• Arjun Mittal

5 Lessons I learnt from Shoe Dog

A roller-coaster journey from exploring the world after college to building his Nike empire, Phil Knight's memoir is absolutely cinematic.


It all started by presenting a paper exploring the possibilities of the shoe market in the US at Stanford university, his plan was to import Japanese shoes and sell it in the US. He becomes a distributor of Onitsuka (now Asics). There are a plethora of twists and turns, as this was right after World War II. The relationships between US and Japan are not favourable for business. Onitsuka degraded the quality of exported shoes and formed other partnerships. Banks were rejecting loans for this business. Phil shares his story of overcoming all these hurdles and starting to manufacture shoes under his own name amd building Nike. Here are some lessons I learnt from this beautiful book:


1. Have a plan, but do not plan the journey:


Phil always had a plan of getting into the shoe market, but how and when always had a question mark at the end. One should always plan the end goal. The journey to that end goal would have a million constraints and uncertainties that are unpredictable.




2. Quality over Advertising:


Phil believes that when a product is made great, there is no need for advertising. The quality speaks for itself.





3. Dreamwork = Teamwork


Phil says believes that working in a team always aces working individually. Phil recruited the best and experienced people during his initial days. His coach Bowerman, who experiments with shoes all the time made the R&D contribution to Nike at the initial days. His friends are highly passionate and they joined with Phil knowing that they are less paid, which shows their mutual trustworthiness.




4. Too much of an opportunity cost in being shy


Phil believes:

“Try to gain wisdom from others because in this ocean of knowledge, there’s a lot to pick up and it’s not possible for one individual to do it on his/her own”.


There is nothing to lose if you ask. Even Steve Jobs at the age of 12 had called up Mr. Bill Hewlett to ask for spare parts to build frequency counters. The next thing he knew is that he was interning with HP that summer.



5. Excess of Anything is Poison:


We should not innovate too much in a product. When they had many new ideas, Phil suggested not to put all in one product because it will become “Too big to fail”. This is very similar to putting "all eggs in one basket".




There are a plethora of other learnings as well from this book that are too big to document in this small blog. My take is that if you are interested in business and sports, this book is a must read as there us a lot to take.