Book notes #1 — Shoe Dog

Every time I read a book on my kindle, I highlight vigorously and save my notes, so I’ve decided to start sharing them in case they can be helpful to others. I try to read a book every month, but sometimes I slack. I’ll keep these posts under the same format going forward and will pull from past reads, as well, so without further ado…

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — by Phil Knight

Stream of consciousness review:
Slow to start but very well written. By the end everything felt incredible cohesive. Appreciate that he didn’t just tell the story of the modern-day Nike we all know, but rather focused on the start of Nike from zero to IPO. Made it feel real and much more inspiring knowing that even someone like Phil Knight struggled with cash flow, management, parenting, insecurity, and more. Parts are slow, but the final chapter is worth reading the entire book for. Tastefully touches on how success does/doesn’t change people and brings in modern day examples that we were all secretly waiting for (Tiger Woods, LeBron James, and more). Great read and potentially an even greater gift.

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Raw highlights (directly from the book):
To study the self, said the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen, is to forget the self.

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

One ounce sliced off a pair of shoes, he said, is equivalent to 55 pounds over one mile.

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running.

Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.

She respected the lines we draw around ourselves in crisis.

Emotion would be fatal. I needed to remain cool.

There were many ways down Mount Fuji, according to my guidebook, but only one way up. Life lesson in that, I thought.

“It’s like Hesse says,” she purred over dinner one night, “happiness is a how, not a what.”

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

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

Hiring sales reps and graphic artists showed great optimism, and I didn’t consider myself an optimist by nature. Not that I was a pessimist. I generally tried to hover between the two, committing to neither.

Life is growth. You grow or you die.

Confidence. More than equity, more than liquidity, that’s what a man needs.

“If the Japanese trading company understands the rules from the first day,” he said, “they will be the best partners you’ll ever have.”

I told myself there was much to be learned from such a display of passion, whether you were running a mile or a company.

The cowards never started and the weak died along the way — that leaves us.

he had forgiven me my sins, including my secret factory. “There are worse things,” he said, “than ambition.”

“Normally,” he said, “if one manager at a company can think tactically and strategically, that company has a good future.

Maybe going public would finally ensure that Nike would live on.

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

His secret, I think, was that he just didn’t care what he said or how he said it or how it went over. He was totally honest, a radical tactic in any negotiation.

“You could issue two classes of stock — class A and class B. The public would get class Bs, which would carry one vote per share. The founders and inner circle, and your convertible debenture holders, would get class As, which would entitle them to name three-quarters of the board of directors. In other words, you raise enormous sums of money, turbocharge your growth, but ensure that you keep control.”

Just before getting on the plane home we signed deals with two Chinese factories, and officially became the first American shoemaker in twenty-five years to be allowed to do business in China.

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.

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

I asked myself: What are you feeling? It wasn’t joy. It wasn’t relief. If I felt anything, it was . . . regret? Good God, I thought. Yes. Regret. Because I honestly wished I could do it all over again.

The world was the same as it had been the day before, as it had always been. Nothing had changed, least of all me. And yet I was worth $178 million.

As chairman I still go most days to my office. I look around at all those buildings, and I don’t see buildings, I see temples. Any building is a temple if you make it so.

(LeBron James)

Nike was born in 1972.” “Well. Born — ? Yes. I suppose.” “Right. So I went to my jeweler and had them find a Rolex watch from 1972.” He hands me the watch. It’s engraved: With thanks for taking a chance on me. As usual, I say nothing. I don’t know what to say. It wasn’t much of a chance. He was pretty close to a sure thing. But taking a chance on people — he’s right. You could argue that’s what it’s all been about.

I choose to believe this euphoria scenario, to believe that my son didn’t suffer at the end. That my son was happy. I choose, because it’s the only way I can go on.

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.

I keep thinking of one line in The Bucket List. “You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.” I forget if it was Nicholson or Freeman. The line is so true, so very true.

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

Still, we have to operate within the limits and structures of each country, each economy; we can’t simply pay whatever we wish to pay. In one country, which shall be nameless, when we tried to raise wages, we found ourselves called on the carpet, summoned to the office of a top government official and ordered to stop. We were disrupting the nation’s entire economic system, he said. It’s simply not right, he insisted, or feasible, that a shoe worker makes more than a medical doctor.

International trade always, always benefits both trading nations.

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

I’d seen that kind of glittery confidence in great coaches, and great business leaders, the elite of the elite. I never saw it in a mirror.

He knew I had questions. He waited for me to ask them. I said simply: “How did you do it?” I thought I saw the corners of his mouth flicker. A smile? Maybe? He thought. And thought. “I was,” he said, “a professor of the jungle.”

Unlike many other wise men, he drew great peace from his wisdom. I fed off that peace.

When I returned to Oregon I tried hard to cultivate and grow the management team we had, slowly, with more patience, with an eye toward more training and more long-term planning. I took the wider, longer view. It worked.

I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the students, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can. Put another way: We must all be professors of the jungle.

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 to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.

We give away $100 million each year, and when we’re gone we’ll give away most of what’s left.

Because mothers are our first coaches.

Not being a good enough manager to avoid layoffs. Three times in ten years — a total of fifteen hundred people. It still haunts.

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.

America is becoming less entrepreneurial, not more. A Harvard Business School study recently ranked all the countries of the world in terms of their entrepreneurial spirit. America ranked behind Peru.

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.

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.