📚 Book Notes: Shoe Dog

Swapnil Agarwal
Mar 5 · 4 min read

Here are my notes from Shoe Dog:

  1. Few ideas are as crazy as my favorite thing, running. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s risky. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. 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. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself.
    Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.
  2. 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.
  3. And yet, in the midst of those intense discussions, in the middle of one of the most trying years in the company’s history, those Butt­face meetings were nothing but a joy. Of all those hours spent at Sunriver, not one minute felt like work. It was us against the world, and we felt damned sorry for the world. That is, when we weren’t righteously pissed off at it. Each of us had been misunderstood, misjudged, dismissed. Shunned by bosses, spurned by luck, rejected by society, shortchanged by fate when looks and other natural graces were handed out. We’d each been forged by early failure. We’d each given ourselves to some quest, some attempt at validation or meaning, and fallen short.
    Hayes couldn’t become a partner because he was too fat.
    Johnson couldn’t cope in the so-called normal world of nine-to-five.
    Strasser was an insurance lawyer who hated insurance — and lawyers.
    Woodell lost all his youthful dreams in one fluke accident.
    I got cut from the baseball team. And I got my heart broken.
    I identified with the born loser in each Buttface, and vice versa, and I knew that together we could become winners. I still didn’t know exactly what winning meant, other than not losing, but we seemed to be getting closer to a defining moment when that question would be settled, or at least more sharply defined. Maybe going public would be that moment.
    Maybe going public would finally ensure that Nike would live on.
  4. Of course, there will always be the question of wages. The salary of a Third World factory worker seems impossibly low to Americans, and I understand. Still, we have to operate within the limits and structures of each country, each economy; we can’t simply pay whatever we wish to pay. In one country, which shall be nameless, when we tried to raise wages, we found ourselves called on the carpet, summoned to the office of a top government official and ordered to stop. We were disrupting the nation’s entire economic system, he said. It’s simply not right, he insisted, or feasible, that a shoe worker makes more than a medical doctor.
  5. God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on.
    It’s all the same drive. The same dream.
    It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek 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.

If you liked the above content, I’d definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯

A little email digest to share what I’m reading, listening to, and find interesting. 💌
Swapnil Agarwal

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Software Developer at Day | Aspiring Writer at Night

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