Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Phil Knight recounts his struggles, victories, and lessons learned from building Nike from a small startup to a billion dollar shoe giant. He tells engaging and inspiring stories that highlight his personal philosophies on life. Knight encourages us all to seek and pursue a calling, even if we don’t yet know what that means.

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Key Takeaways

What makes a good travel partner

“He was easy to talk to, and easy not to talk to—equally important qualities in a friend. Essential in a travel companion.”

I think about this with my friend Dror, who I’ve gladly traveled to over a dozen countries with.

On giving people the trust to produce good work on their terms

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

This is how I approach management. No one wants to be told what to do, and people are much smarter and more creative than we might give them credit. It can be tempting when your ass is on the line as a leader to tell people to get things done in a particular way, but this approach is myopic. It will never allow people to tap into their unique creativity and find solutions that you would have never thought of yourself.

The power of starting with a small action

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

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a big project or undertaking. But just start moving and the compounding effect of your daily work will add up to something much more than you could have imagined. Don’t get paralyzed in the unproductive state of inaction. You’ll look back at your life and wonder where the time went. Get started.

On saying goodbye

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

I think about this often as being constantly on the road for work and travel leads to many goodbyes with people who I’d love to spend more time with. When I say goodbye, it’s often clear how I really felt about that person and experience.

Life is growth

“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.”

Adopting a growth mindset has served me well in my personal and professional life. I find small ways to improve each day, and sometimes I don’t get to everything on my list, but I always keep pushing forward and looking for new ways to learn and grow.

Seek a calling

“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.”

Life is too short to sit at a desk working on a project you don’t care about or to work for people that you hate. It’s not easy to figure out what you want to do in life, but continuing to look for the path that allows you to tap into your unique point of contribution will get you much closer to what you are here for. And over time, you will find a meaningful path and the fulfillment that comes from living that path.

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