Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read—one of my all-time favorites.
Phil Knight is the founder of the global footwear and athletic gear company Nike, a brand worth tens of billions of dollars with an instantly recognizable logo and slogan that we are all very familiar with.
Before Shoe Dog came out in 2016, Phil Knight had not revealed very much about his personal thoughts, opinions, journey, and his life to the public. He had always been a private person.
When Shoe Dog came out, Phil offered the world a very in depth look at this life for the first time—something he decided to do as a part of his bucket list to give hope and guidance to people around the world who need it.
Shoe Dog is a fascinating, entertaining, insightful, and well-written memoir. It is an inside-look at the path Phil to transform Nike from a small shoe company into the juggernaut that it is today.
Phil defines a “shoe dog” as someone who devotes their entire lives to making, designing, buying, and selling shoes. The apparel that we wear on our feet are a shoe dog’s way of connecting with humanity.
Phil is a prime example of a “shoe dog” who made a huge impact on the world. And this book provides an in depth description of his fulfilling journey to the top.
It is a guidebook for anyone who is walking the path towards becoming an entrepreneur, becoming successful, and making an impact on the world—or anyone who is just looking to get the most out of life.
Shoe Dog will teach you the power of trusting your intuition, choosing your passion and your purpose instead of money, using failure as a stepping-stone for success, and making use of every resource you have available to make your dreams come true.
As long as this book review is, please keep in mind I have barely scratched the surface of what takes place in this amazing memoir.
So after you’re done here, make sure to go to Amazon and purchase this book so you can read it for yourself!
Here are 4 reasons Why You MUST Read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight—4 life-changing principles that you will learn from this memoir.
Shoe Dog Will Show You the Power of Trusting Intuition
Nike almost didn’t happen.
The massive, multi-billion dollar, globally known, and culture-shaping company that we all know and love as Nike, almost never existed. The fate of Nike, all rested on lots of small, big, and sometimes seemingly insignificant decisions that Phil made over the course of 18 years starting in 1962 when he was 24 years old.
Back in those early days, Phil did not know, at least at first, that he wanted to build a shoe company. It didn’t occur to him that he was going to spend the rest of his life designing, creating, and selling athletic shoes.
Back when he didn’t know where his life was going to take him, Phil had to trust his intuition to guide him towards making all the decisions that would eventually lead to the formation of Nike.
In Phil’s senior year of business school at Stanford, he took a class on entrepreneurship and made a decision to write a research paper about Japanese running shoes entering the United States market.
Then at age 24, Phil returned to his parents’ home in Portland, Oregon after 7 years away at university and Stanford Business School. At this point, he trusted his intuition to make a much bigger and more important choice: he decided to go on a trip around the world to cities in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was a chance for Phil to see the world before jumping into the workforce and spending the rest of his life behind a desk.
As he put together his travel plans, Phil then trusted intuition again to add Japan to his list of places to visit on this trip—even though tensions between America and Japan were still high because of World War II. Then when he arrived there, he traveled to the headquarters for a shoe company named Onitsuka and successfully sold them on giving him the opportunity to bring their shoes to market in the United States.
Phil used that opportunity to create a company called Blue Ribbon Inc., the same shoe company that Phil eventually re-branded as Nike, years later.
This part of the book struck me as fascinating.
Because if Phil never decided to write that research paper on running shoes while still in school, if he never decided to go on an unconventional trip around the world before jumping into the workforce, and if he never decided to travel to Japan to pitch Onitsuka on selling their shoes, Nike would not exist as we know it today.
Nike almost didn’t exist.
Phil had to make a bunch of intuition-based decisions that lead him on the path towards making his dreams come true and changing the world.
And it doesn’t stop there. In fact, Phil based his entire decision to name the company “Nike” on intuition. It came to one of his colleagues in a dream. After they decided to stop selling Onitsuka’s Japanese running shoes and to start selling their own shoes under their own brand, Phil and his senior team had a tough decision to make.
They needed to decide what to name their new company.
They were choosing between the names: “Dimension Six,” “Falcon,” and “Nike.”
Phil was leaning towards the name “Dimension Six.”
The name “Nike” held more significance than any of the other names because “Nike” is the name of the Greek goddess of victory—something that Phil learned about as he went to Greece in person when he was 24. But even still, Phil was leaning towards choosing the name “Dimension Six.”
The idea to choose the name “Nike” came to one of Phil’s most devoted employees, Jeff Johnson, in a dream in the middle of the night. Jeff then suggested to Phil that Nike should be the name of the company. Phil, having the final call, had to trust his inner instinct and intuition to go with Jeff’s idea and choose “Nike” over “Dimension Six.”
This is a powerful example of why intuition sometimes trumps logic and rational-decision making.
If Jeff Johnson didn’t trust the guidance he received while he was dreaming and if Phil never trusted his own intuition, they could have chosen the wrong name. And with the wrong name, Nike may never have succeeded.
