Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

You Should Read This Book If: owning your own business is on your mind.

Non-Fiction. 

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Hands down, this book was well worth the 400-page commitment. I didn’t think it was possible to remain in suspense for that long, and neither will you. Phil Knight, and his insanely talented editor, Shannon Welch, have detailed the creation of NIKE in a way that will get you thinking about a lot more than running shoes. The people involved, the situations they found themselves in, the humor or irony in ever scenario, it’s all so honest. I am amazed at how the journey of this brand touches upon WWII, The World Olympics, Oregon, Japan’s culture, too much to list I can’t even describe it as a memoir. I will leave you with this though: among the many things that pushed this man onto his path, a paper he wrote during grad school may have just been his first piece of the puzzle. Don’t underestimate the little things.

Quotes:

“At twenty-four I did have a Crazy Idea, and somehow, despite being dizzy with existential angst, and fears about the future, and doubts about myself, as all young men and women in their midtwenties are, I did decide that the world is made up of crazy ideas. History is one long processional of crazy ideas. 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. It’s risky. 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 of gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself”

“Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible”

“I blamed the shaky economy. I blamed Vietnam. But first and foremost I blamed myself. I’d overvalued Blue Ribbon. I’d overvalued myself my life’s work. More than once, over my first cup of coffee in the morning, or while trying to fall asleep at night, I’d tell myself: Maybe I’m a fool? Maybe this whole damn shoe thing is a fool’s errand? Maybe, I thought. Maybe”

“I look back over the decades and see him toiling in his workshop. He was Divinely inspired. I wonder if he knew, if he had any clue, that he was the Daedalus of sneakers, that he was making history, remaking an industry, transforming the way athletes would run and stop and jump for generations. I wonder if he could conceive in that moment all that he’d done. All that would follow. I know I couldn’t”

“He pushed himself to the brink and beyond. This was often a counterproductive strategy, and sometimes it was plainly stupid, and occasionally it was suicidal. But it was always uplifting for the crowd. No matter the spot–no matter the human endeavor, really–total effort will win people’s hearts”

“This, I decided, this is what sports are, what they can do. Like books, sports give people a sense of having lived other lives, of taking part in other people’s victories. And defeats”

“Strasser was an insurance lawyer who hated insurance–and lawyers”

“It was a strange thing to do, in the midst of an apocalyptic fight with the government. But I liked the idea of acting as if things were going to work out. Fortune favors the brave, that sort of thing”

“Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publically acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people may not call it luck. They may call it Tao, or Logos, or Spirit, or God. Put it this way. The harder you work, they better your Tao. And since no one has ever adequately defined Tao, I now try to go regularly to mass. Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it”


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