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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Paperback – May 1, 2018
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“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
“‘The best book I read last year. Phil is . . . a gifted storyteller.”—Warren Buffett
"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 perspective on one of the most profiled companies in the world...[Shoe Dog] builds characters of the people behind the brand."--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
About the Author
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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.
For those interested in sports, as I am, history, as I am, and business, as I am, this book was a tremendous synthesis of the three, in the particular context of describing the birth of one of the greatest brands in American history – indeed, in world history … I doubt the story of a company’s founding and rise to greatness has ever ended a couple decades before the company’s peak, but that is the genius of Shoedog. Nike founder, Phil Knight, begins the story of this iconic brand at the most embryonic of stages, and ends the story in 1980, at their public offering, despite two and a half decades of utter domination that commenced subsequently. The story of Nike to us mere mortals is Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and “Just Do It.” But as readers of this fine book will discover, the real story of Nike took place in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s, as the formative challenges that make a business took place. And if any company would become rightful heir to “Just Do It” — it was Nike.
Nike has employed hundreds of thousands of people over the decades, and has created untold amounts of wealth by giving consumers something they wanted: Initially, a high quality running shoe; eventually, a brand — a belief — an affiliation. But the genius of finding future basketball, track, and golf stars to endorse the brand was a small part of the story of this company’s ascension. The genius that created Nike is the genius of this book: It focused on personnel management, on global cost synergies, on harnessing an international supply chain the likes of which the world had never seen, on overcoming legal adversity, and above all else, managing the challenges of liquidity and capital that nearly any company faces in the early innings of their existence. This is an economics book. It is a tribute to the miracle of free trade which has created more wealth than any other phenomena in the history of civilization. It is a rebuke of the evils of crony capitalism and those rent-seeking piranhas who would attempt to use government alliances to strangle healthy competition.
We are living in an era when forces on the right and the left are capitulating to a childish view of globalization — one seeking to make it a bogeyman for anything and everything — and ignoring the absolutely indisputable evidence for the enhancement of quality of life globalization has created. Few companies better illustrate what matching willing buyers and sellers around the world can mean for consumers, for producers, for shareholders, for employees, and for indeed all stakeholders in a given organization than Nike. While countless others do, for it is a universal lesson, Nike is the story of a young man and his track coach creating $100 billion of wealth that has circulated across a vast, vast ecosystem, by understanding the miracles of global trade. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for one looking for a biographical narrative version of an economics lesson, versus the academic attempts that often prove too dry. The story of Shoedog was anything but dry, and the message of Shoedog is anything but trite.
So now I'm back to normal, but I still very enthusiastically recommend this book. In the most basic terms, Phil Knight's story is one of success. It's no secret that Nike is a giant, but Knight nevertheless creates page-turning suspense at several junctures. He also gives us an intimate look at his personal life, which makes complete sense, because business is personal. For people who truly believe in what they're doing, it's impossible to separate the two. Knight's passion is punctuated by his referring to Nike as his business child and with his proclamation that "if it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad." He is the most interesting person I never knew I wanted to meet.
As I approached the final pages, the critic in me wondered how this story could be complete without mention of the Nike sweat-shop crisis. Was it strategically omitted because it might ruin the warm-fuzzy feeling I have now? The answer is no. Knight includes it in the final section that brings everything up to date, in the "where are they now?" pages. I won't go into the content, but I will say that warm and fuzzy remain intact. And I have more respect for the company than ever. I am almost embarrassed that I run in Adidas.
Top international reviews
I haven’t read the book, so I can’t really comment on the content that’s written in the book. I bought this just because I have read a lot of positive reviews. And I will definitely buy this again from some other seller who can provide good quality book. Can’t really stand pirated copies of the books.
As somebody who has recently started his business, finishing listening to this book left me quite inspired and there are many parts I would want to re-read to re-listen. That last final chapters I couldn't put it down.
For many years I had mixed feeling about the brand itself. I always thought was too expensive and too much overhyped with advertisement until a few years ago I bought their more minimalistic Nike flex and since then it has been my favourite shoe of all time. Phil knight himself is quite fascinating character and at times feel such an ordinary shy guy! that gives me some comfort, tying to make it in business as an introvert!
The book ‘Shoe Dog’ is more like a conversation you have with your friend in a long weekend trip. How his life has shaped up from college, how people supported him, how challenges welcomed him with open arms (sometimes all at the same time) and how he survived after all. Nike began as an idea that Phil Knight presented in his post-grad days; importing shoes from Japan and selling it in America. His belief in the idea led to subsequent events, struggles and much-known success at the end.
In his memoir, he is not ashamed of how he remained impassive with his marketing team, his closest aides, and people who believed in him. He understood their encouraging presence and accepted that his dream is being supported by many others without any questions. Surprisingly, people gained strength from his behavior. The memoir won’t make you feel empathetic about his journey but like any other Nike’s advertisements, it will definitely make you feel motivated. Oh, it also made me believe that some quick decisions can be the best ones, Nike, the famous swoosh was among those.
