I have a hard time reading biographies.

There are times when biographies are so self-indulgent to the point that they read like a person’s CV in book form.

It is however possible to narrate a person’s story in a biography without appearing self-absorbed.

Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog tells the story of Nike’s founder in a more down-to-earth and approachable way.

Instead of bragging about his own brilliance, he offers sound advice on how he managed to build the startup.

The following is an example of a lesson that resonated with me:


Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden 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.


In his insightful TED talk as well as his book titled Start With Why, Simon Sinek emphasizes how important it is to sell the “why” first in every situation.

People are more likely to buy into your “why” rather than the goods themselves.

In the above comment, Phil Knight emphasises the significance of this concept once again.

What do you truly believe about your offerings?

What is your “why”?

When we, as a community, a nation, NGO or a startup, have a shared set of values and beliefs, then the trust may develop among us.

If you are honest and articulate about what you believe, you will attract others who share your belief.

Phil Knight was an athlete who had a deep-seated passion for running and the belief that the sport had the power to change the world. Because he was acting in accordance with his most deeply held conviction, selling shoes did not provide much of a challenge for him.

It is only when we articulate our convictions in an honest manner that we will be able to draw other people to our cause and build the ties that will enable us to do really great things.

What is your “Why”?

Bernadette Jiwa in her brilliant book Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly, asks the question this way:

If you could do anything today, would ‘this’ be it? If not this, then what?

In response to Bernadette Jiwa’s question, Phil Knight would say that he would rather sell shoes than encyclopedias or mutual funds.

When you wake up in the morning and prepare for work, would you be doing this or something else?

Do you truly believe in what you do?

What do you truly believe about what you do?

Do you have a deep-seated faith in the job that you do?

Are you behaving in the way that you do on a daily basis because it is in accordance with your genuine beliefs or are you engaging in this job because you are desperate for financial support? for a salary?

Even if you are skilled at what you do for a living, if you do it just because you need the money, you will feel empty as a result of it.

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