Shoe Dog Summary
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Shoe Dog Summary and Review | Phil Knight

Life gets busy. Has Shoe Dog been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.

We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order the book or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details.

Disclaimer: This is an unofficial summary and analysis.

Shoe Dog is a candid and riveting memoir where, for the very first time, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight opens up about the company’s early days as a simple startup and its evolution journey over the years into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands. It chronicles the numerous risks and daunting setbacks that stood between Phil Knight and his dream.

Shoe Dog dares readers to dream. The greatest message in the book is that no dream is too big, and the line between success and failure is very fine. What’s more, success does not happen overnight – it’s realized through a lot of sacrifice and perseverance.

Here are the 10 takeaways from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.


The truth is that whether you like it or not, both local and international businesses are competing on a global scale. Confining yourself in a corner and ignoring this fact will only generate failure. That said, understanding the nuances of international markets and decoding the impact of the economy in the presence of cultural differences is hard. A lot of patience and understanding is needed to maintain that global perspective when faced with the daily hurdles of running a business.

Global is where all the opportunities are and where the future lies. Embracing a global perspective allows you to learn from others, enables your business to expand to new markets, and helps you achieve personal growth. By being open and adaptive, new opportunities will come knocking on your door. 

Phil Knight understood all too well the power of having a worldly perspective. He knew that he would be unable to leave a mark in the world if he did not the first experience it. Knight made his first sales pitch during a stop-over in Tokyo during one of his global adventures. For that pitch, he needed to gain extensive knowledge about Japanese culture, customs, and how they carried out businesses. The lessons learned proved valuable throughout the rest of his career.

Before settling into your career or starting that business venture you’ve always dreamt of, you should travel the world. Spend time in other countries, absorbing all the knowledge and experience you can. This wisdom will help you establish successful businesses in different parts of the globe.


Undoubtedly, the fear of failure is one of the biggest dream killers in the business world. While most people are aware of this, others are not so much. Many people have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs but do not all maximize it. If you are ever filled with doubt, just go for it.

Turn a deaf ear to society and ignore all the criticism that comes your way. Just because your idea sounds crazy does not mean it is not worth pursuing. That said, you should do your due diligence before starting. This way, you can turn your crazy idea into a successful business venture. 

Sometimes the craziest ideas end up being the best ones. At the beginning of his memoir, Phil Knight describes his dream company as a “crazy idea”. For him, however, this was the only idea that made sense and was the only one worth pursuing. He did not want to be a good employee like his father. He wanted to go against the grain and build something great for himself. Though it took a lot of time, his risk-taking paid off.


Always know you are why. It’s easy to settle for an average-paying career that caters to your basic needs and gives you security. However, you will never achieve your life’s dream and attain the greatest heights of success if you do not fight your fears and follow your passion.

If a hard-proven formula to success existed, most people would be billionaires. But this is seldom the case. A majority of us like to take the safer option – graduate from college, get a job, make a family, retire, and wait to die. No risk-taking, no gains. This will be life for you if you decide to live as per society’s expectations.

You should wrap your passion around a career, not the other way around. Phil Knight advises young men and women in their 20s never to settle for a job or a career. Instead, they should seek a calling, even when they have no idea what that means. If you pursue your calling, the bad days will be easy to navigate, and the setbacks will only act as fuel to steer you to greater heights.


When starting your business, you should use innovation as a benchmark for internal empowerment and external growth. This will determine the direction of your business and help you gauge whether you are empowering your employees to become innovative and have a growth mindset. For most startups, getting to the next level of growth involves innovation in ideas, products, people, and technology. 

Innovation is paramount to your company’s success, especially in the current turbulent and competitive business environment. As an entrepreneur, you need an edge to stand out among your competitors. Innovation can give you this edge by boosting productivity and facilitating growth and profitability.

Innovation does not have to be sophisticated. It can involve making simple but progressive improvements in different areas of your company. If you invest your company’s resources in innovation, your customers will take notice and appreciate the extra effort you put into making them happy.

A major reason why Nike, a previous underdog, managed to outshine giant brands like Adidas and Puma is due to their innovative mindset. With the launch of thousands of brands every other day, businesses cannot afford to confine themselves to their comfort zones. Given the rate at which technology becomes obsolete, one new technology is what it would take to wipe out a business completely. It is, therefore, important to stay ahead of your competitors.


Most entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they tend to be micromanagers. Business owners do not delegate duties, mainly because of a lack of trust. You might be good at starting a business but cannot excel at everything. It is okay to admit that some employees can handle tasks better than you can. Instead of dimming their light, allow them to take charge of their work, and you will be amazed at how much progress you will make.

When starting, it may make sense to carry out most tasks yourself to save money. But as your business grows, you will discover that time is more valuable than money. Do not hold your cards too close to your chest. Delegate jobs to your employees and focus on the bigger picture, such as expanding into new markets and forming new partnerships.

You should let your employees become entrepreneurial in their roles. If you let them surprise you with their results, they most certainly will. For this to work, however, you need to hire the right caliber of employees who are hungry for success. Lazy workers may take advantage of the freedom to slack off on their duties.

