Leaders Library: When Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things

As I reflect on 2016, the creation of our Leaders Library series was a great idea, but could have been better executed. While I intended to do a monthly post, I only finished 5 or 6 reviews. In 2017, I am striving to hit that monthly mark.

My sister not only recommended a book, but bought it for me. (Thanks, sis!) Over the holiday season, I had a chance to read it: Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. I love memoirs and really enjoyed this one. I love looking behind the scenes to understand who people are and the journey they took to get to where they are today. I am fascinated by how ordinary they are and how I can often relate to a number of their experiences. Phil Knight was no exception.

A little background on Phil. He is trained accountant. He worked for one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (now the “Big Four”). He ran track at the University of Oregon. And, he started a small shoe company out of his car. You may have heard of it – Nike.

The book walks you through Phil’s journey from the trunk of his car to the global brand known by just about every living soul on the planet. The book is filled with fascinating details and anecdotes. In fact, the original company he launched was called “Blue Ribbon.” I’m going to make you read the book to understand the meaning behind that name, but I assure you, it’s classic.


In addition to its genuine entertainment appeal, the book has great takeaways for all leaders.

  • Dream beyond your means
  • Don’t think in terms of limits; think in terms of possibilities and don’t let someone else decide whether or not your dream is possible
  • Experiment and learn, then adjust and improve constantly
  • Ask the question, you may just get a yes
  • Work on something you are passionate about; it’s easier because you have an established network and deep domain knowledge
  • Be patient; creating something great takes time (maybe decades), but you have to start somewhere
  • Go out and see the world; leave our country and truly observe

From the initial name of his business to his time in Japan, the stories and experiences behind these lessons are compelling. At the end of the day, Phil was an ordinary person willing to take risks to do extraordinary things. He is a true inspiration to me and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

One book down for 2017! I would love to hear any recommendations on books you are reading by commenting below.