Air - an inspirational movie about how to make things happen

I just watched Air, a fun and inspiring movie about how Nike, then an underdog in the shoe industry, managed to sign Michael Jordan, a rookie at that time.

The movie starts with Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon) opposing his colleagues' decision to go with the low-risk and low-reward move of signing three average basketball players. Teams and companies operate a lot based on group discussions and consensus. Those don't usually lead to brilliance or extraordinary outcomes - they converge on average, which is why most companies slowly wither and die as they grow. But Sonny doesn't care for the consensus. His deep passion and expertise in basketball make him realize that Michael Jordan is going to be a superstar before most people did. He aims higher and dreams of signing Jordan, defying his bosses and other business restrictions. He makes bold moves, breaks rules, and risks his entire career to make it happen. 

As this impossible idea starts to take shape and seem more possible, his team and bosses eventually start to support him (similar to the stone soup fable). I loved the character of Peter Moore, the shoe designer. Every instigator needs a partner in crime. When Sonny goes to Peter to ask him to design a unique shoe within a few days, his first reaction isn't to push back, which is so common and even a celebrated skill in the corporate world. His eyes light up with enthusiasm; he thinks about how to get it done and masterfully comes up with an innovative design. Sonny's bosses, including Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, also succumb to the power of his brilliance, enthusiasm, and vision. Kudos to Phil for having the insight and boldness to have brought Sonny on board in the first place and for giving him a loose role and autonomy. 

While Addidas and Converse make cookie-cutter offers to the Jordans, Sonny and Nike present something much better, more personal, innovative, and with so much more care because they need it much more than the others. It shines through in every interaction and the Jordans finally accept. That's how the Davids beat the Goliaths in the business world - with a narrower focus, but with higher quality and care. 

One person's brilliant insight, creativity, and obstinate perseverance defied all odds, rallied a team, and led to Air Jordans, an iconic shoe line that now makes $4B/year revenue for Nike, and changed how the sports industry compensates athletes. It reminded me of this quote from Elon Musk on how we can't just take progress for granted - for e.g. the space program declined after the moon landing. Progress happens only because some people believe deeply, go against the grain, take risks, and persevere incredibly hard to make it happen. 

The stories of most incredible innovations and progress start with one person infected with a great idea and an unstoppable passion. 

A shoe is just a shoe until someone steps into it. The world will just be what it is until someone decides to change it.