Shoe Dog is a person whose life is about shoes. Only one question bothers them all the time: How to make better shoes?
After reading this book, the next day when I went to my gym, I noticed that majority were wearing a Nike. But, I didn’t just see the shoes; I could see the sweat and blood that its founders had put into making Nike a universal brand. Obstacles at every turn, but an attitude to win, combined with camaraderie of the founders kept them going.
The main characters in this book (including the author) are shown not as superhuman beings with exceptional qualities who saw it all, but average people with an exceptional ability to preserver in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Therefore it’s a story you and I can identify with, and withdraw some courage from it when going gets tough. It will inspire you.
Phil drew inspiration from powerful quotes, and he has included a few of them in the book such as:
Consider the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin
Don’t go to sleep one night, what you most want will come to you then
You are remembered for the rules you break
And many more gems like these.
The chapters are based on every year from when the company was founded in 1962 to when it became an established company in 1980. I carried my book to bed in the night, and in train on my way to office. It’s so good; you would not want to stop before knowing how the story ends. In between you will laugh (mostly at the audacity of the team Nike) and there are places where you will be saddened. It engulfs you emotionally.
It’s one of the best biographies I have read, the others being Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And that says something.
His tenacity shines through on every page and I also developed a greater appreciation of Nike and their ethos as a business. After the Sweatshop scandal in the 90's I was a little hesitant about buying their products, but he touches upon this aspect of the business and the subsequent deeper understanding of what drives this company has made me see them in a new light.
The writing is clear and engaging and he manages to tell a story in such a way that makes you want to keep turning the pages until the end and entertains whilst also imparting some business knowledge at the same time.
This is invaluable for those starting a business and a damn good read for those of us who just enjoy a good memoir/autobiography.
I couldn't make up my mind if I should accept the job because of some doubts I have working in such a small environment. I can honestly say this book helped me to make the decision.
A worldwide company now known by everyone in the world started in one room - like many others. Very interesting to read about the beginnings, the journey how they got where they are today and what difficulties they faced even when one would think they were succeeding.
I found the writing style very engaging and often funny.
I definitely recommend this book.
Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir about creating Nike, is 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. In fact, the only thing that seems inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.
Keep in mind it’s a memoir and not a biography so it can be long winded at times, could easily be 50 or so pages shorter and it’d be a more pacy, interesting read.
Also there are no pictures which would’ve brightened up the book. Overall a very interesting read.
It’s as good as everybody says. I didn’t end up liking Phil Knight, but I do take my hat off to him.
I did not care for the tawdry bits of score settling.
I did not care for the sundry snippets of Asian wisdom.
I did not care for the habits of the inventor of the air soles either.
I sure did not care for how he lost his virginity at 24, other than to reinforce my belief that high achievers are in the main compensating for something.
And I really really really did not care for his messed-up, self-aggrandizing connections regarding destiny, what NIKE spells backwards on a phone dial or his exact position in the firmament of billionaires and philanthropists.
Regardless, this was for me a thriller. I could not put it down.
I had to keep discipline last week, as I was up at six fifteen every morning to teach arithmetic to my boy who’s taking the 11+. So three times I reluctantly went to bed with Shoe Dog unfinished and then spent the night worrying about the million dollar loan that came due, about the Onitsuka lawsuit, about the number of pairs sold, I basically lived this book.
And I lost track of who is who, so it’s not like Phil Knight is the king of character development, but he did one better: he hired all these amazing characters and created Nike out of nothing and he remembers how he did it all in enough detail to make this the best book I’ve ever read about entrepreneurship.
In short, I loved it.
It's an unremarkable story of a 60's business (Blue Ribbon) selling someone else shoes. The story repeats itself until 1980 when they fix their financials by floating the company, and that's where the book ends. Nike didn't even get really going until after that.
The final chapter is a wrap up that covers the 'interesting' era of Nike, 1980 until today, in a few pages. To me, this would have been the book, not the Blue Ribbon era. It seems backwards. Perhaps Phil prefered the early days, or perhaps a sequel is on the cards.
In the sixties.
Phil knight showed fantastic courage and determination to keep Nike afloat and to grow the company to where it is now.
To go over to Japan in the early sixties and come back with the deal he made makes him a true trailblazer.
The reader gets a feeling that the essence of Nike is fun and fitness always striving for the perfect sport shoe.
I've always liked Nike products even more now.
Great read you will not be disappointed.
I am interested in sports but am not usually interested in reading books on the subject - I made an exception for this and was pleased I did. This made a fantastic holiday book and was genuinely interesting!
It took me quite a while to read as it is very heavy with detail, but that makes a great book as it lasted throughout my holiday. I was disappointed when the book ended as I was enjoying it so much!
Ps - it also survived a dip in the swimming pool after falling off my lilo!