Shoe Dog

I thought this was going to be a dry business book about the founding of Nike, but it was a full life story of its founder, background and all, emotions and all, struggle and all. It reads less like a business education and more like a life education. I would definitely recommend it.


The main thread of the book I focused on was drive: what kept pushing him? The author explores this himself, starting out from working to gain approval (from his dad, from his coach), and working avoid losing. He is all-consumed with wanting to chase a "job that felt like play", (which is quite funny as the work is more like struggle and pain than anything else). He ends up wanting to work to make a change, to improve and create. This is my favourite journey in the book.


I hear and have use the phrase of "work that feels like play" a lot in my life, but I think this book consolidated it in a way that I'd never before appreciated. Work that feels like play can at times be the most painful, frustrating, stressful thing in the world. The only difference is that in those times, instead of wanting to quit, you always want to work harder.


Book: Shoe Dog, Phil Knight


Actionable takeaways:

  1. The basic rule of negotiation is that you need to come to the table knowing what you want exactly, or you’ll end up folding.

  2. It's a great idea to hire someone for their spirit: you like them, and you find them a job, even if they don't fit in the job descriptions you've set up or had in mind.

  3. Focusing on a single task clears the mind. Do this when distracted, find one task, small or big, and focus on just that.

  4. Making work be fun is not what you think it is. People who consider their work to be fun are still describing it just as (or more) painful, stressful, annoying and horrible than everyone else. The difference seems to be not in enjoying the work when it's good per se, but not wanting to quit it when it's at its worst. When your job is at its worst do you feel: A. I can't do this anymore, all I want to do is quit → your work is work B. I could never quit, this only is driving me harder → your work is play

  5. Michelangelo apparently complained A LOT about his painting of the chapels. His neck and back hurt and he couldn't wait to be done with it. If he didn't enjoy his job in the day-to-day sense, why do we expect to?

  6. A sign of being in the right place, doing the right thing is feeling something like: "In all those hours, it was us against the world, and we felt sorry for the world."

  7. Early failure can lead to bigger wins. Often those who are shunned, rejected, short changed by fate and forged by early failures are those who carve out their bigger wins.

  8. Being successful has a lot to do with the approach to failure. Not being afraid of failure didn't hold Nike back, not because they didn't have it, but because they really didn't care about it being there.

  9. Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.

  10. The purpose of work, of living is not just to stay alive, it’s to create and contribute and improve other’s lives.

Fave Quotes

You run because stopping scares you to death.
You are remembered for the rules you break.
Michelango had so much back pain and hated painting. If he didn’t like his job, do we have a chance?
Wanting to respect someone, that’s why you work
The only people who benefit from competition are those who can forget the competition.
If you fight to avoid losing rather than winning, you won’t win.
If you have a body, you’re an athlete.
Business is war without bullets.
If you’re going to do only work and no play, work better be play.
The best way to get know how you feel about someone is to say goodbye.
Confidence is cash, you got to have some to get some.
Sports give people the experience of having lived other lives, of having won other victories and defeats.
No great ideas have ever been born in a conference room, but a lot have died there - “F.Scott Fitzgerald”.
Instead of cherishing how far we’d come, I only could see how far we’re need to go.

Book: Shoe Dog, Phil Knight

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