Intuition was the inspiration behind all of the major, important, crucial, game-changing, and life-changing decisions that guided Phil on his path towards making Nike super-successful. Though none of it made a lot of sense while it was happening, Phil looks back on it all as an older man and realizes how much that inner instinct guided him along the way.
That’s such an important lesson to take away from this book. Each of us has to make decisions every day that are going to impact the rest of our lives. You have to make big and seemingly small choices every day that could make or break your future.
As you make those decisions, you have to choose between straight logic and intuition. When it comes to major life decisions, the book Shoe Dog makes a strong case that you should trust your intuition! Because just like with Phil Knight’s journey, intuition could be the guidance that leads you towards your best possible life and your best possible future.
Shoe Dog Will Show You Why Passion & Purpose are More Important Than Money
Phil Knight’s life and his journey to making Nike successful is a powerful example of why it is better to choose passion, purpose, and meaning instead of money.
Choosing a craft that you are passionate about, that fulfills you, excites you, and gives you a sense of meaning, contribution, and purpose—what Phil describes as a “calling”—will make you a happier person throughout your day-to-day life. And ironically, choosing passion and purpose over money will lead you to work harder, become more successful, and make more money over the long-run.
And Phil Knight’s life is a perfect example of that.
Early on, during his trip around the world, Phil became a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman and he sold securities for a little while to help make ends meet. But Phil was more on the introverted side. So selling encyclopedias and securities was a struggle for him.
He did not enjoy selling products and services that he had no passion for.
But as soon as he started selling his shoes, he realized that he actually loved to sell. Phil was able to sell and pitch people on his shoe business really effectively, because he loved what he was selling. So even though he was introverted, Phil’s passion turned him into a very persuasive salesman.
When he first started going out with his future-wife Penny, he told her that he saw his shoe company as a living and breathing entity that he created from nothing. He told her that he never wanted to work for anyone else because building his own company, starting his own thing, gave his life meaning and purpose.
Throughout the book, Phil really gives off the impression that he was chasing meaning more than money or anything else.
At one point, Phil flew all the way to Japan to help design and create the first batch of Nike shoes, ever. As he sat in that factory, naming all of the different Nike shoes for the first time, he felt this intense wave of happiness, excitement, and peace. Building Nike didn’t just make him excited and happy, it instilled him with a powerful sense of peace—the peace of knowing that he was doing the one thing he was born to do.
Later on in the book, he defined Nike’s mission as contributing to the lives of strangers, making their lives happier, safer, and better. They were aiming to “help others live more fully.” And they saw their work as a chance to “participate more fully in the whole grand human drama” by improving the lives of others.
And at the very end of the book, Phil encourages all the young people reading this book to seek to find a calling, rather than a career or a job:
“[Don’t] settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. . . . If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, and the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”
Phil wants encourage all the young folks to seek to find a mission that you pursue for reasons bigger than money, status, power, or fame—for reasons like purpose, passion, growth, connection, meaning, and relationships. Seek a mission that adds meaning to your life.
Because when you do that, you will feel excited, happy, and peaceful like Phil did on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year basis. And following your calling may even lead you to change the world, succeed on a huge level, and earn more money than you’d ever imagined, like Phil did.
One of the most memorable moments of the book is the day when Nike went public and within that instant, Phil and all of the main members of his senior team that worked so hard to make Nike succeed, instantly became multi-millionaires. When Nike went public, Phil suddenly became worth $178 million.
This moment in the book was very surprising. Because Phil didn’t feel any different when his net-worth skyrocketed to $178 million.
He felt no relief, happiness, peace, or joy because of that money. Becoming rich was great, but it didn’t make Phil happy.
Phil found true happiness in the journey, process, growth, impact, camaraderie and friendship with his team, and his passion for the shoes.
In fact, the one emotion that Phil actually felt when he became super wealthy was regret. That’s right, the money made Phil regretful. He felt regretful because he wished he could go back in time and do it all over again.
That’s a very powerful lesson we can all take home from this book. Pursue a calling, find meaning, pursue passion, and chase your purpose. Because earning millions of dollars won’t give you true happiness. But the journey of following your calling will.
And who knows? When you chase meaning and passion, you might end up earning a bunch of money in the process just like Phil did.
Shoe Dog Will Teach You That Failure is a Stepping Stone for Success
Phil Knight built Nike on failure. Not only did failure motivate Phil and his team, strengthen them, and push them in the right direction, failure was the foundation for the company.
Shoe Dog makes a strong case that failure is a powerful, and necessary stepping stone for massive success.
During the early stages of the book, Phil suffered through some personal failures.
When he embarked on that trip around the world at age 24—the same trip where he cut a deal with a Japanese shoe company that eventually lead to the formation of Nike— he brought his former Stanford classmate and close friend, Carter, along for the ride. But once they got to their first stop in Hawaii, Carter fell in love with a woman there and decided that he wanted to stay in Hawaii, leaving Phil to travel around the world by himself.
