Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! After adding it to my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads ages ago, I decided to finally read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Knight, as you may or may not know, is the co-founder of Nike, the behemoth shoe and sports apparel company. Shoe Dog is Knight’s memoir of the beginnings of Nike. And honestly, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THIS BOOK??

Phil Knight with his shoes, in the early days of Nike.
Phil Knight with his shoes, in the early days of Nike.

Just Privilege It

From the first chapter, the reader can see that Phil Knight had a fairly privileged upbringing. His father was the editor of a local newspaper and he was brought up in an upper-middle class household. While I’m all about commending an entrepreneur for being resourceful, it definitely seems that Knight was dealt a very favorable hand.

I’m not sure if it’s just the way the book was written or if he actually made an effort, but many key events just happened to fall into place. He was able to go to the elite Stanford Business School for his MBA prior to when the world was globalized and when it was a lot easier to gain admission. He took on a “gig” at PwC, the large accounting firm, which is also very competitive to work at today. His cousin just happens to be a fantastic lawyer who can work pro-bono for him until the business takes off. The list goes on. It’s safe to say that nobody today could create Nike the way he was able to create it in the ’60s.

Shoe-String Budget of Business Advice

One of the evergreen themes throughout the book is Knight’s travels around the world and how they influenced the foundations of Nike. He speaks extensively about his adventures, which by the way, he casually conducts after his half-prepared business presentation with Japanese shoe executives. Knight reminds me of one of those irritating kids who study abroad for a semester and cannot stop talking about their trips when they come home. We get it. You saw the Trevi Fountain. By the way, I studied abroad, and it was amazinggg!

All jokes aside, Knight does sprinkle in some solid advice. This advice is applicable to not only entrepreneurs but all business-minded individuals. Some of my favorites are below:

Happiness can be dangerous. It dulls the senses.

Page 59

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.

Page 12

The harder you work, the better your Tao.

Night
Listen to one of my favorite podcasts interviewing Phil Knight

Overall Thoughts

Given all the hype this book received, I thought it was overrated. Knight comes off as arrogant, ignorant, and just plain ol’ lucky at times. I’m aware that the term “emotional intelligence” wasn’t popular back in that era, but it would have solved a lot of his problems! The book’s redeeming factors are its ease of reading and the occasional business advice. While initially coming off as pretentious and arrogant, Knight hollows out and shows some humility as his journey progresses. For all these reasons, I give this book a 3.5/5.

Read If You:

  • Want to see what all the hoopla is about. It seems like Shoe Dog is the go-to book that people name-drop when they want to tell everyone that they read business books.

Don’t Read If You:

  • Are expecting a typical business book to clearly learn how to start and run a business. Like I mentioned, the book is less of a manual and more of a memoir.

Be sure to check out my other book reviews here. Thanks for reading and please feel leave your thoughts in the Comments’ section below!

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