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Unlike Nike.

by Jamal Cassim

2 min read

Success is a lousy teacher if it slows you down.

There are a few superbrands I keep a close eye on.

Predictable ones – Apple, Tesla, etc.

Game-changing businesses who make big, emotive promises and tend to follow through. And at the very least, stay interesting.

I figure – they’re predictable choices for good reason.

But of all the brands I’ve worked with, and love, none was quite like Nike.

Projects that had run for weeks, months, or years could be pulled at a moment’s notice.

Sometimes very last minute – in fact, the closer to launch, seemingly the greater the chance of it being canned.

If it wasn’t manifesting in the right way, if the standards were slightly off, if it started to feel like a compromise or  didn’t seem like it would have the right impact – dead.

No matter how much time, money or energy had been spent.

Because it was far more important to do something good than to do something.

Damage to the brand just wasn’t worth the cost.

It’s easy to look at that and take the wrong lesson: perfectionism wins.

But it’s a bad lesson to learn unless you’re as good at the game as they are.

Learning from success can be perilous.

Survivorship bias means that the lessons we draw might be just as true for those who failed.

And the methods of winners might themselves contain flaws they simply overcame.

As Tim Ferriss found, learning to swim like Michael Phelps isn’t helpful – you’d have better luck swimming totally unlike him.

So for new brands, new companies, new initiatives and side hustles – I’ve found something else to be true:

Ideas die without momentum.

Without momentum, they never make it.

This is not just a failure of execution, but a failure of attitude – the false belief that ‘doing it right’ is the only thing that matters.

Sometimes that’s true. Usually it isn’t.

Generally, it’s more important to do something – anything – to keep things moving.

Pilots know this, which is why aircraft often spend time flying in the wrong direction during take-off.

Precision can come later – first you need to get off the ground.

Getting airborne is everything.

Spotify call it a minimal loveable product. One day you’ll build a car, but for now just make a skateboard.

Just get going.

Eventually, execution will become second nature.

The plans become more audacious.

With better muscle memory, implementation is no longer the problem; you can trust yourself to actually get it done.

And so… things which were acceptable before, aren’t any longer.

You’ve enough momentum that taste becomes an option.

Eventually, your standards and expectations get so high, you’ll sacrifice quantity for quality.

You’ll make tough calls.

Choose to do less.

Even with things you’re invested in.

If it’s not working – it’s dead.

The way Nike do it.


Because that’s the thing.

Until you’re like Nike, it doesn’t help to be like them.

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Jamal Cassim

→ A proven business leader to some of the world’s most innovative and successful B2B and government brands including AGL, CommBank, WorkSafe and the BBC.

 Jamal’s multifaceted experience includes the practical application of insight into meaningful growth strategies, processes and digital products. From start-ups to blue-chip businesses, he’s helped launch ideas, scale teams, revitalise systems, and worked with business leaders to level-up their models and approach to brand experience.

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