SHOE DOG by Phil Knight
Updated: Apr 10
Nike's Brilliant Beginnings
The first time I ever felt the soaring exhalation of finishing a race, I was wearing a pair of beloved Nikes. I cannot credit those shoes for the pure determination it took to run those 13.1 miles across the bridges of Pittsburgh, but I can say it was the same spirit that led Phil Knight to the creation of his beloved company.
As a runner, I have been a fan of Nike for a long time, and after reading Phil Knight's memoir Shoe Dog, my respect for its humble origins has grown tremendously.
Shoe Dog begins with the story of the discovery of a dream — what Knight lovingly calls his "Crazy Idea" — and continues with the detail and imagery worthy of a master novelist. In his memoir, Knight grants his reader the inspiring tale of his rags-to-riches journey — from flying to Japan in 1962, completely on a whim, completely in debt to his father's pocket-sized loan, to going public in 1976 and learning his worth exceeded 17 million. But, what's inspiring to the reader isn't the "riches" part of his story but the heart behind the journey.
Perhaps my favorite paragraph in his entire recollection describes Nike not as the pursuit of a successful business model but simply as the unrelenting pursuit of a dream. Knight reflects, "It seems wrong to call it 'business.' It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more... For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood... that day-to-day business of the human body isn' tour mission as human beings. It's a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic process of living" (Shoe Dog, Knight, pages 352-353).
This, I believe, is the essence of Shoe Dog, and despite my inability to follow every single term or recantation of business lingo and progression, this is what kept me opening this book day after day.
Shoe Dog is a treat to the mind and heart; it comes highly recommended even if you have never laced up a pair of Nike shoes.
Genre – Phil Knight's (co-founder of Nike) inspiring memoir on not only the establishment of a multi-billion dollar company but the true heart and essence of following one's passion to pursue a goal.
Liked – Beautifully written and easily devourable. Not just about the logistics of building a business but about the unique and unlikely cast of characters, events, and big heart that blossomed along the way.
Disliked – The sales language and lingo lost me at times. The book slows a bit in the middle as Knight recalls the details of each business transaction and mishap but remains a brilliantly written memoir throughout.