Let Everyone Else Call Your Idea Crazy

“So that morning in 1962 I told myself: let everyone else call your idea crazy…just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop. 

That’s the precocious, prescient, urgent advice I managed to give myself, out of the blue, and somehow managed to take. Half a century later, I believe it’s the best advice- maybe the only advice- any of us should ever give.”


The quote is by Phil Knight, and the man has balls.

In 1962, there was no Nike. All there was was a scrawny young runner from Oregon, who couldn’t stop thinking about his crazy idea. 

He had written a report in college about how Japanese running shoes could take over the American market, and that’s where you’d think the whole thing would end.

But after graduating college and moving back with his parents, Knight couldn’t shake this idea that he had. He also craved adventure. So he borrowed money from his parents, and spent the next year traveling the world on his own. 

Of course, he stopped in Japan. Whilst there, he posed as the owner of “Blue Ribbon Athletics”, in order to arrange meetings with the executives of the Tiger running shoe company. This led to Knight becoming a distributor of Tigers in America, which led to Blue Ribbon becoming a proper company, which eventually led to the birth of the Nike that we all know today.

It’s difficult, to be honest, to briefly explain the context of the quote without word for word copying out the entire book. It is one of the great business success stories of our time.

If you want, you can grab the book for yourself here

Otherwise, I am going to give my two cents on Knight’s message- What his advice means for me, as well as some other inspirational people and quotations from the book that will leave you excited and awake to the potential that you have.

I hope Knight’s message proves as useful for you as it did for me.

Why this quote hits me so hard

If I think about it, there’s 2 ideas that I’ve had that I think have the potential to genuinely change my life. 

The first is this blog. Instead of working for someone else, I can build a website that people like and write content that earns money over time. 

I can see how by building something like that, 

I can get my time back. 

This allows me to then spend 100% of my working day trying to make my dreams a reality.

It’s not that this website will be in and of itself world changing; but by getting all my time back to work on building what I want to build, it could be a great first step.

The second is how I see myself really contributing to society.

I’ve had an idea that I’ve got that I think could really impact the restaurant industry in a positive way. But It would require 2 years of my life with no money coming in, and would cost me significantly if it were to come to nothing.

With both of these ideas, there is serious risk involved because ultimately, who knows if they will work how I think they will work.

Maybe the blog that I can build doesn’t actually end up making anything, and I am unable to ever get my time back to fund my dream.

Maybe I build this huge website, and google changes what it’s looking for. All that sacrifice for nothing.

Maybe I will go about building my second idea, and I will find out some legal reasons why I can’t make what I want to make.

Maybe I do end up building exactly what I envision, and it turns out no one thinks it’s nearly as cool as I thought they would.

The point is, I can’t exactly see where all this is going. Nothing is certain. I am not sure what it is I am building until after I’ve built it. And yet there’s thousands of hours of mundane work to be put in, if I am ever to even find out what this thing can be.

“Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”

This quote resonates with me so much because It’s as if knight has had a look at my work, and is addressing my personal situation. I bet it feels the same for anyone building anything risky or uncertain.

Read also: How to journal for self improvement

3 great people who didn’t ever stop

  1. Les Brown

Les Brown was born with his twin brother onto the floor of an abandoned building in Florida, in 1945.

He was put up for adoption aged just 6 weeks, and raised by a woman named Mamie Brown. After being disruptive in class one day, Brown was moved back a grade, which ultimately led to him being placed in special education and labeled mentally retarded. 

The rest of this story comes from the video below, which must be one of the most inspiring turnaround stories on the internet. 

In addition to being a great example, Brown is a powerful and talented public speaker. Check out the story of how sheer persistence took him from absolutely no prospects, to getting his break as a disc jockey on the radio.

Les Brown went on to win an Emmy for his You Deserve series. He also served in politics, and received a golden gavel award for being one of the worlds best speakers.

  1. Elon Musk
Elon musk

To be honest, I wanted to avoid using Elon Musk as an example because he’s so damn famous and successful that you’ve probably already heard this story a few times. 

But then if someone goes from humble beginnings to being the richest man on earth, beating second place by over $80 billion dollars, then it’s hard to argue that that story doesn’t belong on any list about growth and success worth reading.

Born in South Africa in 1971, Elon musk loved computer games as a kid. He figured that by writing software, he could make his own money to buy the latest computer on the market. He sold his first video game, aged 12.

