manufacture and market a product, but then the logistics, the mechanics, the hydraulics of getting it to the people who want it, when they want it—this is how companies die, how ulcers are born.
He jumped up and paced. Back and forth he danced behind his desk. Then he sat down. Then he did it again. It wasn’t the pacing of a thinker, but the agitation of a caged animal.
For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living—and at some point in the late 1970s, I did, too.
When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.
I thought of that phrase, “It’s just business.” It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.
Oneness—in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking.
I felt that same sense of betrayal when Nike came under attack for conditions in our overseas factories—the so-called sweatshop controversy. Whenever reporters said a factory was unsatisfactory, they never said how much better it was than the day we first went in. They never said how hard we’d worked with our factory partners to upgrade conditions, to make them safer and cleaner. They never said these factories weren’t ours, that we were renters, one among many tenants. They simply searched until they found a worker with complaints about conditions, and they used that worker to vilify us, and only us, knowing our name would generate maximum publicity