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📖 Shoe Dog

Written by Phil Knight, "Shoe Dog" is a Memoir by the creator of Nike.

Below, are my favorite quotes from the book:

Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines, and I didn’t want that. More than anything, that was the thing I did not want.

Let everyone else call your idea crazy ... just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.

I was a linear thinker, and according to Zen linear thinking is nothing but a delusion, one of the many that keep us unhappy. Reality is nonlinear, Zen says. No future, no past. All is now.

In every religion, it seemed, self is the obstacle, the enemy. And yet Zen 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 lie, debunking it.

Not one of them was remembered, I thought. All is vanity, says the Bible. All is now, says Zen. All is dust, says the desert.

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

walked a little ways and stopped at the corner of Marx-Engels-Platz. I looked around, all directions. Nothing. No trees, no stores, no life. I thought of all the poverty I’d seen in every corner of Asia. This was a different kind of poverty, more willful, somehow, more preventable. I saw three children playing in the street. I walked over, took their picture. Two boys and a girl, eight years old. The girl—red wool hat, pink coat—smiled directly at me. Will I ever forget her? Or her shoes? They were made of cardboard.

Again and again I learned that lack of equity was a leading cause of failure.

Running track gives you a fierce respect for numbers, because you are what your numbers say you are, nothing more, nothing less.

Inspiration, he learned, can come from quotidian things. Things you might eat. Or find lying around the house.

War is the most extreme of conditions. But business has its warlike parallels. Someone somewhere once said that business is war without bullets, and I tended to agree.

One lesson I took from all my home-schooling about heroes was that they didn’t say much. None was a blabbermouth. None micromanaged. Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast.

The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.

By nature I was a loner, but since childhood I’d thrived in team sports. My psyche was in true harmony when I had a mix of alone time and team time. Exactly what I had now.

Leaning back in my recliner each night, staring at the ceiling, I tried to settle myself. I told myself: Life is growth. You grow or you die.

“No equity in my company. Ever.”

It was dark as I walked out of the office building, into the crowded Tokyo street. A feeling came over me, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I felt spent, but proud. I felt drained, but exhilarated. I felt everything I ever hoped to feel after a day’s work. I felt like an artist, a creator. I looked back over my shoulder, took one last look at Nissho’s offices. Under my breath I said, “We made this.”

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.

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.

“No brilliant idea was ever born in a conference room,” he assured the Dane. “But a lot of silly ideas have died there,” said Stahr. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon

I remembered that the best way to reinforce your knowledge of a subject is to share it,

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. It was the right tack for Patton and his GIs.

My management style wouldn’t have worked for people who wanted to be guided, every step, but this group found it liberating, empowering. I let them be, let them do, let them make their own mistakes, because that’s how I’d always liked people to treat me.

Maybe the cure for any burnout, I thought, is to just work harder.

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.

The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.

But taking a chance on people—he’s right. You could argue that’s what it’s all been about.

I thought of that phrase, “It’s just business.” It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.

“You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.”

“When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.”

It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them 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 midtwenties 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.

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

Luck plays a big role. Yes, 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 invaluable, 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.

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.