Shoe Dog

Shoe Dog
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

Genre: Autobiography/Memoir

Author: Phil Knight

 A few months back, I joined this awesome book club, and I recently got my hands on the autobiography of the Nike founder as part of our book club recommendations. I don’t know if I would have picked up this book on my own, but boy, am I glad I did because of my book club and its members! It's not just a great read; it's packed with insights, inspiration, and lots of adventures.

"Shoe Dog" as much as it’s the story of Nike, it's also the personal journey of Phil Knight, the mastermind behind this iconic brand. Imagine being 24, with a wild "Crazy Idea" and a desire to take on the world. Phil decides to embark on a globe-trotting adventure, starting in laid-back Hawaii with a buddy. After staying in Hawaii for a while he decides it’s time to continue his journey. Going solo, he makes a pitstop in Japan, where he pitches his idea of bringing Japanese shoes to the American market. With an impromptu company name, "Blue Ribbons," and $50 borrowed from his dad, he sets off on his entrepreneurial journey.

 A year later, he's back home in Oregon, anxiously awaiting the shoes he ordered. This is just the beginning of his shoe business saga. As he goes from selling shoes out of the trunk of his car to building a multibillion-dollar brand, he faces an endless stream of obstacles, from financial woes to legal battles and government challenges. But through it all, Phil and his team persevere and ultimately create Nike, transforming the athletic footwear industry with their groundbreaking innovations.

Here are some of the key takeaways I gained from the book:

Entrepreneurship isn’t all glitz and glamor.

Knight's unwavering passion, perseverance, and resilience are evident throughout the book. This book is a good reminder that entrepreneurship isn't all shiny and glamorous, rather it's a rollercoaster ride filled with risks, sacrifices, and relentless hard work.

With his honesty, vulnerability, and storytelling, Phil Knight seemed to be very relatable in the book. His journey can make you realize that if a regular guy from Oregon full of insecurities and self-doubts can achieve greatness, so can I. As you read the book, you can visualize Knight’s personal growth, self-awareness, and leadership development. That itself is a lesson that, it’s a journey. You fail, you learn, you grow, and you transform within the journey. Knight never let the setbacks define him, instead, he learned from them and used them as stepping stones to make the company even better.

 There are always trade-offs, you cannot get it all.

 "Shoe Dog" illustrates how starting something from scratch can consume your life, draining your mental energy and family time. But it also shows that when you're truly passionate about your endeavor, the challenges become not just bearable but enjoyable. As Mark Manson’s book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving F**K” suggests, no matter what you do or where you go, problems are waiting for you. But life is about choosing problems you enjoy solving and that’s what Knight did throughout his life.  

It takes a great team to build something!

The importance of a great team shines through in Phil's story. He was fortunate to find people as dedicated to his vision as he was. Amongst all his team members whom he refers to as “Butt face”, my personal favorite is Jeff Johnson. I was so impressed by how visionary Johnson was from early on. From collecting data on customer satisfaction to maintaining customer relationships to thinking about marketing, he was quite a genius. Knight may not have expressed his gratitude and appreciation as Johnson wanted, but even as a reader, I appreciated him a lot throughout the reading. I bet you, if you decide to read this book, you will love Johnson as well. In addition to Johnson, the book also introduces you to other remarkable individuals who played a vital role in Nike's success.

 Leadership style and company culture matter.

Phil's leadership style and company culture also played a significant role in Nike's prosperity. He was all about letting people find their own ways of doing things. One of the quotes that stood out to me was Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” I mean I can see this going either way, but as mentioned earlier his peeps were as invested in the business as he was, and it worked out well for the company’s growth. Moreover, the importance of the values you uphold in business is crucial. As Phil wisely puts it, "It's never just business. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad."

 Belief is irresistible. Believe yourself.

The book emphasizes the power of belief, especially when you're starting something new. Phil's unwavering dedication, ambition, and belief in his "Crazy Idea" were the driving forces behind Nike's success. “People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.

Overall, “Shoe Dog” is a powerful book that will leave you inspired to tackle your own journey, whatever it may be, with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Honestly, even if you are not into entrepreneurship, this book can still be relevant to you to learn life lessons in general. I had a good time reading this book, chatting about it in our book club, and sharing the key takeaways with you all. I hope you find as much joy in the book as I did, or at the very least, in this mini rundown.

Happy Reading 😊

I will see you in the next blog post!

HERE are my other book reviews.