Find relevance in your work

May 28, 2017

Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, in his book — Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — shares some invaluable insights on success.

Knight’s first job was to sell encyclopaedias. He did not have much success. His second job was to sell securities. He did not do well here either. Just when he was beginning to lose faith in his ability as a sale person, he set up Nike and started selling shoes. According to Phil Knight, he succeeded this time because he was selling a product he believed in, and liked.

Knight had been an athlete on his college team. He loved running. He knew how important a good pair of shoes was to a runner. This made him a credible shoe salesman, and the rest is history.

Knight’s personal life story reinforces the point that secret of success lies in doing what you like doing. Knight was not failing as a salesman, he was just not selling the products that he was interested in, or had the passion for. The moment he got to sell shoes, he excelled.

Everyone is not as fortunate as Knight to find a job or a career of his liking, though it is worth trying. Not everyone is daring enough to make a career transition either.  As a result, there are people who have the aptitude for selling shoes remain stuck in selling shampoos. They struggle to deliver the results and don’t reach their peak. And, this affects their self-esteem.

No one likes all aspects of his/her work. We have only two choices: Either dare to change or find relevance in the work we do. Finding relevance means we should see the connection of our work with a higher level goal. Pursuing a worthwhile goal most often gets the best out of us.

In one of my earlier posts – Managing Self-Esteem at Work – I had made a few suggestions. Contentment comes in finding relevance in things we do; and in pursuing goals that give a sense of satisfaction. Since Knight had been an athlete himself, he did not just sell shoes, he believed in making shoes that would help sportsperson achieve their dream. This led him to constantly work on improving the design and features of his products.

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Bank on your strengths, multiply your net worth

March 31, 2013

I recently conducted a short session with a group of young people. The topic was ‘How to improve self-esteem’. It was a lively discussion. My young friends were able to identify what they needed to do to better themselves. Building confidence emerged as a recurring theme amongst the group. The group’s expressed need for greater confidence reminded me of a story I had read on the internet some time ago:

A man’s business was running into losses. One morning, as he sat on a bench in the park, he met an old man. After polite greetings, the old man said, “I can see that something is troubling you.” The man sighed deeply, looked at the old stranger and then poured out his woes. The old man nodded silently. Then, after a pensive pause, he opened his cheque book.  He wrote out a cheque of $500,000. “Take this money,” said the old man, as he stood up to walk away, adding, “…meet me here exactly a year from today. You can pay me back at that time.”

The businessman looked at the cheque. The signature read: John D. Rockefeller – one of the richest men in the world. The businessman felt the money would come in handy in revitalizing his business. However, he decided against using the money. The mere thought of the cheque in his cupboard gave him renewed optimism. Within months, he was out of debt and back in business.

 As promised, a year later the businessman returned to the same spot to return the cheque. The old man appeared again. But just as the businessman was about to return the cheque and share his success story, a nurse came running up and grabbed the old man by the arm. She said to the businessman, “I hope he hasn’t been bothering you. He often escapes from the rest home and tells people he is John D. Rockefeller.” Then she led the old man away.

The businessman was stunned. He looked at the signed piece of paper in his hand and smiled. He suddenly realized its true value: his new-found life was certainly a consequence of the cheque – not the value of the cheque but rather of the confidence that the cheque had instilled in him.

We all need to find such “confidence triggers” in our life to multiply our net worth. In our short session, the youngsters discussed a few such triggers: remembering good things in our life; constantly working on our strengths and talents; and making a consistent effort to improve upon an identified area. In short, bank on your strengths, multiply your net worth.