Shoe Dog is the much talked about memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight. In all honesty, until I read rave reviews of this book, it wasn’t even on my radar. I know the brand Nike (of course), but never cared much about the companies’ history or founder.
Still, I must say I am glad I picked it up.
Knight starts his tale with a journey around the globe and his first meeting with the Japanese company Onitsuka, who’s Tiger shoes Knight started to sell in the US before there ever were any Nike. While Knight describes his companies journey until it’s first public offering in 1980, this book doesn’t tell the story of Nike, but the story of Phil Knight.
It is a story of Knight’s struggling for identity and meaning, his need to make his father proud, to leave his mark on this world, of companionship, first love and the tragic death of his eldest son.
At times, it reads like a thriller, with Knight struggling to keep the company afloat and him fighting a federal investigation. Other times it’s like a romance novel, as when tells of his first meeting of his future wife.
But first and foremost, Knight is a philosophe, in search for meaning.
What I found the most remarkable, is Knight’s ability, to create a rag-tag motley crew of co-workers and confidants, based on their individual merit, skills and personality and less so on their formal education and agreeableness. Without his band of brothers, his company wouldn’t have become what it is today, as his skill to amass capable people and giving them the room to become the best they can be, via his hands-off approach to leadership, is the real secret to Nike’s success.
His memoir is simply stunning. The way he presents the events of his past and describes the people he met on his journey, are masterfully coloured. I hope, one day he writes a second book. Wholeheartedly recommended.