I was ready to add some non-fiction to my reading line-up. But I wanted to steer clear from an emotional memoir. But don’t get me wrong, this book isn’t lacking emotion. Far from it. Phil Knight’s introduction and final chapter both gave me chills. But maybe also I was too impressed to be emotional.

Something focused on sports sounded like a “safe” choice. And Shoe Dog turned out to be the perfect fit. Pun intended. I started this book because I was curious to learn about the story behind Nike. I finished it because I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t want to put it down.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

About the Book

Phil Knight, creator of Nike, has gone ten rounds and then some. It felt like he got on a rollercoaster in his 20s and went up and down for decades. Even when the rollercoaster broke down or threw him off completely, he never left the ride. It baffles me that he was able to build Nike into what it is today without email, Zoom, or Slack. And he was doing business in Japan!

As much as this book is about creating Nike, it’s not really about the business. It’s about the people, Phil Knight included, that came together over many years to create a multi-billion dollar shoe company from nothing. I love everything about the writing style. Simple and direct with great word choices. Even a little bit of humor. And Norbert Leo Butz as the narrator of the audiobook was perfect.

Notes and Takeaways

  • The number of obstacles that Phil Knight overcame to get Nike to where it is today was unbelievable. The memoir spans several years, and in that time he tackled so many speed bumps that it almost got to the point where it became irritating. Come on, how much shit does this guy have to go through to be successful? (Spoiler alert…a lot.)
  • I had no idea what a shoe dog was before reading this book. Phil Knight is definitely a shoe dog. You meet a few other shoe dogs throughout the book, and you’ll know them when you see them.
  • It was cool to read more about the relationship between Knight and Bill Bowerman. Phil was one of Bowerman’s athletes. Guinea pigs really. He wasn’t good enough of a runner to keep Bowerman from experimenting with his shoes. But he was good enough to make and stay on the team.
  • This book was interesting because it’s one of those stories where you already know the ending. Even though I knew how it would end, I had no idea how it would all unfold. And this book turned out to be as relentless as any athlete (elite or otherwise) who’s ever worn a pair of Nike shoes.

Favorite Quotes (from the author, Phil Knight)

“We’re usually cast aside at the very moment that we need to be included.”

“There is a primal urge to compare everything to a race. But the metaphor is often inadequate. It can only take you so far.”

“There were many ways down Mount Fuji, according to my guidebook, but only one way up. Life lesson in that, I thought.”

“When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”

“You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.” (from the movie, The Bucket List)

Started: 04.03.2020
Finished: 04.11.2020

One last thing, the whole time I was reading this audiobook, I kept thinking that the writing style seemed familiar. It reminded me of Open, the Andre Agassi memoir. Well, it turns out that Agassi and Knight both used the same ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer!