Book Recommendation: Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

One day hovering around my Boss’s cabin, I saw a pretty black book with a red Niki swoosh drawn over it. “Shoe Dog” “Phil Knight” it announced boldly, before the text beneath it in a smaller font finally gave it away – “A memoir by the creator of Nike”.

I was not drawn to it at first, coz I have never been into sports much, and my entrepreneurial bug was smushed the day I realized my incapability in asking an acquaintance to pay me for my freelance content work.

Nevertheless, the book still landed in my rack because of a kind benevolent boss, who asked me to read it first as he was out for some international expedition (again) in his Nike shoes! (yeah, irony eye-rolls!)

Anyhoo, the book had me spell bound from the very first page. It is often said that entrepreneurs are risk takers, go getters and what not – but Phil’s book tells you the real fact – these are the people “passionate” about their dreams!

And for Phil this passion was always sports! And when he realized that he was not cut out to be a top notch athlete, he became a part of the “shoe dog” clan, a clan that relentlessly helps people find their best sole matches!

In his book, Phil talks about his bare beginnings from Oregon; and about a world tour that he undertakes – an escape to find himself and his calling (which he finally realizes in the Temple of Nike, Greece).

But the book is also majorly about the people in his life. In one of the parts he narrates how his mom, wears “Tigers” – his first range of shoes, as an act of support in front of his  strict dad, who wanted him to make it big in his life by being in a respectable profession. His rich portrayals of the strongest characters of his life – Bowerman, Woodell, Penny, Johnson, Pre etc.; his strained relations with Kitami and his rivalry with Adidas – make this a believable and exciting read.

In between his journey from establishing Nike from Blue Ribbon, Phil also talks about a war ravaged Japan, and how it pulled itself back into the game of world economy. His descriptions of running a tight ship company, of finally introducing formals, of injecting air into the soles of a running shoes, of handling the sweatshop accusations – all reeks of his passion in the business he built over the years, along with the people he valued the most!

You should read this book if you love memoirs or if you are extremely passionate about an idea! You may even gift it to someone who you know has these attributes – this one would never disappoint!

Favourite Quotes:

” I was that boy at the science fair who didn’t work hard on his project, who didnt start until the night before. The other kids had build erupting volcanoes, and lightening machines, and all I had was a mobile of the solar system made with mothballs stuck to my mother’s coat hangers.”

“We didn’t have focus groups or market research – we couldn’t afford them – so we tried to intuit, divine, read tea leaves”

“Am I allowed to think that some coincidences are more than coincidental? Can I be forgiven for thinking, or hoping that the universe, or some guiding daemon, has been nudging me, whispering to me? Or else just playing with me? Can it really be nothing but a fluke of geography that the oldest shoes ever discovered are a pair of nine-thousand-year old sandals… salvaged from a cave in Oregon? Is there nothing to the fact that the sandals were discovered in 1938, the year that i was born?”

“I tell them about the devastated Japan I saw in 1962. I tell them about the rubble and the ruins that somehow gave birth to wise men like Hayami and Ito and Sumeragi. I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crisis. All we have to do, I tell the students, is to work and study, study and work, hard as we can. Put another way: We must all be professors of the jungle.”

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