Shoe Dog

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51ydi-slwflShoe Dog, the memoir by Nike creator Phil Knight, was a very worthwhile read. It was riveting, inspiring, and frankly kind of hard to believe, as I often found myself wondering how much of it was actually true.

The triumphs were so delicious and the failures were just as perfect; everybody got exactly the teachable moments they needed when they needed them. I’m guessing there’s some kind of hindsight-is-20/20 involved in the writing process and a whole lot of nostalgia. I was a bit taken aback to read, near the end of the book, that Knight has no reservations about going back to the very beginning and doing it all over again despite all the scares and setbacks. But maybe not, because, uh, Nike.

Below is a selection of highlights that left the biggest impressions, mixed in with my reactions. Note that page numbers given correspond to the hardcover edition.

  • “Let everyone else call your idea crazy…just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop. (5) Reminds me of that E.L. Doctorow quote“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” But what’s my Crazy Idea?
  • “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you.” (90)
  • “I tried to be nonchalant as I signed the papers and placed an order for five thousand more shoes, which would cost twenty thousand dollars I didn’t have. Kitami said he’d ship them to my East Coast office, which I also didn’t have. I promised to wire him the exact address.” (101)
  • “Life is growth. You grow or you die.” (145)
  • We now think of Nike as this huge cultural icon, as if every part of the brand was predestined. But it’s really more like the definition of “winging it” and “fake it till you make it”, at least in its first decades as a business.
  • “‘Normally,’ [a famous Harvard business professor studying Nike] said, ‘If one manager at a company can think tactically and strategically, that company has a good future. But boy are you lucky: More than half the Buttfaces [Nike leadership] think that way!'” (298)  Tactically and strategically…Tactically and strategically…this has been running through my mind non-stop since I finished the book.
  • “It wasn’t much of a chance. [LeBron James] was pretty close to a sure thing. But taking a chance on people—he’s right. You could argue that’s what it’s all been about.” (366)
  • “It’s never just business. It never will be. If it  ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.” (370)
  • “Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, [money] will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is to not let it.” (379)

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