Life Lessons From Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog’

For the first time in a very long time I’ve fallen short of words around how to describe something. I’ve always known the power of words and their ability to transport you to a different universe.

But I never imagined I’d feel this way about a business book. The way Phil Knight describes his journey had me encapsulated in a bubble of my own. I devoured this book in just over a week. Flat.

I took my eBook reader everywhere. On trains, to work, to the gym and even dentist appointments because we all know how long those lines are.

Everywhere. And man was I proud to embrace my inner nerd, to finally feed my mind and soul with a man’s journey, which was so powerful that I was motivated to start looking for jobs at Nike.

By the end of that book I wanted to be a part of his vision. So what made ‘Shoe Dog’ so powerful that I was ready to chuck a sickie at work to finish the book?

Let us find out.

Build a damn vision and smack anyone who comes within a mile of touching it

At the beginning of the book Knight explores the notion of turning work into play. To quote Knight states ‘What if there was 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 essentially becomes the same thing.’

But my absolute favorite part is what Knight says right after that statement.

He states ‘The world was so overrun with war and pain and misery, the daily grind was so exhausting and often unjust- maybe the answer, I thought, was to find some prodigious, improbable dream that seemed worthy, that seemed fun, that seemed a good fit, and chase it with an athlete’s single-minded dedication and purpose.’

As someone who recently graduated from university and entered the corporate world I can already agree the 9-5 thing is exhausting at times. I can’t tell you the countless number of times I’ve looked at the prices of booking a one-way flight to Paris. I’d rather eat snails than sit through another induction session.

But I’m here cause I have a vision that involves making temporary sacrifices to achieve long-term goals. Will it be worth the risk? I have no clue. But I know the importance of my vision so if that means sacrificing a few nights out here and there. Then you can damn well bet I’m going all in, with a bottle of American Honey and a side of crude humor.

Don’t be afraid to get sent to detention

Growing up I was always a goody two-shoes (you can thank me for my tasteless puns in the comments section) and would do everything I could to avoid getting into detention. How did I do that you ask? By playing it safe and letting school rules determine the confinements of my behavior.

Knight on the other hand encourages his reader to do the complete opposite. As he states ‘You are only remembered for the rules you break,’ and he really lives up to that motto throughout his journey. The amount of times Knight is seen standing up for his values during meetings, even when they were considered controversial is endless. The amount of times Knight is seen taking chances by catching flights to Japan to convince stakeholders to invest in his idea is unending. And the amount of times Knight is seen taking the concealed path with nothing but an armor of pure faith and courage is inspiring.

Find a damn beanbag and learn the art of reflection

We all have those moments where you wake up on a Monday morning trying to get some coffee into your tired grouchy soul and at the blink of an eye it’s casual Friday. The week flies by with you on autopilot as you navigate your way through emails on endless flat whites.

In the book Knight has a daily ritual where he is always found kicking back on a recliner at the end of the day and reflecting. It was his method of processing and articulating his thoughts after a stressful day. To say that the man was overstressed would be an understatement but to say that he didn’t thrive in that environment would be a lie. He got through hurdle after hurdle with the patience of a monk, which he developed through his reflective practice.

So this Saturday go to Ikea and get find a comfortable beanbag and/or recliner to reflect in because I can assure you once you start adopting this practice your perspective will shift.

Embrace uncertainty and get real comfortable with it

Here is the truth that no university course ever taught you. Being in your twenties is like having a seasonal cold that you’ve got to ride out. We are at that stage in our lives where everything is up in the air, our job choices, our life partners and even our dinner plans. Do I want chicken wings or pizza for dinner on a Friday night? Chances are I’ll find out on my tipsy Uber ride back home.

I had the opportunity to talk to a really successful director at a tech start-up recently and I asked her point blank if she was ever uncertain at any point in her life because her red bottom heels said otherwise. She admitted that her 20s and 30s were when she made some real pivotal decisions that impacted where she is now. However there were times when she had to take chances even when she had a lot to lose, including the comfort of her 9 to 5.

But she did it anyway because the truth is you are never going to be ready for change and there is always going to be a side of uncertainty that will come with it. Like those nasty ‘complimentary’ garden salads that come with your meal, you can both dispose it in the bin and pretend it doesn’t exist or you can learn to develop a palette for it.

Published by The Strategic Chaos

What happens when you mix an engineering major with a creative mindset who's always getting herself into awkward situations? The strategic chaos is born. It's what a love child between Mindy Kaling and Mark Cuban would look like. With Kevin Hart as side piece.

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