Shoe Dog is the finest business memoir I’ve read.
It’s refreshing that the book doesn’t try to sanitise or stroke Phil Knight’s ego or frame his personal brand in shiny sparkling light.
Phil Knight’s story is accessible because he tells it in a way that is authentic. You can sense the author’s profound humility throughout the book.
Unlike many autobiographies, Knight’s isn’t balanced. It’s not an ego gratifying display of his greatness, it’s strongly weighted in the company’s performance.
The book focuses on Nike’s first decade.
Knight explains everything. Ups and downs and downfalls. At least once a year, he felt like losing everything. He takes us through his leadership and management problems. People who drove him nuts at first yet were essential to the firm.
Here’s a paragraph that made me stop and think:
“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 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. It’s all the same drive. The same dream.
It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.
I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.”
This line struck a chord: “The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye.“
This book is like a beautiful, honest, detailed love letter to the entrepreneur.
And not just to the entrepreneur who is working to build the next Nike, but also to the entrepreneur that may lie dormant inside all of us, regardless of whether or not it is actively expressed.
Thanks, Phil Knight.