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