A Shoe Dog is a person who is right into shoes according to the biography of the same name, written by Phil Knight, co-founder of shoe and apparel behemoth Nike.
The chapters are broken into years, from Phil’s early days post-college as a Stanford graduate with an idea in 1962 to the IPO of Nike in 1980, an IPO that made Phil $178 Million on the day of offering. Phil Knight now has the prestige of being one of the 15 richest men in the world, with an estimated net worth of $24.4 Billion, so his biography would certainly appeal to any person interested in the rise of an individual from middle class graduate to a multi-billionaire.
One of the things that I found most interesting about the Shoe Dog story is that it covers nearly 20 years of the beginning of Nike, from its origins as a Japanese shoe retailer called ‘Blue Ribbon Sports’ to the largest shoe and apparel retailer in the USA, eventually overtaking rival Adidas. 20 years, starting with Phil as a 24-year-old with a brand-new MBA. He doesn’t really actually even get any product until he is 26, so by the time things are moving he is in his early 30’s.
With so much focus on modern day rags-to-riches tales from the dot com boom era, I appreciate the fact that reading through Phil’s memoir, he doesn’t really achieve independently wealthy status until the IPO in his 40’s. The book is littered with commentary on how hard cash flow was to maintain, how much difficulty they faced maintaining lines of credit during the relentless growth of the company. Nike nearly went under a couple of times, and they narrowly avoided losing everything in those moments.
Phil comments that his own leadership style is one where he offers little encouragement, and by his own admission he was a hard task master even to the very loyal and true-to-the-cause employees who put themselves out for the company time and time again. An absent father, he briefly touches on the familial impact of being an absent, company-focused man and what that meant to his children.
I think that some people will read this memoir as an indication that if you have a dream it’s possible to achieve it, but in the 380 pages of the book you can forget that it is actually decades of hard work, uncertainty and relentless grind. Not to mention two University degrees, part time work, shitty offices, some shady dealings, being a bit dodgy, scrounging for cash and literally betting the house time and time again.
My reading of Shoe Dog further validates my belief that there are only a select few who can not only maintain a vision for the long term (I would consider 20 years a long term vision) and maintain a steadfast grind towards it regardless of external circumstances.
Personally, I admire his grind and tenacity, but I aspire to be less the admonishing, give-no-praise CEO of the Phil Knight/Steve Jobs style, than a more giving, generous CEO like Lars Sorensen. Nike is no doubt one of the iconic brands, and to see it come together in the pages of the book you realise it took a lot of hard work, some luck, the right people and the right timing. It is not something that can be replicated, only self-awareness about what you are willing to sacrifice to dominate an industry can guide your progress.
If you are interested in business building from scratch, Nike, wealthy people or how long it might take to make your first $100 Million, even when you are double sales year on year for over a decade, grab it and give it a read. If nothing else it is a good yarn. I’d be interested to hear what other people think of this one!
Keep reading, keep working hard and as always, Just Be Nice.
Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow
A 2017 Book review.
If you are a native of Australia, as I am, you are unlikely to have had any idea who Alexander is prior to the release of a hit musical in his name Hamilton. The biography, being reviewed today is over 800 pages long, it was quite a brick to lug around during the time it took me to read it… and yet, it was totally worth it.
The story of Hamilton is a riveting one, I don’t want to give too much away, after all it takes 800 pages to get through his life story, but it involves one of the first political sex scandals in the US, the American revolution, his rise from poverty to one of the most powerful men in the United States, thousands of pages of prolific writing and policy generation and some of the most well known luminaries of American politics… It also feature duels. Yes, duels. Two men settling matters of honor by organising to shoot at each other.
So who is Alexander Hamilton?
Hamilton is one of the founding fathers of the United States, along with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. The founding fathers set down the framework for what exists as the United States of America as we currently know it, no doubt some of these names ring a bell for people throughout the western world.
Rather than summarise Alexander Hamilton (we have Wikipedia for that) or try to sum up an 800 page book, in a much shorter review (go and read the book), I thought I would simply review the book by dropping in some interesting things that I found in the reading of the story.
