A Shoe Dog for Success
About 2 weeks ago I started reading Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike, Phil Knight. Now, the reason I started reading this book in the first place might be obvious to many of the people who know me. For those who don't, I LOOOVVEEEEE sneakers! I really do! I have an affinity for them as art. They're aesthetically captivating, have stories behind them, and carry a cultural significance. Therefore, I collect them, follow websites about them, talk to friends about them, and take photos of the ones I own. I even have a ritual for whenever I purchase a new pair (yes, I'm weird like that).
Any-who, I love sneakers. Naturally, a memoir written by the creator of Nike would intrigue me. I wanted to know what his story was. How did he start Nike? Why? What was the experience like? What did he learn? What did he struggle with? How did he deal with those struggles? I got that and MORE! I've gotta give a BIG shout out and thank you to my wonderful RA Staff members for having given me the book as a gift at the end of this academic year. I initially was going to store it with the rest of the books I packed up to move from my apartment, but something about the cover, the swoosh on the front, and the story that lied within those pages kept calling me.
I picked up the book and truthfully COULD NOT STOP thumbing through the pages. Page after page Phil recounts his early days out of Stanford Graduate School for Business, the "Crazy Idea" he had while in grad school, his backpacking through Europe and parts of Asia, his shyness and awkwardness, his fears, relationships with friends, family, coaches, business partners, and of course; the triumphant struggle and success of his journey – starting what is now known to be one of the largest sporting goods companies and brands across the globe. I just simply could not keep my hands and eyes off the pages.
Not only did I truly appreciate reading Phil and Nike's story, but I also very much identified with him. I appreciated his candidness about always feeling he could do more and at times over think it. Whether it was with his business or with his family, he always felt he could do better. It was amazing to see how this translated into his work. Often times, he would obsessively try to prepare for a meeting and essentially over prepare. He would then come to discover that he didn't even have to go that hard. I can't begin to count how many times that's happened to me. There have been countless moments when I frantically scramble to be as prepared as possible. Or, I over think how prepared I am, or am not, for a meeting. Then I get in there, and it turns out I don't even use a 1/4 of the information or knowledge I was just obsessing over. It was cool to see that I wasn't the only one, and that a person such as Phil shared that experience.
In Phil's memoir, he also briefly discusses the concept of being a "shoe dog". To be a Shoe Dog is to truly have knowledge, love, appreciation, passion, dedication, desire, and fire for shoes. And, it's not only about the aesthetics but the functionality, the makeup, the design, the quality, the impact on sports, the performance, the results, the culture, EVERYTHING! According to Phil Knight, a Shoe Dog truly believes in the potential of the shoe, dedicates themselves and makes all sorts of sacrifices to ensure its successful design, enhancement, performance, quality, impact, and results. This is who Phil Knight is, a Shoe Dog for Success.
After finishing the book, sitting back, and reflecting on it, I found that Phil Knight and his Shoe Dog concept truly embodied the very same Successful Is A Lifestyle philosophy and principles I frequently talk about. Now granted, I will admit that perhaps Phil Knight came from some positions of privilege that enabled him to be Successful, which many of us may not have. However, I believe that the spirit, mindset, and work ethic he embodied are crucial pieces for a Successful Lifestyle:
1. Think Yourself Into It
First, Phil wanted a Successful sporting goods company. He believed he could create it. At the age of 24, right out of graduate school, Phil recalled his "Crazy Idea" to import quality running shoes from Japan, break into the American market, sell them in the United States, and start his own sneaker company. In order to make it happen, he had to first believe that it was possible. And, he did! Phil had even done research and a class assignment on the whole "Crazy Idea". Despite the fact that his dad wasn't entirely sold on the "Crazy Idea"; despite the fact that his classmates hadn't given much of a response or praise when he initially discussed the "Crazy Idea" during his class presentation, Phil believed in it. He believed it was possible and worth a try. He began to Think himself Into It!
Whatever form of success you seek to achieve; you have to Think Yourself Into It. You must believe it is possible. Envision it for Yourself. There will absolutely be haters and naysayers. There will be people that try to discourage you. There will be tough times and moments where you might doubt the possibility of it. But, trust your vision! Believe in it! Have faith that it can and will happen!
2. Put In The Work
Next, Phil had to actually Put In The Work. Of course, no matter how much he believed his "Crazy Idea" was possible, it would have never come true unless he took action, remained disciplined, made sacrifice(s), and did what was necessary for it to become a reality. He asked his parents for permission to go on a backpacking trip around the country, through Europe and parts of Asia – knowing that he intended to visit Japan and meet with a manufacturer. While on the backpacking trip, he even left one of his good friends behind. They no longer desired to travel anywhere else and stayed in Hawaii where they were at the time. Phil took off without him. After getting to Japan, he met with some Americans who advised him on how to go about getting started. He followed their advice and called a manufacturer. He set up a meeting with them and cut a deal. When the shoes arrived, he physically went door to door selling the shoes and building a name for himself, the shoes, his company, and his brand. Phil made the trips, made the sacrifices, took out the loans, switched the banks, worked the long hours, and took every chance necessary for his company to exist and thrive. Phil Put In The Work!
You must Put In The Work! Of course, what it looks like will be different for each of us. But, it's important to recognize what they are. What are the sacrifices we need to make? What's the research we need to do? What are the classes we need to take? Who do we need to talk to? What are the moves we need to make? What's the Work we need to Put In? Then, as Nike proclaims, "Just Do It!"
3. Build A Team
In my opinion, this is the most important piece! Lastly, Phil surrounded himself with the right people. These were people that would help him manage the company, manage it's expansion, and assist him with its success. Who did he seek or gravitate towards? Other Shoe Dogs! Coaches, runners, salesman, accountants, lawyers, manufacturers – anyone who had a passion, burning desire, and absolute belief in what he aimed to create – these are the people he sought after and made a part of his Team. Phil had people working with him that also believed in the future of the company; people who were also willing to Put In The Work and make the sacrifices. He had people with the same, if not stronger, work ethic. They all wanted to achieve the same Success together. They pushed each other, challenged each other, supported each other, shared with each other, and trusted each other. This Team helped Phil expand across the U.S., run the company, create new ideas, and even keep it alive during times of hardship and struggle. Phil knew he would need to Build A Team. So, he did!
This is crucial for any Success. As reflected in Phil's acknowledgements at the end of the book, Nike would not have existed and succeeded without the Team of people around him. He would not have succeeded without the Team around him. His memoir, this book, would not have existed without those same individuals and without the Team who helped him to share this story. We must surround ourselves with the right people. Find people that will challenge us, support us, encourage us, share with us, and people that we trust. Find people that want the same Success we seek. Find people that have the same passion, desire, and work ethic. Find people that have the same belief and vision we have. This is the group that will help us celebrate the good times, and help us push through to survive the tough times. Build A Team!
In summary, Phil Knight was a true Shoe Dog for Success. His life revolved around what he envisioned and wanted for himself. He wanted a Successful sporting goods company. He believed he could create it. He was willing to put all he had on the line for it. He took risks, almost lost his house, and even sacrificed working regular 9:00 - 5:00 jobs until he fully stepped out of the regular workforce to dedicate more time to his "Crazy Idea", his brain child, his company. He surrounded himself with others who had the same belief, work ethic, and vision. So, it's important for us to remember; no matter what form of Success we aim to achieve – whether it's a "Crazy Idea" or not – we must Think Ourselves Into It, Put In The Work, and Build A Team in order for it to actually happen. Phil Knight, his memoir, and Nike are a clear example that Success Is A Lifestyle!
So really ask yourself, are you a Shoe Dog for Success?