For my husband’s birthday, we went and saw the new movie, Air, starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Affleck plays Phil Knight, founder and CEO of Nike, and Damon is Sonny Vaccaro, hired to spot and recruit up and coming athletic talent.
I’m actually not a Nike fan since they have gone completely wonky socially and politically, but I did enjoy learning about how they got on the map. The movie takes place in 1984 when Nike was at the bottom of athletic shoe sales. They were known for their running shoes, but Knight wanted to enter the basketball arena, thus Sonny’s position. The competition was stiff, and Sonny’s task was to discover new talent—someone who could be an all-star—within an extremely tight budget.
The movie will give you insights into the company culture and Knight’s leadership. I believe a few cuss words are used, but all in all, the movie is mild with no sex or violence. Simply stated, the story is about observing, modifying, and acting.
In 1984, Nike was a classic story of a man displaying incredibly bravery and boldness to enter the running-shoe market and create a new brand, but then the very traits he used to make Nike successful were being tempered by growth, aka, a board. If he wanted to compete, he would need to take enormous risks that were more difficult to take with more at stake (a building mortgage, employee salaries, board expectations, etc.).
You see the push and pull and feel the real financial struggles of attempting to play with “the big boys.” Most of us can relate with having daring dreams yet not securing proper funding. Thus, we all end up observing, modifying, and acting accordingly. Sometimes, everything aligns, and we get nothing but net (to use the basketball theme). Other times despite our best efforts, the ball hits the rim and bounces out of bounds.
I encourage you to see the movie as you will be inspired to not give up , and you will be reminded how a little bit of creativity coupled with a whole lot of faith can amount to amazing things!
Whether they intended for this to connect or not, a very small scene and segment of the movie captured my attention. Sonny meets with a long-term friend, George Raveling, a former college basketball player and coach. Sonny is sharing how his gut is telling him to sign an extremely young and inexperienced basketball player by the name of Michael Jordan. He isn’t quite sure how to connect with Michael, and George says, “You go through his mom.” When Sonny does meet Mrs. Jordan, the scene is a hoot!
During Sonny’s conversation with George, he encourages Sonny to listen to his small voice and proceeds to tell him about a time when he saw Martin Luther King, Jr. give a brand-new speech called, “I have a dream.” When Martin Luther King, Jr. was done, George was able to see him and thank him for his amazing words. Martin Luther King, Jr. then handed George a piece of paper. On it were the words of his speech, but as George read it, he realized the entire second half wasn’t what Martin Luther King, Jr. had actually said. “I observed the audience and realized they weren’t connecting with me,” MLK said. In essence, he then modified and acted accordingly. How powerful!
As a speaker, I always step on stage prepared. However, I also pray every single time for the Holy Spirit to use me as a vessel of the message God wants me to say. Whatever our endeavor, we are wise to follow both the Nike and MLK example. We can plan and do all the work, but ultimately, we need to check in with the Father and our audience to observe, modify as led, and take the action God desires.
To me, both the Nike story of creating the Air Jordan shoe and the sideline piece about MLK’s speech remind us how very important checking in with the Holy Spirit is: observe, modify, and act. As the Nike saying goes, “Just do it!”
Landing Michael Jordan wasn’t a slam dunk, and Sonny didn’t do it alone. He relied on a team of people to bring their best game to the table. We all need a sounding board, and I would love to assist you in whatever endeavor you are taking on. Give me a call, and let’s chat today!
Ginger Stahl says
Very inspiring!!! I like your mention of praying before speaking; the Holy Spirit will remind us to change course if we need to, like M. L. King, and the impact will be much greater than if we simply followed our notes.