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12 Quotes on Leadership, Passion, Hard Work and More from the Entrepreneur Behind Nike Phil Knight

Nike's Phil Knight can teach you a thing or two about entrepreneurship.

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“Play by the rules, but be ferocious,” advises Phil Knight, the brains behind one of today’s most popular sports brands, Nike. There’s even more to learn from Knight, too.

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After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, Knight enrolled in Stanford Graduate School of Business where he discovered his love of entrepreneurship. Soon after graduation, he found himself partnering with his old track coach Bill Bowerman to launch sports shoe company Blue Ribbon Sport in 1964. By 1971, the co-founders saw much success and renamed the company Nike.

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Today, Knight is recognized as not only a top business magnate, but a philanthropist and bestselling author, too. He’s donated more than $2 billion to his alma maters, as well as to the Oregon Health and Science University.

To learn more from Knight, here are 12 quotes on leadership, rule-breaking, growth and more.  


On mindset

“Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” -- Phil Knight

On leadership

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” -- Phil Knight

On empowerment

“The cowards never started and the weak died along the way -- that leaves us.” -- Phil Knight

On motivation

“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.” -- Phil Knight

Related: 20 Motivational Quotes to Inspire Your Next Business Idea


On the future

“You are remembered for the rules you break.” -- Phil Knight

On hard work

“The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting... You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget that internal voice, screaming, begging, ‘Not one more step!’” -- Phil Knight

On experience

“How can I leave my mark on the world unless I get out there first and see it? Before running a big race, you always want to walk the track.” -- Phil Knight

On growth

“Life is growth. You grow or you die.” -- Phil Knight

Related: 20 Leadership Quotes From the World's Most Influential Leaders


On moving on

“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.” -- Phil Knight

On passion

“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.” -- Phil Knight

On confidence

“Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.” -- Phil Knight

On success

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