I hope that not many of you need an introduction to Phil Knight, but if you do I will try and keep it brief. I could literally write a whole book about his life, because that’s pretty much what this book is. But even this book only covers his life from college until Nike went public in 1980. I hope he writes another book about what happened at Nike and with him from 1980 on, because so much more has happened since then.
Anyway, Phil Knight was born in 1938 in Portland, Oregon. He graduated with his MBA from Stanford, and after graduating he decided to travel the world to decide what he wanted to do. He was a track athlete at the University of Oregon and loved shoes, so for one of his business school projects he created a plan to import cheap Japanese shoes and sell them in the USA. This idea came to life in his travels when he was able to come to an agreement with Onitsuka in Japan to become their distributor.
Once he returned home he officially started Blue Ribbon Sports, which was the precursor to Nike. They grew this company successfully for years before deciding to branch out on their own and start manufacturing product. This is when Nike officially began, in 1971. Since then, Nike has become the world’s largest sports manufacturing company. In 2018 alone, they did $30 billion in sales. Knight is not as involved anymore and is the chairman emeritus, but he is still worth nearly $35 billion. This was Knight’s first book, and both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett said it was in their top 5 books of that year. Netflix is currently adapting it into a movie.
Shoe Dog does a great job at showing the highlights and lowlights of any business. Knight does not sugarcoat when things went bad, and he goes into detail about when they were investigated for fraud and the multiple times he almost had to close Nike. At the same time, he does a great job at inspiring and motivating through his reflections and writing style. It is one of the rare books that I felt really allowed the reader into the psyche of the author.
One of the best parts about this book is its vast appeal. If you have a business, you can learn things and ideas that you might be able to apply. If you are into history, this is one of the best historical accounts of an important company that I have ever read. If you just like a good story, this book was written in the form of a novel and it is a page-turner. Literally every type of reader should be able to find something in this book to satisfy their appetite for a good book.
I read this book for the first time a couple years ago and then I completely forgot about it. I knew that I liked it, so I decided I was going to read it again this year. I am glad I did. I really connected to the part where Phil talks about how he was 25 and trying to find himself, because that’s the exact same situation I’m in right now. A lot of what he talked about really impacted me and felt like my life, and so I became obsessed with reading it to see what happened to him since I related so much to his story in my own way.
So far, this book has been the most entertaining and enjoyable read for me this year. While it hasn’t been life-changing for me like some of the other books, the stories felt very familiar. Even if they were not something I have done to this point, they’re something that I could see myself doing so I became invested in them. I know I’m only starting out, but because I felt like there was so much in common in our stories I can imagine myself being successful and following his journey. This book helped me visualize my own journey by seeing his.
One of my biggest takeaways after reading this book was the number of handwritten letters they wrote to each other in the business. Much of that has to do with the lack of technology to make communicating much faster like we have today, but it made me think about how much more special handwritten notes are than emails. Because of that, I’m going to make the goal to write a handwritten letter each week to someone who has made an impact in my life. When I receive them it’s much more meaningful, and I hope to do the same for others.
I highly recommend this book to anybody. There is so much entertainment value, as well as little nuggets of knowledge and wisdom sprinkled throughout. Even if you’re not a fan of sports in any way, this book is mainly about relationships and how Phil learns to deal and work with those around him. While some of his managerial techniques I wouldn’t necessarily use myself, I still found them enlightening and they gave me another way to think about how I manage others. No matter where you’re at in life, this book has something in it for you. I give it an 8/10.
Top 8 Quotes
“Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
“The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.”
“Life is growth. You grow, or you die.”
“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, and the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt before.”
“My hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I failed quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons.”
“Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith.”
“The art of competing was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
“When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”
Read this book? Have any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!
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