Shoe Dog: The creator of Nike on sports, business and life



This daily post is about a book I finished reading yesterday: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. But I won’t write a review, I guess it’s enough that I rated it 5 stars on Goodreads.

Anyway while reading it I collected some quotes from the book that I found inspiring, enlightening and motivational. I believe that no review of mine could speak more of the book than those quotes.

On Belief:

I’d been unable to sell encyclopaedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realised, it wasn’t selling. 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, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves.

Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.

On sports, why we sympathise athletes:

I’d never witnessed anything quite like that race. And yet I didn’t just witness it. I took part in it. Days later I felt sore in my hams and quads. This, I decided, this is what sports are, what they can do. Like books, sports give people a sense of having lived other lives, of taking part in other people’s victories. And defeats. When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about.

This one was inspired by the great Steve Prefontane, a marvellous athlete and one of the first Nike super athletes.

On the meaning of business:

But day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970s, I did too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me.

On giving up:

And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. 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.

On luck vs. hard work:

Luck plays a big role. I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are inevitable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao, or Logos, or Jñāna, or Dharma. Or Spirit. Or God.

Put this way. The harder you work, the better your Tao. And since no one has ever adequately defined Tao, I now try to go regularly to mass. I would tell them: 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.

An advice for men and women in their mid twenties:

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.

A warning for the rebels:

I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.


One of Knight’s favorite quotes:

“Don’t go to sleep one night” wrote Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet. “What you most want will come to you then. Warmed by a sun inside you’ll see wonders.”


I want to focus more on biographies in 2017. Recommend me some in comments below.

Why don’t you check my article on running a marathon too?

How I manage to stay focused when writing blogposts

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3 Comment

  1. RM says: Reply

    “Something Like an Autobiography” by Akira Kurosawa

  2. Dinka says: Reply

    Dear Ivan,

    I recommend you the biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

    Best Regards,

  3. Miss D says: Reply

    The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
    by Adam Braun

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