Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Reading Time: 4 minutes

For a lover of books like me who hasn’t read much in his life but yearns to spend a lifetime in the stimulating lap of books, social media offers recommendations in plenty, sometimes to the extent that it gets overwhelming. So much to read in so little time. A feeling of guilt ensues from listening to every arm-chair thinker out there. What do you do then?

One of the blessings of social media is how easily serendipity can touch you. Ankur Warikoo is one such gift. After following him for some time I realized I could trust this man.

Shoe Dog had always been a social media favorite. I had seen the book enjoying loud cheers. However, in the supposed lack of time in modern-day lives, we ought to choose wisely, or at least that’s what has been commonly accepted. So it wasn’t until I came across Ankur’s thread that I picked up Shoe Dog.

Shoe Dog is about the creation of Nike as well as the creator of Nike, Phil Knight, who’s unsurprisingly the best person to tell about the brand. The language is simple to comprehend and the narrative grip on the readers is unwavering, much like the growth journey of Nike. The narrative style feels almost akin to fiction which goes on to speak volumes about the personal connection Phil is able to strike with his readers. The spirit of the book buoys you up into a serene state of feeling inspired.

Obvious now then that I loved the book through and through. For more, here’s my connection with the book in four points:-

1. Early Days of Nike

The book for most parts focuses on the early days of the company. The times which the shine of the present gold-status of the brand doesn’t let people see. The sports giant we know Nike to be was obviously not always like this. How did it start? The ‘swoosh’- how did it come to be one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world? Phil Knight recollects all the important moments of his starting days. You expect all that from a memoir. The secret sauce however is the candor on display. Phil knight sheds all his layers, presents the ideas and thoughts bare- from how they were conceived to how they shaped up. He unfolds the passage of time with such honesty and love that I couldn’t not feel every emotion that the man went through in those uncertain but spirited days of the 1960s and 1970s when the founding team was chasing victory, “not losing”.

Other little things-

2. Travel

Travel plays a pivotal role in giving a direction to Phil’s life. He travels the world, so to say, after his MBA and before getting started with his ‘crazy idea’. The world travel is a 20-30 pages interlude that changed my perspective. Phil sees not only the places but also the people, culture, and history of those places. He’s a bibliophile, an observant man, and that aspect clearly shines through in those paragraphs where he feels that euphoric opening up of intellect in experiencing the places and monuments of art.

Even the sistine chapel. Alone under Michelangelo’s ceiling, I was able to wallow in my disbelief. I read in my guidebook that Michelangelo was miserable while painting his masterpiece. His back and neck ached. Paint fell constantly into his hair and eyes. He couldn’t wait to be finished, he told friends. If even Michelangelo didn’t like his work, I thought, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Excerpt from the book

Towards the end of his long travel, he also has a moment of epiphany seeing the Temple of Athena Nike (the Greek goddess of victory). This moment becomes a guiding light in his Nike journey ahead.

Coming to me, I have not seen many places. It wouldn’t be very inaccurate if you labeled me the proverbial frog in the well. To be honest, I couldn’t care less about it. I thought the euphoria and spirituality of travel were overhyped. The enlightenment at the end of a trip seemed over-amplified to me. But now, it all stands changed. If the trip to Mumbai was the eye-opener, this book has thawed my static attitude towards travel. I guess that’s what good books do. Now I wish to see more of the world with my mom, friends, and love.

3. Running

Phil is a passionate runner. In fact one can attribute his love of running, and sports, for his success.

The things I loved most- books, sports, democracy, free enterprise-started as crazy ideas. For that matter, few ideas are as crazy as my favorite thing, running. It’s hard. It’s painful. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself.

Excerpt from the book

After his long days working for both his startup and an accounting firm, Phil shows up for his daily runs. I tried it a couple of times and honestly, I can’t tell you enough how refreshing it feels. I have been going for a run in the evenings in the past couple of weeks. I guess that’s what good books do. I haven’t been a regular yet, but I will try.

4. Nike

Knight writes his story of how Nike came to be not just a sports brand but a spirit, an emotion. The beauty of his storytelling is that the very story of how he sold buys you in.

I have never owned any Nike product. I have been a loyal Adidas customer for reasons unknown to me. Mostly, it started out as a financial call, Adidas being more affordable comparatively. Then it continued as I liked the products. I am old school that way- don’t change brands unless there’s a reason. Now that I have been sold by the story, the spirit of Nike, I want to try it out for sure.

If you have reached till here, you must be excited to get your hands on this book. Go on, read it and I promise this book will be a memorable one in ways more than one.

Business is war without bullets.

The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.

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.

Some lines I loved.

Thank you for reading my piece.

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2 Replies to “Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

  1. Great to read your takeaways from this book, which I have wanted to read for some time. After reading this, I can’t wait to get my hands on the book! A very interesting read and do let me know when you get your “crazy idea”, for me and Devi it won’t be that crazy! 😀

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