My Key Takeaways from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is a memoir by Phil Knight, the creator of Nike. Nike has been a household name ever since I can remember, and I have worn countless Nike products throughout my life. When I think of Nike, I can recollect the iconic swoosh logo along with the famous ‘Just Do It’ slogan with the background sound of an athlete’s rapid heartbeat. I was surprised by how little I’ve known about the company and the founder, Phil Knight, and I was mesmerized while reading the book as the author is such a great storyteller. Here, I am sharing my key takeaways from the book, Shoe Dog.

#1. Nike started as a side job at the beginning.

Nike started as an idea for an MBA project and back then, even Phil didn’t know he would make a living out of selling shoes. After graduating with his MBA from Stanford, he started selling encyclopedias by visiting households but was not a good salesman and lost interest in the job quickly. He embarked on a wild idea to travel around the world, stayed and worked in Hawaii longer than he expected, and resumed his initial plan by traveling to various exotic places.

When he visited Japan, he made a bold move by making an appointment with Onitsuka Tiger, one of the oldest shoe companies in Japan. He did not have any experience in selling shoes nor did he have any domain knowledge in shoes. But he was an avid runner and he firmly believed that a good pair of running shoes could bring goodness to runners, people, and society. He named his company ‘Blue Ribbon’ and loaned money from his dad to pay Onitsuka Tiger for the very first shipment from Japan to the U.S. He sold the very first pair of Tigers to his mother. Though he was passionate about selling shoes, it was not providing him sustainable income so he became a full-time accountant and an accounting lecturer at Portland State University where he met his wife, Penny.

I was amazed to find out such a behemoth company could have started as a side job a few decades ago. I thought it would have all started with a grand scheme with a group of extremely intelligent people with the company gaining huge traction and popularity from the inception.

Though he had a successful career as an accountant at a private firm and as an accounting lecturer at Portland State University, he followed his calling. Phil says he wrote the book because he wants to help young entrepreneurs 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 mid-twenties 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.”

#2. He never stopped believing in the goodness Nike could bring to people and society.

“For some, I realize, business is the all-out pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us, business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood… More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.”

Nike went through numerous challenges that put the company on the brink of bankruptcy — trial with Onitsuka Tigers when he created a new line, ‘Nike’, without telling Onitsuka Tiger, being kicked out from several banks as the company did not have sufficient liquidity in the bank accounts putting Nike at the risk of FBI investigation for being a fraud or the employees’ cheques rebounding as the company did not have any money left on the primary bank account, etc.

He endured numerous sleepless nights, wondering what might have gone wrong, and what could be done to fix them. Yet, he never gave up on his business baby, Nike, because he believed that Nike could make people happier, healthier, and better. He believed that Nike is participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. Maybe that belief kept Phil and the founding members of Nike refueled to work in trenches to overcome the hardship and survive through ups and downs. If it was just a business where they were trying to maximize profit, Phil might have given up on Nike a long time ago, and it wouldn’t be ingrained in our everyday lives as it is now.

“Luck plays a big role…. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao, or Logos, or Spirit, or God…… Put it this way. The harder you work, the better your Tao…. Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.”

To conclude…

I was inspired by his resilience to rebound from setbacks quickly. I also felt that his firm belief in Nike bringing goodness to our society kept him going no matter what, and his belief was contagious to those around him to continuously challenge themselves as it wasn’t just business, it was a calling.

I dream, one day, I will make a positive impact on society by helping people feel more focused, productive, and happy. With this vision in mind, though I do not know how I will get closer to achieving this vision at the present moment, I shall continue to contemplate on how I can get closer to my vision and continue to have faith in myself, and also have faith in faith.

“Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.



My long-term vision is to make a positive impact on society, and sharing my learnings via blogs is one of the endeavors to make my vision a reality.

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Sujin Park

My long-term vision is to make a positive impact on society, and sharing my learnings via blogs is one of the endeavors to make my vision a reality.