3 Business Lessons Osteopaths Can Learn From Nike Founder, Phil Knight

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight has incredible relevance to osteopaths. Discover how passion, resilience and calculated risks can shape a thriving and fulfilling career.

Business lessons for osteopaths from Nike’s Phil Knight

Phil Knight is the co-founder of Nike. In his memoir, “Shoe Dog”, Knight shares the early struggles and ultimate triumphs of one of the world’s most iconic brands, Nike.

While his story revolves around the athletic shoe market, we’ve taken 3 core lessons that every osteopath can benefit from. Let’s dive into how pursuing our passion, embracing failure and taking calculated risks can elevate our practice, enhance patient care, and lead to professional success.

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Lesson 1: Pursue your passion

“Shoe Dog” begins with Phil Knight’s passion for running and sneakers. Phil explains that once you’ve discovered your passion, you can use it to build your business, grow your reputation and build unwavering resistance against setbacks.

Discovering your passion

We’re always told to find our passion and you’ll never work a day in your life. But it’s not always that easy to make the vision you have in your head a reality. So, if you’re struggling to bring your passion to life, it’s time to discover your why.

Once you’ve identified your passion for osteopathy, embrace it wholeheartedly and unashamedly. Emotions drive our actions, and when we approach our work with the fuel of knowing our why, it resonates with our patients, creating a strong bond of trust, comfort and loyalty.

Differentiation through specialisation

Phil Knight’s passion for running and sneakers became the foundation of Nike’s success. Similarly, specialising in specific areas of osteopathy can set you apart and attract patients seeking treatment for specialised conditions.

By honing your skills in a particular niche, you establish yourself as an expert in that field. Patients seeking specific treatments or solutions will be naturally drawn to your clinic. Whether it’s sports-related injuries, paediatric care or geriatric osteopathy, focusing on your passion can carve a unique identity for your practice.

Fuelling resilience

Passion is a powerful source of resilience during challenging times. Just as Phil Knight faced numerous obstacles in building Nike, we too encounter obstacles and setbacks in our osteopathic career. In these moments, our passion and knowing our why acts as a guiding light, motivating us to persevere and overcome challenges.

When you genuinely love what you do, obstacles become opportunities for growth rather than roadblocks. Every setback becomes a valuable lesson, and every success fuels your determination to reach new heights. Passion keeps us focused on the bigger picture and reminds us why we chose osteopathy as our calling.

Lesson 2: Embrace failure

Failure is an inevitable part of life, and it is no different for osteopaths.

In “Shoe Dog” Knight and his team at Nike encountered numerous setbacks and failures during the early years of the company. However, rather than being discouraged, they embraced failure as an opportunity for learning and growth.

The nature of failure

In our journey as osteopaths, we will undoubtedly encounter times where things don’t go according to plan. Accepting this reality empowers us to approach failures with a growth mindset, where each setback becomes an opportunity to expand our knowledge and expertise.

Reflecting on what went wrong and identifying the factors contributing to the less-than-ideal outcome help us uncover insights that lead to improvement.

It’s essential to embrace a culture of continuous learning, where you seek feedback from colleagues, attend workshops and engage in professional development activities.

By analysing failure objectively, we gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of patient care and the intricacies of osteopathy. This understanding allows us to refine our treatment approaches, enhance diagnostic skills and tailor our care to better suit the unique needs of each patient.

Transparency with patients

Being transparent about our experiences with failure can strengthen the bond between us and our patients. Patients appreciate honesty, and sharing how you learned from a past failure and adapted your approach demonstrates your commitment to their goals.

Moreover, transparency helps manage patient expectations. By acknowledging that healing is not always linear and setbacks can occur, you build trust with your patients. They understand that you are invested in their progress and are willing to work together to find the most effective solutions.

Lesson 3: Take calculated risks

Nike’s rise to success was not without risks and your rise to success will mean taking calculated risks. While the athletic shoe market was highly competitive, Knight’s visionary approach allowed Nike to stand out and thrive. As osteopaths, taking calculated risks can also open doors to new opportunities, growth, and differentiation in our practices.

Understanding calculated risks

Calculated risks are not blind leaps into the unknown. Rather, they involve a careful evaluation of potential outcomes, benefits and drawbacks. Taking a risk means making informed decisions that have a reasonable chance of success, even though the outcome may not be guaranteed. These risks are not reckless gambles but strategic choices backed by knowledge and careful analysis.

Leaving your associateship

As an associate, the possibility of leaving your associateship to start your own clinic can be a daunting but exciting prospect. Taking a calculated risk to venture into solo practice requires careful evaluation of various factors.

You must assess the demand for another osteopath in the target area, consider potential competition and gauge the financial viability of starting your practice.

Additionally, you should reflect on your professional strengths and weaknesses, as well as your readiness to take on the responsibilities of running a clinic independently.

By seeking guidance from a business coach and experienced colleagues, doing thorough market research and ensuring a solid business plan, you can weigh the potential risks and rewards, making an informed decision that aligns with your passion and long-term goals.

Expanding your practice

For osteopaths with their own clinics, expanding your practice into new areas or locations can be a calculated risk that leads to a huge pays off. It’s important to consider as much as possible.

One mentality I challenge our business coaching clients with is to try convince yourself to not take the risk as this allows you to think of every possibility you can and see what you need to overcome to make it a worthwhile risk.

Investing in professional growth

Taking calculated risks also applies to investing in your own professional growth. This could involve pursuing additional qualifications, enrolling in advanced training programs, or collaborating with other healthcare professionals to expand your scope of practice.

Investing in your growth not only enhances your skill set but also demonstrates your commitment to delivering the best possible care to your patients. Patients are more likely to trust osteopaths who continually strive to improve and stay at the forefront of their field.

Seeking support and feedback

Before taking significant risks, seek feedback and advice from trusted colleagues or a business coach who’s got a proven track record helping people in your situation. Their insights can offer valuable perspectives and help you make more informed decisions.


Drawing inspiration from Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog” osteopaths can apply these 3 timeless lessons to create success in their careers. By pursuing our passion, embracing failure as a stepping stone for growth and taking calculated risks, we can elevate our patient care, differentiate our practices and thrive in our careers.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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