Shoe Dog: A memoir by Phil Knight

A memoir by the creator of Nike, Shoe Dog is a captivating read and a must read for anyone who wants to understand the really messy process of taking an innovative idea to market and building a successful business around it.

An honest and compelling read, Knight keeps readers engrossed in the journey through the 400 pages of the book.

This is not a “how to”, but a ringside view of an entrepreneur’s journey and a reminder that with persistence and grit (and little else) you can set out to achieve any dream.

In an interview with abc news, Phil was asked what he has to say to a young entrepreneur.

He says, “I think there’s a couple things that if you’re going to be an entrepreneur you better be prepared for: long hours and a lot of dark moments. And, I guess that’s one thing that is shown in the book… and I think you really have to have a passion about it… and have a reason to succeed. It isn’t just something you want to be. But you have to have a niche and a passion. You need those two things.”

Pithy with thought provoking quotes, the book is an easy read. What he puts down as prescient and probably the only advice that anyone should give, is a greta “mantra” to live by: “Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. whatever comes, just don’t stop.”

Adding a few snippets and quotes here from the book:

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

“You are remembered… for the rules you break.”

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. “—Shunryu

“Life is growth. You grow or you die.”

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

“The art of competing,… is the art of forgetting… You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. And when it’s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it”.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

“Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.”

“It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.”

“Fight not to win, but to avoid losing. A surefire losing strategy.”

“I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, shorter as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all… different.”

“There’s kind of exuberant clarity in that pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided.”

“Fear of failure, I thought, will never be our downfall as a company. No that any of us thought we wouldn’t fail; in fact we had every expectation that we would. But when we did fail, we had faith that we’d do it fast, learn from it, and be better for it.”

His obsession with his shoe idea started while he was still s student at Stanford. And, by his own admission, a room full of scholars remained unmoved by his idea. He kept at it and borrowed the money needed to start his business from his reluctant father. His obsession with shoes on his journey across the world seems amusing– but should give us pause. That is probably the kind of fixation that one needs to chart a course.

His disbelief at Michelangelo’s misery while painting the Sistine Chapel and his observation, “If even Michelangelo didn’t like his work, I thought, what hope is there for the rest of us?” rings true, especially in this day and age, when the workforce seems disillusioned by the nature of work.

The book is a reminder that a journey– any journey– must have its pros and cons. And it exhorts its readers to seek their “calling”.

“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.”

All in all, a recommended read for anyone who has an entrepreneurial inclination and is looking for a guide book of sorts as they traverse this terrain.

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