Updated: Aug 26
The last post about my early days at Nike and the people and products that made it a dream for me to keep following it wherever it might take me. I have never been afraid to step into the unknown and while actively doing just that find myself in situations that I look back on and can not explain how I put myself there.
I always believed in serendipity but Frans had just finished a book called The Click Moment.
A Click Moment shows how serendipity plays a much larger role in success than previously suspected, and that expertise and logic can be hindrances rather than assets.
It is that gut instinct to act on something that seems to miraculously appear just when it crosses your mind. You have 2 choices: Act or Ignore.
99% of the time I Act!
These served me well as went through college taking courses that interested me. competed for 2 years at University of Arizona in XC and Track. I got fit, had great teammates but was not Olympic material. I made the move study abroad.
I studied European Fine Arts at University of Portland's Salzburg Program my Junior year in Salzburg, Austria. I studied, worked as a ski instructor, met the love of my life and became interested in all things Global.
That experience piqued my interests in International Relations where I enrolled and graduated from University of Southern California in 1983 with a BA from USC.
My college plan was truly pioneering and full of wandering. I love to share that I gained a wealth of experience and friends from attending 3 schools in 4 years spanning 3 countries ( USA, Austria and China)
My plan was not perfect because I had to finish up 7 credit hours to earn my degree from USC and for $300 more in expenses I chose to go to USC's first program in China in the summer of 1983. The program was not exactly what was advertised but ended up 6 days a week and 7 hours of day of Chinese Language Courses.
Once the program finished I traveled on my own throughout China for nearly a month.
During that month I happened to connect with a few Americans including a couple of the early pioneers of manufacturing with Nike in China. I had a chance to meet with them and see one of the factories before I departed back home to look for a job that would hire an International Relations Major.
Every experience and relationship I built was a connecting point for something in the future.
China had just opened up to the West just a few years prior and everything was managed by the Chinese Government. Nike was a pioneer to even begin to manufacture in China and joint ventures did not emerge until a few years later. Phil Knight made his first visit to China in October of 1983. He was truly a pioneer in leading the business world into this market.
I returned home in August of 1983 to a bad economy and trying to recover from a month of traveling solo in China and going through the Philippines the morning after Aquino was assassinated in the Manila Airport. At this point I just wanted to get home safely.
The Click Moment
I was living at home and looking for my first job while running, hanging out with friends and making it clear to them that Nike ($687,000 in revenue) was too big of a company and I really didn't want to work there.
During the Fall of 1983 I would go visit my former classmates who were finishing up their studies at University of Portland and our weekly meet up was at The Twilight Room located near the campus. Tuesday night was Dime Beer Night and after finishing a couple of trays of the Twilight Room Tuesday Special, I looked across the bar and saw Phil Knight sitting at a booth with what I learned later was a University of Portland Professor that PHK had just finished a talk at a class at UP.
A Click Moment includes acting on an opportunity that presents itself in front of you.
I set my watch for 5 minutes, went over to Phil's table and introduced myself. I did not want to overstay my chance visit!
I told him my name, shared with him that I understood he had just come back from China. The worst that could happen is that he would not want to be interrupted by another Michael Bergmann. I let him know I spent the summer in China and met several Nike Expats leading Nike's business in China.
He asked me what I was doing at this time. I told him that I had about 5-6 resumes floating around the company. He told me to reach out to David Chang who at the time was in charge of the Asian Manufacturing.
I called David Chang the next day and there was no answer. I followed up with a nice letter mentioning that the other night I was out in Portland having drinks and Phil Knight said that I should meet with you about a job. Chang called me as soon as the letter arrived and we set up a time to meet. During the same week I ran into a friend who was the current manager at The Athletic Department and he asked me if I wanted to come back and work at the store for the holidays. I was hired back at the store and that provided me in house interview access for jobs inside of Nike. My first full time role was in apparel customer service which our primary goal was to load as much apparel into containers heading down to Los Angeles in advance the 1984 Olympic Games.
The intersection of experiences between my early days at BRS, Nike, Track and Field, China, USC, University of Portland, The Twilight Room, The Medici Click Moments and the ability to connect seemingly unrelated experiences started my on a 30+ year journey at one of the most innovative and impactful brands in the world.