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Shoe Dog

Rating: 5/5
Date read: July, 2017

Note: I purchased this book and took these notes to further my own learning. If you enjoy these notes, go buy the book!


A thoroughly enjoyable read about the ups and downs in the early days of Nike.

Book Notes

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.

Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines.

He was easy to talk to, and easy not to talk to—equally important qualities in a friend.

I was a linear thinker, and according to Zen linear thinking is nothing but a delusion, one of the many that keep us unhappy. Reality is nonlinear, Zen says. No future, no past. All is now.

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. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.

One lesson I took from all my home-schooling about heroes was that they didn’t say much. None was a blabbermouth. None micromanaged. Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

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. My life was out of balance, sure, but I didn’t care. In fact, I wanted even more imbalance.

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

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.

Each of us found pleasure, whenever possible, in focusing on one small task. One task, we often said, clears the mind.

You are remembered for the rules you break.

Supply and demand is always the root problem in business.

Pre was most famous for saying, “Somebody may beat me—but they’re going to have to bleed to do it.”

The best way to reinforce your knowledge of a subject is to share it.

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

[On Strasser’s ability to negotiate] His secret, I think, was that he just didn’t care what he said or how he said it or how it went over. He was totally honest, a radical tactic in any negotiation.

Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending commitment.

When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.

You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.

I find students today much smarter and more competent than in my time, I also find them far more pessimistic. Occasionally they ask in dismay: “Where is the U.S. going? Where is the world going?” Or: “Where are the new entrepreneurs?” Or: “Are we doomed as a society to a worse future for our children?” I tell them about the devastated Japan I saw in 1962. I tell them about the rubble and ruins that somehow gave birth to wise men like Hayami and Ito and Sumeragi. I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the students, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can.

[On 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.

If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.

I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye.

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.

Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.

Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao.

The harder you work, the better your Tao.