So I’ve recently finished an autobiography by the founder of Nike, Phil Knight. Shoe Dog is hands down one of the very best books I’ve read. I love recommending books to people. If something isn’t worth recommending, is it really worth reading? So…
So what makes this book so special?
Autobiographies are renowned for being extremely flattering to their subject matter…themselves. Nobody famous wants to tear themselves to pieces. Particularly when for many (think sports and actors), they’ve spent years, even decades cultivating their reputation.
Phil Knight absolutely destroys himself in this book. Even just for laughs. I didn’t know too much about the man before reading this. Here is a self-made billionaire just ripping himself to pieces. There is no bravado or arrogance in this at all. Many of his biggest successes were complete and utter accidents…he didn’t like the Nike swoosh when it was first designed. Now one of the world’s most recognisable and valuable logos. He didn’t even like the name Nike.
- Persistence: $50.00 – this was what a multi-billion dollar company was started with. He sold shoes out of the back of his car at race meets. Banks refused his business or to give him loans. He was sued by competitors. This guy faced every kind of challenge a business could possibly face. He never gave up. The long term outcome of persisting is self-evident.
- Passion: One thing is abundantly clear. Phil Knight LOVES sports and he loves running. In the 1960’s runners were looked at with an odd curiosity…why on earth would you run for fun? In his early days, he had to sell his shoes by word of mouth. Would he have been able to do this without a love and passion for his subject? Imagine buying shoes off a guy who knows his product back to front, every intricate detail and also uses his product. Or do you buy from the person who doesn’t even know how to tie the shoes? Most of Knight’s first employees were simply people who were passionate about running. When they needed new designs or people to spread the word, they had them in abundance under their own roof.
- Practicality: Knight is honest about all of his shortcomings. He surrounded himself with people who could do the things that he couldn’t do. When you’re honest about your abilities, you know what you need.
He had an idea in business school and acted on it. Friends, family, banks, experts all told him it wasn’t a good idea. He faced constant setbacks. He lived in uncertainty for a long time. With a young family to support, he could have been practical and went back to being an accountant. He could have failed horrifically with his business venture…
There is no definitive ingredient to his success other than the vital ability to act on his idea and believe in it.
“Just do it”