Dan Kim @dankimio

Shoe Dog — Phil Knight


  • Maybe because I still hadn’t experienced anything of life. Least of all its many temptations and excitements. I hadn’t smoked a cigarette, hadn’t tried a drug. I hadn’t broken a rule, let alone a law. The 1960s were just under way, the age of rebellion, and I was the only person in America who hadn’t yet rebelled. I couldn’t think of one time I’d cut loose, done the unexpected.
  • When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination.
  • 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.

Part One

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.


  • 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.
  • That’s because you’re a rebel.


  • I refused to even say it aloud, because it wasn’t a real word, it was bureaucratic jargon, a euphemism for cold hard cash.
  • It was like dialing 911 and hearing someone on the other end yawn.
  • I had grown to hate that war. Not simply because I felt it was wrong. I also felt it was stupid, wasteful. I hated stupidity. I hated waste. Above all, that war, more than other wars, seemed to be run along the same principles as my bank. Fight not to win, but to avoid losing. A surefire losing strategy.
  • Bowerman was forever griping that people make the mistake of thinking only elite Olympians are athletes. But everyone’s an athlete, he said. If you have a body, you’re an athlete.


  • Along with biographies of my three main heroes—Churchill, Kennedy, and Tolstoy.
  • Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
  • But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons.
  • I tried to be nonchalant as I signed the papers and placed an order for five thousand more shoes, which would cost twenty thousand dollars I didn’t have. Kitami said he’d ship them to my East Coast office, which I also didn’t have.


  • He took off his ball cap, put it on again, rubbed his face. “Who was that guy who kicked the shit out of the Aztecs?” he asked. “Cortez,” I said. He grunted. “Okay. Let’s call it the Cortez”.


  • I spent a few hours prepping, reviewing basic concepts, and as fall arrived the balance of my life shifted just as I’d planned. I still didn’t have all the time I wanted or needed for Blue Ribbon, but I had more.
  • We strolled past the lions and tigers. I told her that I flat-out didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted to build something that was my own, something I could point to and say: I made that. It was the only way I saw to make life meaningful.
  • She hadn’t found herself involved in many negotiations, and she didn’t know that the basic rule of negotiation is to know what you want, what you need to walk away with in order to be whole.
  • The months of dating and getting to know Penny had been the happiest of my life, and now I would have the chance to perpetuate that happiness. That’s how I saw it. Basic as Accounting 101. Assets equal liabilities plus equity.
  • By nature I was a loner, but since childhood I’d thrived in team sports. My psyche was in true harmony when I had a mix of alone time and team time. Exactly what I had now.


  • He knew I was embarrassed, so he challenged me. “This fall,” he said, “let’s you and me race—one mile. I’ll give you a full minute handicap, and if you beat me I’ll pay you a buck for every second of difference in our times.
  • But confidence was cash. You had to have some to get some.
  • Dizzy, I walked directly across the street, straight into the Bank of Tokyo, and presented myself to the woman at the front desk. I said I owned a shoe company, which was importing shoes from Japan, and I wanted to speak with someone about doing a deal.


  • A lot of things were rolling around in my head, consciously, unconsciously. First, Johnson had pointed out that seemingly all iconic brands—Clorox, Kleenex, Xerox—have short names. Two syllables or less. And they always have a strong sound in the name, a letter like “K” or “X,” that sticks in the mind. That all made sense. And that all described Nike.


  • I was that boy at the science fair who didn’t work hard enough on his project, who didn’t start until the night before.


  • But I left Eugene that day knowing they had a low opinion of me, and Nike. I also left thinking I’d never, ever, ever take this company public.


  • I looked at the suits on either side of Holland. “Gentlemen,” I said, standing. Gentlemen. Sometimes that’s Business-ese for: Take your FBI and shove it.