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The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Change your perceptions and change your life.

Any of you who follow this column are probably seeing a pattern here. It is my desire to provide you with books that will challenge your status quo, force introspection, and give you insights into wisdom both ancient and modern. This month’s selection is a classic. It is often referred to as the best-selling, non-best-seller in history. I have heard accounts of CEOs who have purchased thousands of copies as gifts to every employee. Famed athletes, musicians, and business leaders credit the book with changing their lives. The actor Matthew McConaughey stated, “The book’s a kind of philosophy on life. I started reading it right before I was due to take my exams for law school and I got so engrossed in it that I was almost late for my exam! But it was well worth it, because that book changed my outlook on life and gave me the courage I needed to chase my dream of applying to film school.”

Let me preface this review by asking you to ignore the title. This is not a book on sales strategies and processes any more than The Inner Game of Tennis is limited to rackets, faults, and second serves. It is a novel, a narrative, a parable, a story about life. It is a treatise on the skills, precepts, and attitudes most likely to produce success in any field of endeavor. In its pages you will find comfort, solace, and inspiration. At the same time, you may find yourself questioning your current position on many truths you consider immutable.

Augustine “Og” Mandino was born in Massachusetts in December of 1923. He was the editor of his high school paper and was planning on studying journalism when his mother passed from a massive heart attack. He ended up working in a paper factory until he joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942. He served as an officer and a bombardier and flew more than 30 missions over Germany, including some with fellow pilot and actor Jimmy Stewart.

Also in the Business Book Club: The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt

After the war he sold insurance and battled depression that led to thoughts of suicide. But, as he spent time in the library, he was captivated by volumes on success, motivation, and inspiration. He eventually read hundreds of books on the subjects, a practice that aided in him overcoming alcoholism. It was in a library in Concord, NH, where he found W. Clement Stone’s classic, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, a book that changed Mandino’s life. He left us with some 19 books and numerous articles, with this one being his masterpiece.

The Greatest Salesman in the World is a short volume that can be easily devoured in a single session. However, to read the book as the author intended, it will take at least ten months. It all depends on your level of commitment to the concepts and desire to ingrain them into your life. Having followed the author’s suggestion myself, I can assure you, the latter of the two choices will leave an incredible impact on your existence.

The story begins with a poor camel boy, Hafid, who desires to emulate his master, Pathros, who is a successful trader in Jerusalem. Pathros agrees to mentor Hafid, but reminds him that real wealth lies in the heart, in happiness, love, and peace, not in material possessions. After Hafid is tested by Pathros, he is given a chest containing ten scrolls that contain the keys necessary to succeed as a salesman. These are timeless success principles, not specific processes that may be outdated in time.

Also in the Business Book Club: The Goal – A Process of Ongoing Improvement By Eliyahu Goldratt

The first scroll sets the stage for the remaining nine. “I will form good habits and become their slave.” The first habit is to read each scroll three times daily for 30 days before moving on to the next. Now you see where the ten-month time period emerges. This pattern imprints the concepts on both the conscious and subconscious mind, creating a sense of confidence in each principle.

The remaining nine scrolls follow in order:

  • Scroll 2: I will greet this day with love in my heart — Approach everything and everyone with love.
  • Scroll 3: I will persist until I succeed — No matter what life throws at you, if you keep pushing ahead, you will eventually succeed.
  • Scroll 4: I am nature’s greatest miracle — Leverage fully on your unique characteristics, skills, and assets.
  • Scroll 5: I will live this day as if it is my last — You only have the present moment to act, so make the most of it.
  • Scroll 6: Today I will be master of my emotions — Don’t let your moods and thoughts control you and your actions.
  • Scroll 7: I will laugh at the world — See things in perspective and laugh often.
  • Scroll 8: Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold — Find creative ways to create immense value.
  • Scroll 9: I will act now — Without action, there will be no results.
  • Scroll 10: Pray to God for guidance (not for material things or rewards).

Elaboration and deeper explanations of the various principles follow in each scroll. In the repetition, you will find your mind creating your own expansion on the principles in line with your unique life experience.

I am sure there are those of you reading these words who are questioning whether or not the spirit of this particular volume is right for you. That I cannot tell you. I can only say, having recommended this book to literally thousands of people, not a single person who has taken the time to study the scrolls has ever conveyed to me regret at having done so. Quite to the contrary, numerous people have expressed gratitude for my introducing them to Og Mandino and this incredible work.