Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Knight, Phil

Part One


In every religion, it seemed, self is the obstacle, the enemy. And yet Zen declares plainly that the self doesn’t exist. Self is a mirage, a fever dream, and our stubborn belief in its reality not only wastes life, but shortens it. Self is the bald-faced lie we tell ourselves daily, and happiness requires seeing through the lie, debunking it. To study the self, said the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen, is to forget the self. Inner voice, outer voices, it’s all the same. No dividing lines.


Again and again I learned that lack of equity was a leading cause of failure.


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.


And then Adidas threatened to sue. Adidas already had a new shoe named the “Azteca Gold,” a track spike they were planning to introduce at the same Olympics. No one had ever heard of it, but that didn’t stop Adidas from kicking up a fuss.

“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.”


Primary principle of all accounting: Assets equal liabilities plus equity.


Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes.


He had a superb talent for underplaying the bad, and underplaying the good, for simply being in the moment.

Part Two


That’s what men do when they fight. They put up walls. They pull up the drawbridge. They fill in the moat.


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.


I thought of that phrase, “It’s just business.” It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.


  • Sinewy – consisting of or resembling sinews
  • Slaking – quench or satisfy (one’s thirst)
  • Trattorias – an Italian restaurant serving simple food
  • Languorous – the state or feeling, often pleasant, of tiredness or inertia
  • Podiatry – the treatment of the feet and their ailments
  • Noisome – having an extremely offensive smell
  • Avuncular – of or relating to an uncle; kind and friendly toward a younger or less experienced person
  • Internecine – destructive to both sides in a conflict
  • Fealty – a feudal tenant’s or vassal’s sworn loyalty to a lord
  • Quotidian – of or occurring every day; daily
  • Pagoda – a Hindu or Buddhist temple or sacred building, typically a many-tiered tower, in India and East Asia.
  • Suffused – gradually spread through or over
  • Carapace – the hard upper shell of a turtle, crustacean, or arachnid.
  • Vaunted – boast about or praise (something), especially excessively
  • Quixotic – exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical
  • Machinations – engage in plots and intrigues; scheme
  • Vehement – showing strong feeling; forceful, passionate, or intense
  • Portentous – done in a pompously or overly solemn manner so as to impress
  • Wantonly – (of a cruel or violent action) deliberate and unprovoked
  • Stolid – (of a person) calm, dependable, and showing little emotion or animation.
  • Amanuensis – a literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.
  • Guile – sly or cunning intelligence
  • Beguiled – charm or enchant (someone), sometimes in a deceptive way
  • Quell – put an end to (a rebellion or other disorder), typically by the use of force
  • Debentures – an unsecured loan certificate issued by a company, backed by general credit rather than by specified assets.
  • Paradigmatic – of the nature of a paradigm or model
  • Denouement – the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved
  • Fetid – smelling extremely unpleasant
  • Subterfuge – deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal
  • Gabardine – a smooth, durable twill-woven cloth, typically of worsted or cotton
  • Ginkgo – a deciduous Chinese tree related to the conifers, with fan-shaped leaves and yellow flowers
  • Castigating – reprimand (someone) severely
  • Mohair – the long, silky hair of the angora goat
  • Genuflecting – lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect
  • Guffaw – a loud and boisterous laugh
  • Fusillade – a series of shots fired or missiles thrown all at the same time or in quick succession
  • Bacchanal – an occasion of wild and drunken revelry
  • Coterie – a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people
  • Opulence – great wealth or luxuriousness
  • Feted – a celebration or festival
  • Bulwark – a defensive wall

Teardown: Same Product, Fifty Years Apart →

The few things I have that have passed a half-century or more come in two categories. Either keepsakes like photos of my ancestors or my father’s Army medals. Or tools. Virtually all of them hand tools, because there is nothing wrong with a century-old hammer or screwdriver. (And if they haven’t broken yet, they’re not likely to.) But I do have one curiosity. An old electric hair clipper.