Phil Knight owes most of his success to having a great team. He was surrounded by experts in all fields, which allowed him to make the highest-quality shoes and carry out excellent ad campaigns. Knight makes special mention of some of his staff in his memoir and credits them with much of his company’s success.


It is okay to fail. Failure is the only communication that you must work on differently to achieve better results. Every successful person you adore today failed terribly at some point in their life. The only differentiating factor between winners and losers is the will to get up and fight another day.

You cannot escape failure – that is the reality of venturing into entrepreneurship. While it may be easy to view failure as a personal shortcoming, embracing it as a part of the bigger entrepreneurial journey is more beneficial. If taken the right way, failure will make you strong as a business and as an individual. When you no longer have something to be afraid of, there will be no limits to what you can achieve.

Phil Knight’s journey has been everything but a smooth ride. He faced many challenges along the way, such as law disputes, financial challenges, manufacturing problems, and logistics nightmares, to mention a few. He had many reasons to quit, give up on Blue Ribbon, or Nike itself. The only reason Nike is what it is today is that Knight and his team never gave up. They tackled each problem head-on without getting discouraged.


Becoming an entrepreneur is as exciting as it is frightening. If you play your cards right, you will realize tremendous success, far beyond your expectations. However, being an entrepreneur does not guarantee you’ll become a successful business person. This begs the question, what differentiates successful entrepreneurs from those who don’t make it? Do they just get lucky, or is it pure hard work?

We cannot deny the role of luck in the success of a business. You will hear from many successful entrepreneurs about the importance of luck. That said, the degree of luck is different depending on who you ask. But how much does luck have to do with this success?

It is worth noting that luck goes hand-in-hand with hard work. People just don’t get lucky; they make luck happen. You stumble across something because you put in the work and kept moving forward. This may have never come your way if you just sat still and did nothing.

Instead of waiting for lady luck to knock on your door, position yourself to increase your chances of success. Think about it this way, were you lucky that you exchanged contacts with that successful business person at a fundraising event, or did you exchange contacts because you were open to putting yourself out there and networking? You see, when it comes to business, there’s no way around putting in the work. 

Looking back, Knight acknowledges that they got lucky numerous times over the years, and were it not for those lucky breaks, they would never have succeeded. In the same light, he is also very quick to admit that they put a lot of blood and sweat into making those lucky moments happen. For example, they signed some of the biggest names in athletics before they became stars. Such lucky endorsements did not come without grit.


The first step to achieving success is self-confidence. Believing means being prepared to take risks even when unsure about the outcome. If you want to be successful, you must have the right set of beliefs. As an entrepreneur, you should believe in yourself and your capabilities, even when others belittle and ridicule your ideas.

Failure is one of the biggest reasons people start to doubt their abilities. They remain stuck in a situation that did not work out for them and keep their mind fixated on that one thing. Conversely, successful people learn their lessons quickly and navigate their way out of their failures. They do not count how many times they have failed; they just keep pushing forward.

Nike’s success, especially at the very start, was due to the unmatched passion and dedication Knight and his first employees had. Sales were made by a young workforce who believed they were making a difference in the athletes’ lives. That level of conviction and motivation drove them to make more sales.


There are no words to describe the fearlessness of starting a business, progressively putting in the effort, not being discouraged by setbacks, and tasting success! But nothing lasts forever, not even success. One reason you should quit stressing too much about the destination is that once you reach your desired destination, you will still need to push forward.

Phil Knight warns readers about happiness. Life is all about growth. Once you become complacent after your first success, you lose it all. Nike was on the brink of bankruptcy several times. However, no matter how thick things got, they always found ways to manage their debts and secure more funding to make their shoes better. They always pushed boundaries, and this is what set them apart from their competitors. Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you either go hard or go home.


As a businessperson, competitors are an important part of your learning curve. While carrying out your research, you should strive to know what types of services and products are offered by your competitors, their marketing strategy, their distribution channel and delivery system, the type of technology they use, and how customers interact with their brand. Do not copy; just learn what mistakes to avoid because what may work for one business may not work for another,

In the early days, Nike looked to Adidas as a source of inspiration. Over the years, however, Knight had a rocky relationship with Adidas because he felt they were arrogant because of their dominance in the market. But this did not stop him from learning all he could from the athletic powerhouse.


The message in this book is simple – overcoming fear and breaking boundaries to pursue your dreams. We have all visualized venturing into entrepreneurship at some point in our lives. But most of us will never realize these dreams because we let fear get the best of us. No matter how great our ideas may be, they mean nothing if we do not find the courage to overcome the fear of the unknown. Shoe Dog gives a first-hand account of what it takes to make the craziest of dreams a reality.

In his memoir, Phil Knight recounts the struggles, wins, and lessons readers can learn from the journey of building Nike from a humble startup company to a multi-billion-dollar business. He uses a combination of his personal life experiences and lessons from others in his pursuit of success. Shoe Dog is both a memoir and a business book, with lots of life lessons for entrepreneurs.


The book is a captivating read, keeping readers glued to the text. It is one of the best inspirational books of all time and a very intriguing one at that. Shoe Dog is magical, as it makes you feel so many emotions reading the ups and downs of the company. 

The book is filled with surprises. Although you know the powerhouse that Nike is today, you still get an adrenaline rush, wondering what will happen next. For these reasons, the book rates are 10/10.

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