Obsessed with technology, as a teenager Elon Musk set his sights on one day working in Silicon Valley and being at the forefront of technological development. He attended Stanford University.

He noticed the internet picking up steam, and he knew that it had the power to change the world. So he asked his professor if he could put his studies on hold, in order to try to start his own company.

“At first I tried to get a job at Netscape because that was the only internet company, but they didn’t respond to me. So I was like ok, if I can’t get a job at the only internet company then I better try starting something.

But I talked to my professor and I said look, I’m gonna try starting a company, it’s probably not gonna succeed, and if it doesn’t succeed can I come back. And he said sure, no problem”

Here’s the full interview where he goes into depth:

Initially, Musk considered building an online network for doctors. But in 1994, people still didn’t feel entirely confident uploading their medical records to the internet. 

He and his brother then decided to basically create a primitive form of what is now google maps, before it ever existed. There was plenty of struggle getting the site off the ground- It is hard to sell companies something that they don’t yet know they need.

But over time the idea gained real momentum. The company, zip2, was eventually bought by Compaq for $305 million. Elon Musk personally earned $22 million from the acquisition. 

I’m going to compress Elon Musk’s achievements, honestly so that google doesn’t think that this is an article about just him! But it’s not to downplay the impact he has had on the world. 

There’s Tesla, which very nearly died after the 2008 financial crisis.

There’s space X, who’s first 3 launches failed leaving all Musks personal resources pinned on one last ditch attempt.

There’s solar city, and Neuro link, and now there’s Twitter!

What’s exciting about this story is that it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

  1. Ed Sheeran
Ed sheeran

Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, England, in 1991. He was bullied at school, because he wore huge glasses and had a speech impediment. 

Although Ed struggled with a stammer, he was inspired by an Eminem album when he was 10 and learnt the whole thing word for word. It was writing his own music, and singing his own lyrics, that helped him to get over his stammer. 

Ed Sheeran epitomizes the quote that this article is about. He moved to London aged 14 to chase his dream of being a musician. 

He was playing shows and recording his own cd’s at every opportunity, for years, before anyone ever heard of him. He also busked on the streets to pay for his lifestyle.

It is said that in 2009, he played over 300 shows. He slept on the subway on days where he couldn’t afford rent. Ed also grew a social media following during this time that proved crucial to his eventual success. 

Here is Ed’s first huge viral video, recorded during those years of struggle:

Today, Ed Sheeran has an estimated net worth of $200 million. He has won 4 grammys, and his new music continues to find success.

I can’t imagine that it was all that clear at the time where his life was going, but it’s a good job he never ever stopped.

Other great quotes from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

“I’d tell men and women in their mid twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt”

“How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it?”

“And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop. Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.”

“It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.”

“Starting my own business was the only thing that made life’s other risks—marriage, Vegas, alligator wrestling—seem like sure things. But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast.”

“Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending commitment”

“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. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.”

“The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”

“History is one long processional of crazy ideas.”

“I refused to even consider ordering less inventory. Grow or die, that’s what I believed, no matter the situation.”

“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. Maybe it will grow on me.”

You can really achieve your dreams

Calloused hands analogy

The thing about the entrepreneurial or creative path in life is that there will be a time, during those early days, where it is only you, if anyone, who can see what you could build. 

It’s very easy to all sit there and agree that Nike was worth building after the fact, when we can all see it changing the world. But, at one stage, every rational person would have at least questioned whether Phil Knight might not have been better off pursuing something more in the realms of normality.

The thing about risks is that they actually might not work. There’s people taking Shoe Dog sized risks all the time, where their hard work simply doesn’t pay off for one reason or another. This is a harsh reality.

But in order for anything to succeed, you have to first act as if it will.

Not everyone can Realize their dreams. Some won’t. But 100% of people who do, despite their fears, act as if they can.

“let everyone else call your idea crazy”.

Closing thoughts and resources

If you enjoyed this post, check out 12 characteristics of a virtuous person. These are traits that you can use as a yardstick for your own character.

Another article directly related to this one is What is a man’s purpose in life? In it, we go into detail about chasing excellence, taking responsibility, and trusting your intuition. 

Of course, for real, I couldn’t recommend Shoe Dog anymore than I do. Here’s a link to check out the book on Amazon.

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