‘Shoe Dog’ is the incredible memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight. The book documents the evolution of the “Crazy Idea” that Phil dreamed up at the tender age of 24. This “Crazy Idea” began as an import of 300 pairs of Tiger running shoes from Japan, that Phil would sell from the boot of his car. It’s safe to say from that day onwards, he didn’t look back. However, I don’t want to cover the details of the story, I will leave that for you to read for yourself (plus Phil does a much better job than I ever could). Instead, I want to share the feeling of awe and inspiration that Phil and his brilliant story left with me.
Phil’s ability to tell a story is second to none. He speaks with wit, honesty and passion. Very quickly you become invested in the journey and you feel as though you are sat by his side through all of the ups and downs. His character isn’t what you would typically expect from somebody who founded a multi-billion pound company. He describes himself as having always been a shy person, even when he used to go door to door selling Encyclopaedias. But it is this quiet, introverted personality that feeds in to the way he shaped his company. “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” (General McCarthur – Phil references War heroes throughout)
At times the stories are almost hard to believe. The origin of the name, the logo, the designs; each of which play their own unique role in the overall plot. And at times things are so tense, so finely balanced, that a single move in the wrong direction could have thrown Nike out of existence. In fact if we didn’t already know how the story ends, we would begin to wonder how both Phil and his company may make it through the next few pages.
What is evident right from the beginning is Phil’s passion for running. And it’s this passion–along with his runners mentality–that helped him drive the business to where it is today. “The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line…You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running towards some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.” – Phil Knight
Phil’s story is a lesson in tenacity, doggedness, patience, belief and love. Love for what you are doing and more importantly, love for who you are doing it with. The individuals who worked alongside Phil–many of whom were friends, running enthusiasts and oddballs–all loved the company and what it stood for. They would all have gone to the other end of the Earth and back just to keep things afloat. At times they literally did!
Turning the final page and setting down the book I felt truly moved and inspired. I was imparted with an energy to get to work, an energy to follow my dreams, and an energy to succeed in doing so. If this book teaches you anything–if Phil teaches you anything–it’s that the journey to success can at times be lonely, harsh and destined for failure. But, through sheer belief, hard work and at times an ounce of luck, anything can be achieved if you want it enough.
Whether you are a budding entrepreneur, a fan of Nike, an Olympic athlete, or just somebody looking to be inspired, I urge you to read this book. It has etched something into me that I will hold on to forever. Thank you, Phil.