Losing Carter’s companionship on this around-the-world journey was a huge setback for Phil. At that point, Phil had to decide whether he wanted to continue on his trip around the world or just give up and go back home to Oregon to avoid the loneliness of traveling alone.
As you can guess, Phil decided to push through that failure. He kept going. He continued on that trip around the world all by himself, traveled to Japan, and he closed that deal that eventually lead to the creation of Nike.
If Phil had allowed that setback of losing his friend’s companionship to deter him, Nike as we know it today might not exist.
This was one of many failures that Phil had to persevere through and learn from in order to become successful.
Shortly after his around-the-world trip, Phil fell in love with a woman from Maryland, whom he met in Japan. After they went on lots of dates and wrote lots of love letters back and forth, Sarah suddenly dumped Phil and broke his heart because her family owned a prestigious candy bar company and they, ironically, didn’t think Phil was good enough for her.
Contrary to what Sarah’s family thought, Phil went on to be one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time! The pain of getting his heart broken became a powerful source of motivation for him, a chip on his shoulder that pushed him to win.
After Phil became the official United States shoe distributor for a Japanese company called Onitsuka, his relationship with them fell apart several times, leaving his entire business in jeopardy. At one point, Onitsuka even signed away Phil’s distribution rights for their shoes to a different company. Phil had to fly all the way back to Japan more than once, to smooth things over and renegotiate his relationship with Onitsuka.
He had to persevere through those setbacks.
Eventually, Phil and his team’s relationship with their Japanese partner went completely sour. After about 9 years of working together, Onitsuka refused to do any more business with them.
This was the ultimate failure. Onitsuka was their only source of shoes. All they had ever done up until that point was sell Onitsuka shoes. Now their only partner was backing out, leaving them empty-handed.
But instead of giving up on the business, Phil gathered his team in a conference room and told them that their failure was only going to make them stronger. Losing their partnership was actually a good thing, a blessing in disguise, because they now had a chance to create their own brand, design their own shoes, and make their own impact, without Onitsuka holding them back.
Phil had to find the silver lining in the failure. And through that blessing in disguise, they created a multi-billion dollar company called Nike.
Failure didn’t just help Phil build Nike. Failure was the foundation, from day one.
Phil’s story holds a powerful lesson for anyone who is struggling through setbacks, hardships, and hard times. If you look for the silver lining, you can use that failure as the foundation for your future success.
Shoe Dog Will Teach You To Use Every Available Resource for Your Goals
Phil’s life is also a great example of how to use all of your current resources to make forward progress on your dreams and goals.
When Phil and his team were still in the early stages of building Nike, they did an excellent job with conserving their money and using it in the right places. As opposed to working in a lavish office, Phil initially moved the company’s operations from his apartment into a low budget office space next to a noisy bar that was always cold because their windows didn’t latch properly.
It was a super low-budget space.
Not only that, both Phil and his colleague on the east coast actually moved into their office spaces to save money on rent. Phil actually lived at his office, and used the gym for his showers.
He used his time very efficiently and productively as well. He spent every minute and every hour of his time that he could on building Nike. At this point, he still was working a day-job at Price Waterhouse.
Phil was working his day-job at Price Waterhouse 6 days per week, and then spending his nights, early mornings, weekends, vacations, and any available free time on building his shoe company.
Phil had no social life. His life was all work, and no play.
But here’s the thing, he loved it! Phil still loved his life, because his work was his play.
Phil wanted what we all want, to be himself for a living, full-time—to do the thing that he loved and found most meaningful 7 days a week. Phil wanted that freedom, fulfillment, excitement, and meaning. And he was willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
This section of the book is a perfect example of how to pursue your passion, while still working a full-time job. The best way to go about it is: use every existing resource that you have available—all your time, effort, energy, and money—to make progress on your dreams.
And eventually your dreams will become your reality, just like Phil’s did.
What Lesson Did You Take Away From Shoe Dog?
Thank you for reading my super-long book review! I hope you get as much value from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight as I did.
So what are your thoughts on Phil Knight’s epic journey towards making Nike the billion-dollar brand that it is today?
Isn’t it mind-blowing that a company as huge and impactful as Nike, would not exist today if it hadn’t been for all of those seemingly small decisions that Phil made along the way?
Shoe Dog shows us that even though your journey may be hard, painful, and full of failures like Phil’s was, you can make it to a destination where you get to live all of your dreams, do what makes you happy for a living, and make a powerful contribution to the world.
And everything that you went through will make perfect sense in hindsight.
What was your biggest takeaway from Shoe Dog?
Have you read the book yet or are you planning to?
Click here to purchase your own copy of Shoe Dog. And stay posted, for more book reviews of my favorite motivational books and inspiring memoirs.
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