Firstly, while we sit around worried about how much of our information is being stored for all time, news feeds, myspace pages, facebook posts and the like, tens of thousands of pages of writing, correspondence, articles and journals exist from the pen of Alexander Hamilton and his contemporaries, enabling a biographer to really dig very deep into the thoughts and goings on of the people of that era. So being able to re-read your whole life is certainly not a new phenomenon.
Ron Chernow is a master when it comes to biographical writing, really conjuring up the personalities of the characters that feature. I have previously read Titan, a biography of John D. Rockefeller, and I highly recommend that read as well. Chernow goes to great pains to paint a vivid and informative picture of the age and environment in which these luminaries lived.
Far from simply being a story about an interesting man, Alexander Hamilton is a history lesson, a portrait of the political landscape of the time, a discussion of human nature, sociological enquiry and compelling drama. I have learned much about the time, and will continue to read more about the time and events surrounding the founding of the United States thanks to this book.
Things that I learned.
Firstly, when the United States was founded, it looked like this:
All on the east coast, and looking very different to the United States that we know today. I had no idea that at the time of founding, the US was so small. That was interesting to me, also that big middle part (Louisiana) was bought by the US for only $15Million. So let that sink in for a minute!
Thomas Jefferson seems like a bit of an ass. Ok, yes he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and was the third President of the United States, but he was still a hypocritical, game playing, sneaky politician. Basically the kind of politician that I cannot stand. The dynamic between Jefferson and Hamilton makes for interesting, yet very frustrating reading.
Thirdly - Slavery.
Well slavery is disgusting. That’s nothing new, but I did not realise that there was an active abolitionist movement as old as American Revolution. While it seems that some of the Abolitionists were paying lip service to the abolition of slavery (as they still had some slaves), any discussion of the Union of the states absolutely forbade the discussion of abolition. The southern states simply would not sit at the table to discuss a United States if there was talk of freeing slaves, yet a clause in the original setting up of union allowed for 3 votes for every 5 slaves to be counted, giving slave states a clear upper hand in elections during the years preceding civil war.
Hamilton was a Boss. He has all the makings of an amazing lead character. Brilliant, a prolific writer, thinker and doer, even at the expense of his health. He was a visionary, with an unwavering and seemingly 20/20 view of the future of the United States, even in the face of criticism and staunch opposition. Flawed, overly sensitive, easy to wind up, a debonair, handsome ladies man with a chip on his shoulder about his humble immigrant beginnings, Hamilton’s strength for writing outstanding critical reasoning pieces contributed to his downfall as he felt the need to write to personally address every grievance or attack on his honour.
Given that he was a politician, there were ample attacks on his character, attacks which essentially handed Hamilton the shovel with which to continually dig his own proverbial grave.
I could not have any more respect for Hamilton’s complete and unwavering vision for putting together the foundation of the United States. From helping draft the constitution and writing the most comprehensive interpretation of it to promote its ratification (his Federalist Papers) to the creation of the US Treasury, Coast Guard, First National Bank and advocating for a strong national military (Although perhaps this has been taken a bit to the extreme since then).
At the expense of both his physical and mental health, Hamilton dedicated his life to helping to guide and execute a vision for the United States that built the foundations for its future success for hundreds of years. Always answering critics completely and honestly, in a professional sense Hamilton acted with the upmost integrity, never abusing his power for fiduciary gain, despite the rumours started by his detractors.
While his personal life was perhaps less blemish free, his widows unending love and admiration for her husband speaks to the possibility that Alexanders foibles as a man were not a surprise to her, and somehow they had come to terms with his infidelity.
Reading Alexander Hamilton, I realise how far we have come and how much humans must always have been acting the same since the beginning of time. The political machinations are much the same as they are now, sling mud with no base in facts and some of it will stick, point to deficiencies in others, and where there are none, make some up. Infighting, hypocritical game playing and fear mongering still feature prominently in politics across the globe. I learned much about a time and series of events that were otherwise unknown to me. Hamilton’s legacy is the execution of his vision for a country that no one else could see with any clarity, and I admire the commitment to vision.
I wish at some level that we still lived in a time where people could write 20,000 word essays on subjects of public debate and people would read them. It seems more accountable and complete than the sound byte/tweet/15 second video information that we have now, but I suppose that’s a reflection of the times. Instead of Facebook, at the beginning of the Union, factions merely started various newspapers to churn out propaganda, rumours and name calling.
