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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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“A refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader anything. Instead, he accomplishes something better. He tells his story as honestly as he can. It’s an amazing tale.”—Bill Gates, one of his favorite books of 2016
“‘The best book I read last year. Phil is . . . a gifted storyteller.”--Warren Buffett
“Shoe Dog is a great American story about luck, grit, know-how, and the magic alchemy of a handful of eccentric characters who came together to build Nike. That it happened at all is a miracle, because as I learned from this book, though we are a nation that extols free enterprise, we also excel at thwarting it. This is Phil Knight, one on one, no holds barred. The lessons he imparts about entrepreneurship and the obstacles one faces in trying to create something, are priceless. The pages I folded down are too many to mention.”—Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
"I’ve known Phil Knight since I was a kid, but I didn’t really know him until I opened this beautiful, startling, intimate book. And the same goes for Nike. I’ve worn the gear, with pride, but I didn’t realize the remarkable saga of innovation and survival and triumph that stood behind every swoosh. Candid, funny, suspenseful, literary—this is a memoir for people who love sport, but above all it’s a memoir for people who love memoirs."—Andre Agassi, New York Times bestselling author of Open
"Shoe Dog is an extraordinary hero's journey, an epic tale of faith, unparalleled determination, excellence, failure, triumph, hard-earned wisdom, and love. It's nothing short of a miracle that Nike exists. I finished the last sentence in complete awe, inspired and grateful for the experience."--Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Inside the O'Briens
"A touching, highly entertaining adventure odyssey, with much to teach about innovation and creativity. Phil Knight takes us back to the Big Bang of the swoosh, recalls how he first begged and borrowed from reluctant banks, how he assembled a crew of eccentric but brilliant misfits, how they all worked together to build something unique and paradigm-changing. An inspiration for everyone with an unconventional dream."—Michael Spence, Nobel-prize winning economist
"A fresh historical prospective on one of the most profiled companies in the world...[Shoe Dog] builds characters of the people behind the brand, many of whom we've never heard of."--ESPN.com
"Loaded with hard-earned wisdom...Want a simple recommendation? Go get a copy."--Portland Business Journal Review
"Shoe Dog is, at its heart, an origin story, of both a global brand and a footwear lifer...it reads like pure adventure story, boys facing steeper and steeper challenges and finding ways through, often by the skin of their teeth. As Knight collects the misfits and oddballs who become the core of his growing company, Shoe Dog is more like The Lord of the Rings than a typical mogul memoir."--Complex
“A rare and revealing look at the notoriously media-shy man behind the swoosh.”--Booklist STARRED review
"The best memoir I recall ever reading. As a business biography, it ranks with such recent works as Neal Gabler’s Disney and Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. But as a personal memoir Shoe Dog reaches a depth of emotional honesty that even the best biographies haven’t touched."--Rich Karlgaard, Forbes
“Ranks among the best business books and autobiographies I’ve ever read.”–-Jim Cramer, CNBC-TV
"A blueprint not just for success, but for motivation.Shoe Dog illustrates the unlimited amount of hurdles one might run into while trying to reach a major goal. It's Knight's account of seeing a vision through against all odds."--Mic.com
"An extraordinary memoir... one of the best stories of entrepreneurship I have ever read."--Fareed Zakaria
“The ultimate entrepreneur’s guide to the top of the mountain. I could not put it down.”--Bill Walton, Wall Street Journal
“A fascinating warts-and-all account of the company’s early years, a rascally tale of scrappiness and survival, a great read . . . Knight provides plenty of entertaining reading and laugh-out-loud moments.”--Motley Fool
About the Author
One of the world’s most influential business executives, Phil Knight is the founder of Nike, Inc. He served as CEO of the company from 1964 to 2004, as board chairman through 2016, and he is currently Chairman Emertius. He lives in Oregon with his wife, Penny.
Top customer reviews
Let’s cut to the chase. This will be a great read for anybody, but if you’re thinking about starting a business, especially a business that you expect to grow, this book belongs on your must-read list. You’ll learn things that you won’t learn anywhere else and you’ll learn things that you can only learn from a story.
