Shoe Dog Book Review | Nikes Crazy Journey to A Billion Dollar Empire

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few
— Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind Beginner's Mind (located in the front of the book)

At times, shlingy — like this back and forth movement between the big highs in Phil Knights life to even bigger lows (It gives me a tinge of anxiety just thinking about it) — but overall, incredibly insightful and triumphant.

In the books infancy, Phil said that he wanted to pursue journalism when he left school (that obviously didn’t happen — he pursued accounting I believe). This makes sense. It’s written in a journalistic fashion. For me, as serial-bullshitter, it got hard to finish towards the end. Overall, however, I actually found myself captivated by the stories that led Nike to its billion dollar success.

I have highlighted my takeaway quotes below. Some will make sense, some you will have to think about and others…well, some are just there for me.


takeaway Quotes:

  • When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself. Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scare you to death.

  • Front runners always work the hardest, and risk the most

  • I wasn’t built for heavy doses of rejection. I’d known this about myself since high school, freshman year, when I got cut from the baseball team. A small setback, in the grand scheme, but it knocked me sideways. It was my first real awareness that not everyone in this world will like us, that we’re often cast aside at the very moment we most need to be included.

  • I marvelled at the concept of kensho, or satori — enlightenment that comes in a flash, a blinding pop. Sort of like the bulb on my Minolta. I liked that. I wanted that.

  • No future, no past. All is now

  • In every religion, it seemed t, self is the obstacle, the enemy. And yet en declares plainly that the self doesn’t exist. Self is a mirage, a fever dream, and our stubborn belief in its reality not only wastes life, but shortens it. Self is the bald-faced lie we tell ourselves daily, and happiness requires seeing through the lei, debunking it. To study the self, said the thirteenth-century Zen master Drogen, is to forget the self. Inner voice, outer voices, it’s all the same. no dividing lines.

  • You cannot travel the path until you have become the path yourself, said the Buddha.

  • …the man who moves the mountain begins by carrying away small stones…

  • Love truth, but pardon error

  • Each day at noon I’d walk down the street to the local travel agency and stand like Walter Mitty before the posters in the window. Switzerland. Tahiti. Moscow. Bali.

  • I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place…belief is irresistible.

  • …happiness can be dangerous. It dulls the senses.

  • The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget the internal voice screaming, begging, “Not one more step!”

  • My psyche was in true harmony when I had a mix of aline time and team time.

  • When I was growing up my sisters asked me several times what my dream house would look like, and one day they handed me a charcoal pencil and a pad and me me draw it. After Penny and I moved in, my sisters dug out the old charcoal sketch. It was an exact picture of the Beaverton house.

  • The thought crossed my mind that some of the hardest things ever said in our lifetimes are said softly.

  • Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes.

  • Fear of failure, I thought, will never be our downfall as a company. Not that any of us thought we wouldn’t fail; in fact we had every expectation that we would. But when we did fail, we had faith that we’d do it fast, learn from it, and be better for it.

  • “People pay to much attention to numbers”

  • At twenty four I didn’t yet know who I was

  • I remembered the best way to reinforce your knowledge of a subject is to share

  • The buildings [at Nike HQ] are named after the men and women who have given us more than their names and endorsements. Joan Benoit Samuelson, Ken Griffey Jr., Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods, Dn Fouts, Jerry Rice, Steve Prefontaine — they’ve given us our identity.

  • “You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you” — The Bucket List

  • Oneness — in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking

  • International trade always, always benefits both trading nations…”When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.”

  • “See those bamboo trees up there?” he asked. “Yes.” “Next year…when you come… they will be one foot higher.”

  • When is came rolling in, the money affected us all…but that’s the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try and define your days. Our task as human beings is ot to let it.

  • 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.

  • America is becoming less entrepreneurial, not more.

  • And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when yo give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.

  • 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.


The book actually dug up some fond memories of my time spent studying and playing golf in Iowa, USA. Funny enough, William Penn University — the college I attended when I studied in the states — had just secured a sponsorship deal with Nike.

When I finished the book, I actually felt sorry for this man. He wrote about how money and the usual shit that comes with owning a billion dollars affected him and his wife. They also lost their son, Matthew.

I personally just believe that if we all did a little internal self-examination and find the real reasons we’re doing things — which is often superficial or to impress people — we might actually do things better or something completely different.

I get a cold feeling thinking about owning houses over the world and having ten Ferraris in the garage. Shame. You have to have all these possessions to keep you happy.

Mostly, however, I was inspired by Phil’s inspiration from Japan and his travels. Something I hope to do one day — travel long-term and vagabond.

The last five months have been interesting in my life to say the least. My biggest lesson is: don’t be afraid of boredom, don’t bind your self-worth to other people and your mind is literally all you fucking have.

Take care of it.

You need to work hard each day to protect that asset. Be careful who and what you let in.