Shoe Dog - Book Notes

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
by Phil Knight
Goodreads link

I just finished Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog. It’s a thoroughly enterntaining read, and I highly recommend that you read it.

Besides its entertainment value… what business insights might one glean from it?

Unwavering Conviction in your Ability to Get Things Done

“The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us.”

Knight grew up in Portland, Oregon. Many times through the book Knight brings up that quote from his old teacher, referring to their common ancestors, those hardy souls who made it through the Oregon Trail: “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us.”

This belief is with him through the entire book. He and his associates are tough. They are tougher than regular men. Whatever life puts in their way, they will overcome it. They can do this.

This reminds me of one of the principles Jeff Collins identified in Good to Great: “Confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.” I think that’s the gift of belief in that strong Oregonian heritage comes in - it imparts an unwavering belief that you are strong, and that whatever the challenges before you, if anyone can overcome them, it is you.


Knight summed up his thoughts on the importance of passion like so: “I’d tell [people] to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. 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.”

Yes, I think that’s it. Knight sucked at selling encyclopedias, and was ok-ish at selling mutual funds, and hated both. Shoes, on the other hand, he sold almost on autopilot. He was just telling the truth, and people could feel his passion, feel his earnestness, and wanted more of that in their lives.

Nietzsche wrote “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” I’d wager Phil Knight would agree.

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30 Days in Indonesia

Indonesia is big. Really, really big. So perhaps rather than saying “I visited Indonesia”, let’s say I visited parts of Bali, Java, and Komodo National Park in Indonesia over 30 days in September 2019.

A collage of photos from Indonesia

Let’s start with a bit of history - I think this is always helpful, and puts everything else in context.

The Netherlands began colonizing the area that is now Indonesia in the 17th century, and kept their hold (with brief interludes from some other colonial European powers, as well as occupation by Japan during World War II) until 1949, following an armed as well as diplomatic conflict.

It was at that time that the Indonesian language - bahasa Indonesia -was born; it’s a modified form of Malay, with many words borrowed from Dutch. There are over 700 local languages, which locals still speak. Even schools are often taught in the local languages rather than in the official bahasa.

Bahasa is a very interesting language. It has very low specificity (check out this article for a fascinanting discussion of linguistic specificity): there is no conjugation or tenses, and there is only one word for he/she: “dia”. Plurals are formed by repeating the same word twice - for example, “kucing” is cat, and thus “kucing-kucing” is cats. This repetition pops up elsewhere, too - “hati-hati” is “be careful”, for example.

The country is developing quickly, with GDP growth hovering around 5%. You can see this in the high amount of construction happening all over. Some of the large projects are financed through China’s Belt and Road initiative, which does make some locals nervous.

In Bali, for example, there is lots of investment into infrastructure for tourists, with many new resorts and restaurants. A lot of the restaurants were quite nice even by Western standards, and were sitting mostly empty even at dinnertime. Either a lot more tourists will come, or I don’t think they’ll be able to stay open.


My good friend from LA, Julian, moved to Bali years ago. The surfing is great, the lifestyle is great, and the cost of living is substantially lower than LA… so why not? Julian now owns TYGR Sushi, which is a great place, and I strongly recommend you visit it if you’re ever in Bali. Julian built up the Bali branch of Deus Ex Machina (who are famous for their beautiful custom motorcycles)… and now rides a perfectly ordinary scooter (though it naturally has a surfboard holder).

And me, well… after seventeen years of living in LA, I finally learned to surf - over the course of three days in Bali.

Krystof surfing in Bali
Krystof learning to surf in Bali

The photo above is from day 2 - during day 3, I was able to catch some 5-foot waves, feeling like I finally got it… like I was a long-lost son of Poseidon, riding his waves and good vibes. I get why people wake up at 5am for this.

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The Courage To Be Disliked - Book Notes

The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness
by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga
Goodreads link

You, dear reader, have the capacity to be happy - starting right now!

This book discusses the philosophy/psychology of Alfred Adler in the form of a dialogue. Many of the ideas in How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (books I highly recommend) come from Adler’s ideas as well. In fact, Adler’s Wikipedia page didecates a whole section to “Use of Adler’s work without attribution”, including this quote from psychohistorian Henri F. Ellenberger: “It would not be easy to find another author from which so much has been borrowed on all sides without acknowledgement than Alfred Adler.”

The key insight is that your past does not determine your future. This is an important difference between Adler’s philosophy and Sigmund Freud’s ideas and western psychology in general. In Adler’s view, our past does not matter. Freudian aetiology denies our free will and treats humans like machines.

The significance of the past comes in the meaning that we attach to it. But that meaning isn’t fixed - we can change it any time. An event that at some time may have haunted us can become a source of resolve and strength - all we need to do is change the meaning that we assign it.

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Topanga State Park

Topanga State Park

We’ve been getting a lot of blessed rain in Southern California this winter (“given current conditions and model outlooks, the chance of an El Niño event to occur during March–May 2019 is estimated to be about 50–60%”), and as a result the hills are a wonderful, verdant green right now.

Here are a few photos from the beautiful Topanga State Park, (though let me hereby publicly shame them for not allowing dogs).

Topanga State Park

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