When The Billionaire Co-Founder of Nike Had His Credit Card Declined

By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

Those who have achieved legendary levels of success have been prepared to suffer, feel humiliated and persist through hard times in order to achieve and bring their dreams to life.

Phil Knight is the billionaire co-founder of Nike who has a net worth of $36.3 billion, and is listed by Forbes as the 26th richest person on the planet. Although he retired in June 2016, the legacy of his career is clear to see through the Nike emblem - as displayed on Nike clothing across the globe. His journey to success however, wasn't always plain sailing. Here's a story that tested his resolve as he was working frantically to get Nike off the ground....He tried to rent a car accompanied by his friend 'Cale', a successful businessman he had known since university...

“The first time, the clerk at the rental car company declined my credit card. Then confiscated it. When Cale tried to smooth it over, offering up his credit card, the clerk said he wouldn’t accept Cale’s card, either, because Cale was with me. Guilt by association.

Talk about your deadbeats. I couldn’t bring myself to look Cale in the eye. Here we were, a dozen years out of Stanford, and while he was an eminently successful businessman, I was still struggling to keep my head above water. He’d known I was struggling, but now he knew exactly how much. I was mortified. He was always there at the big moments, the triumphant moments, but this humiliating little moment, I feared, would define me in his eyes.

Then, when we got to the factory, the owner laughed in my face. He said he wouldn’t consider doing business with some fly-by-night company he’d never heard of—let alone from Oregon.”

Imagine that.... feeling inadequate and dejected in front of his close friend. Complete humiliation, right? Imagine also - that as a result - he'd given up on his dream and Nike didn't exist! Many of us may well have dreams to build a business that will expand to a global level, but how willing are we to persist through hardship to get there? Legends like Phil Knight have been rewarded for the almost unshakeable belief in their vision ... before they saw the fruits of success!

Our thanks to Brian Johnson for picking this story out of Phil Knight's book Shoe Dog.

Under Phil Knight's leadership, Nike has not only built many successful partnerships with sports stars, but also with a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy. Here's an article about what we can learn from this inspiring initiative.

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