Ryder Cup Secrets From Undercover Pros →

This isn’t just jingoistic chirping about the enemy. In some cases, it’s Americans critiquing Americans, or Europeans burying Europeans: “It started with slightly dodgy mechanics,” said one, “and it has developed into a full-blown mental problem.” Another player’s weakness is highlighted: “Over a bunker to a tight flag is his worst nightmare. It’s not pretty.” And this: “He’s well capable of giving up. … If he’s not in the mood, he’s just not in the mood.”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Ronson, Jon

Two | I’m Glad I’m Not That

“Bad liars always think they’re good at it,” Michael said to me. “They’re always confident they’re defeating you.”

He meant that we all have ticking away within us something we fear will badly harm our reputation if it got out—some “I’m glad I’m not that” at the end of an “I’m glad I’m not me.” I think he was right. Maybe our secret is actually nothing horrendous. Maybe nobody would even consider it a big deal if it was exposed. But we can’t take that risk. So we keep it buried. Maybe it’s a work impropriety. Or maybe it’s just a feeling that at any moment we’ll blurt something out during some important meeting that’ll prove to everyone that we aren’t proper professional people or, in fact, functional human beings.

Three | The Wilderness

I suppose that when shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be. The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche.

You combine insecurity and ambition, and you get an inability to say no to things.

Four | God That Was Awesome

I once asked a car-crash victim what it had felt like to be in a smashup. She said her eeriest memory was how one second the car was her friend, working for her, its contours designed to fit her body perfectly, everything smooth and sleek and luxurious, and then a blink of an eye later it had become a jagged weapon of torture—like she was inside an iron maiden. Her friend had become her worst enemy.

Eight | The Shame-Eradication Workshop

“As soon as the victim steps out of the pact by refusing to feel ashamed, the whole thing crumbles.”

Nine | A Town Abuzz over Prostitution and a Client List

I think we all care deeply about things that seem totally inconsequential to other people. We all carry around with us the flotsam and jetsam of perceived humiliations that actually mean nothing. We are a mass of vulnerabilities, and who knows what will trigger them?

Eleven | The Man Who Can Change the Google Search Results

But it’s odd that so many of us see shaming how free-market libertarians see capitalism, as a beautiful beast that must be allowed to run free.

Thirteen | Raquel in a Post-Shaming World

It may be somewhat paradoxical to refer to shame as a “feeling,” for while shame is initially painful, constant shaming leads to a deadening of feeling. Shame, like cold, is, in essence, the absence of warmth. And when it reaches overwhelming intensity, shame is experienced, like cold, as a feeling of numbness and deadness. In Dante’s Inferno the lowest circle of hell was a region not of flames, but of ice—absolute coldness. —JAMES GILLIGAN, Violence: Reflections on Our Deadliest Epidemic

There were glimpses of a summer day through the windows, and as a corrections officer let us in, she said that tensions were high because warm days are when a person really feels incarcerated.

Fourteen | Cats and Ice Cream and Music

We were creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.

Fifteen | Your Speed

But the Internet isn’t about us. It’s about the companies that dominate the data flows of the Internet.”


  • Banalities – the fact or condition of being banal; unoriginality.
  • Maelstrom – a powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river.
  • Inviolable – never to be broken, infringed, or dishonored.
  • Prurient – having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.
  • Histrionic – overly theatrical or melodramatic in character or style.
  • Abrogation – The verbs abrogate and arrogate are quite different in meaning. While abrogate means ‘repeal (a law),’ arrogate means ‘take or claim (something) for oneself without justification,’ often in the structure arrogate something to oneself, as in the emergency committee arrogated to itself whatever powers it chose.
  • Prevaricated – speak or act in an evasive way.
  • Besotted – strongly infatuated.
  • Mews – a row or street of houses or apartments that have been converted from stables or built to look like former stables.
  • Opulent – ostentatiously rich and luxurious or lavish.
  • Denizen – an inhabitant or occupant of a particular place.
  • Inchoate – just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary.
  • Colicky – severe, often fluctuating pain in the abdomen caused by intestinal gas or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.
  • Hitherto – until now or until the point in time under discussion.
  • Garrulous – excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters.
  • Acerbic – sharp and forthright.
  • Temerity – excessive confidence or boldness; audacity.
  • Contrition – the state of feeling remorseful and penitent.
  • Ignominy – public shame or disgrace.
  • Pilloried – a wooden framework with holes for the head and hands, in which an offender was imprisoned and exposed to public abuse.
  • Pliable – easily bent; flexible.