You’ll learn about the constant struggle to fund growth. Most of the books about entrepreneurship don’t tell you about that. If you start a business and that business starts to grow, you are funding the process out ahead of your cash flow. The result is that you’re chronically cash poor, even when you’re fabulously profitable, and that is both counterintuitive and very tough to manage.
You’ll also learn about the plusses and minuses of going public. There’s a lot here about relationships and values, and staying true to what you think is important. There are lessons about how putting people in the right job makes all the difference. And, there are lessons about balancing being a hero at work with being a parent at home.
There are also important lessons about not taking yourself too seriously. Knight describes the “executive retreats” that Nike would have. They called them “Buttface sessions.” The name came from one of the early employees who said that Nike was the only company their size where you could shout out “Hey, buttface!” and the entire management team would turn around.
There’s another important thing, too. If you think that innovation is only something that high-tech companies do, or that it requires coding, read this book. A lot of Nike’s success comes from being an innovator in shoes.
Shoe Dog is superbly written, and you’ll enjoy it if you just read it as a story. But if you’re in business, and especially if you’re starting a business and wanting to make it grow, this book should be on your must-read list. Keep it handy, right near Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing about Hard Things.
Toward the end of the book, Phil Knight says this:
“God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on.”
I think he achieved his goal. If you want some seasoned advice to help you run and grow your company, or if you just want to read a great business memoir, pick up a copy of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by The Creator of Nike.
I know Phil Knight’s secret of success. He uses people. He captures them with his acuity at perceiving dedication and a sense of responsibly. Then he ignores them as they attend to their job. If they stumble, despite his abhorrence of micromanaging, he demonstrates strong guidance because poor performance invariably brings a personal visit from him.
He also has an aversion to most standard business practices. He makes bankers nervous with his edge of the chasm financial condition. He will saw the legs off a perceived competitor. He is unfazed by seeking money from any source that might have it. He gets in the face of employees, suppliers, sales reps, or anyone else who lets him down. In short, he knows which pile of crap that, when stirred, brings the sweet smell of success.
If you think I’m being critical of Knight or his methods, you are wrong. I believe that he is incredibly intelligent, moral, and astute in his business practices. The people who may have been used should have no complaints. They have become immensely successful and prosperous as Nike has become the bellwether for success under Knight’s leadership.
There are many milestones in Knight’s book. The Japanese company that originally produced his Blue Ribbon shoes gets its comeuppance for poor performance; Knight gets new, more innovative financing. The first shipment of Nike shoes, manufactured in Mexico, arrive just in time for a big show but have a crappy finish and crooked swooshes; he makes do. Bill Bowerman’s innovative waffle sole, described in Patent #284,736 as “having integral polygon shaped studs…of square, rectangular or triple cross section…[and] a plurality of flat sides which…give greatly improved traction,” provide a great boon for the fledgling company. The signing of Nike’s first professional sports star, tennis player Ilie Nastase, is the start of lucrative endorsements by universally recognized athletes. These are a few examples of the hurdles Knight sails over.
He writes about his voyage with clarity, using marvelous language, as he recounts riveting personal triumphs (along with some flops). His steely-eyed pursuit of his goals is truly inspirational. I learned a great deal about him, including his respect and inspirational relationship with his father. It’s apparent that this love has much to do with his successful life’s story. It carries over to the essence and success of his team.
“Shoe Dog” is an entrancing read from an icon in the business world. Yet it’s not another self-indulgent recital of personal greatness and achievement. It’s immensely personable and readable, allowing the essence of the man to shine through. It’s inspiring.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
If you want to get inside the head of an amazing, passionate, and visionary entrepreneur, you'll really love this story. But what I found even more incredible was how well it was written and how well he conveyed the emotional side of his story. This is by far the best written business autobiography I have ever read. I'm used to suffering through business biographies in search of history and facts, but this book was a thrill to read.