The book was given to me by a dear friend, as a cautionary tale to avoid being worked to death in the pursuit of a vision that perhaps not everyone understands right away, and I will take that away. There is no answering some critics, some people will sling mud for no reason other than to advance their own standing. Taking all of these things personally will do you no favours, no matter how smart you think you are. It’s also a great encouragement, to know that at the changing of the guard, there exists opportunity for those with complete, well formed and well thought out visions to create new paradigms which enables change for the next several hundred years.
“I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be” – Alexander Hamilton
Do yourself a favour, avoid the cliffs notes, don’t just Wikipedia it, but go and read Alexander Hamilton, I have a feeling that everyone will be able to take something different out of the story of this extraordinary man.
Special thanks to Fiona for the book, and to Dr Jekyll for letting me sit in the café and write this review on a rainy Saturday morning.
Keep reading, keep drinking coffee and as always, just be nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
"It's nice to finally know what you do" Julie Jones (My Mum) after listening to this podcast.
I have been very luck to receive the honor of being the first guest on Amber Hawken's BUPodcast! Chatting all things Just Be Nice Project, business owning, happiness and wolverine.
If you'd like to check it out, its right here for you to enjoy!
While you're at it, check out Amber Hawken online and on facebook! Send some love towards this beautiful human who hasn't just asked about the JBNProject but is actively involved and a huge supporter of our work!
Thanks for reading, listening and sharing, I look forward to hearing your feedback and as always.
Just Be Nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
In an effort to show some appreciation I thought I would write a letter to a friend, only to realise that in thanking my nearest and dearest for being so amazing, I was writing out a whole list of things that I aspire to be in return.
So I thought I would publish it here.
A Letter To A Friend.
Thank you for being present.
Thank you for being a hand on my shoulder when I have no words.
Thank you for being a shoulder, when I have only tears.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for telling me you agree with me, so I know I’m not crazy.
Thank you for telling me when you don’t agree with me so I know when I might be.
Thank you for telling me she wasn’t good enough, so that I don’t feel like I’m missing out, and thank you for telling me when she was good enough so that I won’t make the same mistakes again.
Thank you for knowing that I care. For excusing the absences, the delayed text replies and the “I’ll call you right back’s” that take a day to return.
Thank you for understanding that while I can be absent minded, my heart is always present.
Thank you for rolling up your sleeves, to help when things need doing.
Thank you for understanding, when I don’t have the words, and for putting the words in my mouth when I’m lost for them.
Thank you for asking the right questions, and thank you for sometimes not asking questions.
Thank you for your genuine enjoyment and celebrations when I have a win, and for pulling me up again after the losses.
Thank you for the hope you give me, that in all the world there would be nothing humans could not achieve if everyone had one of you in their lives.
Thank you for calling me on bullshit and for jumping in on the bullshit when it’s called for too.
Thank you for looking after my family, and for making me a part of yours.
Thank you for understanding that my bad jokes don’t make me a bad person.
Thank you for the portable alibi.
Thank you for calling me when you need help, for trusting me to look after you when you need it.
Thank you for the laughs, the private messages of things that we wouldn’t want the world to know we laugh about.
Thank you for the song recommendations, the book recommendations, the long conversations over a drink late into the night.
Thank you for feeding me when I was hungry. For picking up the tab when I was short.
Thank you for letting me pick up the tab when things are going well.
Thank you for not keeping count of how many times that happens, I don’t think I could deal with keeping lifelong tabs on $10 here and there!
Thank you for the crazy times.
Thank you for the drunken singalongs.
Thank you for the terrible dance battles, even if it’s mostly watching me engage strangers in those dance battles.
Thank you for looking interested in the funny bits of movies I show you, even when I can tell you don’t think it’s as funny as I do.
Thank you for listening to my music recommendations, and for putting me onto new tunes.
Thank you for the sensible times, where we are grownups that act our age (or at least pretend to).
Thank you for thinking about things, for being open to discussion and debate, even when we don’t agree.
Thank you for being the friend that I hope to be for you.
Thank you, and even though I might not say it enough, I love you.
-Josh Reid Jones
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports