“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

Phil Knight is the founder of Nike & this book is a roller coaster ride of creating this over $25 billion dollar behemoth.

Mr. Knight, a University of Oregon graduate & a collegiate runner borrowed $50 from his father to import Japanese sports shoes and started a company called Blue Ribbon with his coach. To pay the bills he had day jobs, first at PwC & then as an accounting Professor at Portland State University until he could sell enough shoes to pay himself as an employee of his own company. When the Japanese cancelled his partnership, Mr Phil created a new line called Nike, which eventually became the company we know today. Nike means victory (as in Greek Temple of goddess Athena, bringer of Nike or “victory”) and Mr Knight at first was not very supportive of the name as well as the company’s swoosh logo (‘it will grow on me’).

This is a story of passion, grit, brotherhood & crisis management while living on the edge. Here are couple of detailed reviews: Here (Oregonlive) & here.

Some of my favorite quotes:

  1. “the cowards never started, and the weak died along the way, that leaves us” – Coach Bowerman while motivating his Oregon Ducks players [referring to pioneers of the Oregon trail].
  2. “Buck, how long do you think you are going to keep jackassing around with these shoes” – Phil’s father not approving his shoe selling business
  3. “Who was the guy [at Adidas, in their threat of suing] who kicked the shit of the Aztecs [the brand name Knight picked for his 1968 Olympic shoes]?” Bowerman asked. “Cortez,” Knight said. He grunted. “Okay. Let’s call it the Cortez.”
  4. I’d never heard of Senter, but Sumeragi assured me the man was a genuine, head-to-toe shoe dog. I’d heard this phrase a few times. Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes. Lifers used the phrase cheerfully to describe other lifers, men and women who had toiled so long and hard in the shoe trade, they thought and talked about nothing else. It was an all-consuming mania, a recognizable psychological disorder, to care so much about insoles and outsoles, linings and welts, rivets and vamps. And I understood. The average person takes seventy-five hundred steps a day, 274 million steps over the course of a long life, the equivalent of six times around the globe–shoe dogs, it seemed to me, simply wanted to be part of that journey. Shoes were their way of connecting with humanity. What better way of connecting, shoe dogs thought, than by refining the hinge that joins each person to the world’s surface?
  5. We looked out, and here they come, a mob of salesmen, walking like zombies toward our booth. They picked up the Nikes, held them to the light. They touched the swoosh. One said to another, “The hell is this?” “Hell if I know,” said the other.
    They started to barrage us with questions. Hey — what IS this?
    That’s a Nike.
    The hell’s a Nike?
    It’s the Greek goddess of victory.
    Greek what now?
    Goddess of vic–
    And what’s THIS?
    That’s a swoosh.
    The hell’s a swoosh?
    The answer flew out of me: It’s the sound of someone going past you.
    They liked that. Oh, they liked it a whole lot.

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