Notes & Quotes: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

The following are my favorite quotes from Phil Knight's Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.
  1. I savored that first physical awakening, that brilliant moment before the mind is fully clear, when the limbs and joints first begin to loosen and the material body starts to melt away. Solid to liquid.
  2. There’s a kind of exuberant clarity in that pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided. I wanted that, whatever that was, to be my life, my daily life.
  3. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself.
  4. So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.
  5. I wanted to experience what the Chinese call Tao, the Greeks call Logos, the Hindus call Jñāna, the Buddhists call Dharma. What the Christians call Spirit.
  6. I wasn’t built for heavy doses of rejection. I’d known this about myself since high school, freshman year, when I got cut from the baseball team. A small setback, in the grand scheme, but it knocked me sideways. It was my first real awareness that not everyone in this world will like us, or accept us, that we’re often cast aside at the very moment we most need to be included.
  7. One ounce sliced off a pair of shoes, he said, is equivalent to 55 pounds over one mile.
  8. [Bill] Bowerman’s strategy for running the mile was simple. Set a fast pace for the first two laps, run the third as hard as you can, then triple your speed on the fourth. There was a Zen-like quality to this strategy, because it was impossible. And yet it worked.
  9. Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves.
  10. Belief is irresistible.
  11. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting.
  12. Sure, it would have been the cautious, conservative, prudent thing. But the roadside was littered with cautious, conservative, prudent entrepreneurs.
  13. I was putting in six days a week at Price Waterhouse, spending early mornings and late nights and all weekends and vacations at Blue Ribbon. No friends, no exercise, no social life—and wholly content.
  14. I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.
  15. The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.
  16. I didn’t consider myself an optimist by nature. Not that I was a pessimist. I generally tried to hover between the two, committing to neither.
  17. Life is growth. You grow or you die.
  18. When I was growing up my sisters asked me several times what my dream house would look like, and one day they handed me a charcoal pencil and a pad and made me draw it. After Penny and I moved in, my sisters dug out the old charcoal sketch. It was an exact picture of the Beaverton house.
  19. Each of us found pleasure, whenever possible, in focusing on one small task. One task clears the mind.
  20. Confidence. More than equity, more than liquidity, that’s what a man needs.
  21. I was deeply tired when I returned home each night. But I’d always get a second wind after my six-mile run, followed by a hot shower and a quick dinner.
  22. The nightly self-catechism:
    1. What do you know?
    2. What else do you know?
    3. What does the future hold?
    4. What's Step One?
    5. What's Step Two?
  23. Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes.
  24. A feeling came over me, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I felt spent, but proud. I felt drained, but exhilarated. I felt everything I ever hoped to feel after a day’s work. I felt like an artist, a creator.
  25. When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about.
  26. The best way to reinforce your knowledge of a subject is to share it.
  27. At the close of fiscal 1976 we doubled our sales—$14 million. A startling number, which financial analysts noted, and wrote about. And yet we were still cash-poor.
  28. While floating ideas, and shooting down ideas, and hashing out threats to the company, the last thing we took into account was someone’s feelings. Including mine. Especially mine.
  29. When you see only problems, you're not seeing clearly.
  30. We needed to hire people with sharp minds, that was our priority, and accountants and lawyers had at least proved that they could master a difficult subject. And pass a big test.
  31. I was transitioning him from legal to marketing, moving him out of his comfort zone, as I liked to do with everyone now and then, to prevent them from growing stale.
  32. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.
  33. Oneness—in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking.
  34. In the ten years since the bad headlines and lurid exposés, we’ve used the crisis to reinvent the entire company.
  35. In one country, which shall be nameless, when we tried to raise wages, we found ourselves called on the carpet, summoned to the office of a top government official and ordered to stop. We were disrupting the nation’s entire economic system, he said. It’s simply not right, he insisted, or feasible, that a shoe worker makes more than a medical doctor.
  36. Money: whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.
  37. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.