Book review: Greatest Salesman in the World

Note: This is the third in a series of book reviews about books that inspire, that offer practical tips about goals, habits, productivity, simplifying, frugality and more. This series should run every few days or so, and it will cover some of my favorites in this fairly large genre.

This self-help classic from best-selling author Og Mandino has been around since 1968, and yet a surprising number of people in my generation and younger have not read it or even heard about The Greatest Salesman in the World. It’s a tiny book with some powerful principles, written in a compelling, clear style that makes for a quick read followed by a lot of reflection.

However, if you read it thinking it’s going to be a manual for how to become your company’s top salesperson, you’ll be hugely disappointed. The Greatest Salesman in the World is more about how to empower yourself to be successful. It teaches you to be an entrepreneur, a boot-strapper, and how to motivate yourself to be successful.

While it may seem a bit dated, the book still has some great concepts to take away from it. Read on for more, with my buy or don’t buy recommendation at the end.

The Parable
The book is actually a very readable parable about a young man named Hafid in ancient Jerusalem in Biblical times. The young man learns from a very wealthy and successful trader — a man who has a chain of stores and many employees — and wants to know his secrets of success. Well, the trader is dying and the boy is like a son to the man, so he shares his secrets by telling the story of how he learned the secrets to success.

When the trader was a young man himself, he was given 10 scrolls by an old rich man, with the mandate to guard them with his life but to pass them on before he died. And thus, by passing these secret scrolls to the young man, the secrets to success are preserved for another generation.

The 10 Scrolls
One by one, the old man reveals the 10 scrolls to the young man. The first scroll (“the scroll marked one”) is titled “Today I begin a new life” and contains instructions for forming the habit that will lead to the successful adoption of the principles contained in the following scrolls. The young man is to read from the first scroll once in the morning, once after his midday meal, and once before he goes to bed, and then do the same for each subsequent scroll, one per month.

The first scroll is an empowering scroll, telling him he has the power to change his life by changing his thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, actions and habits. So far, so good.

But the second scroll is entitled “I will greet this day with love in my heart.” And you ask yourself: “What does this have to do with salesmanship?” Again, if you’re looking for how to be a better salesman, this will probably disappoint you. What the second scroll exemplifies is the positive philosophy contained in this book (and all of Mandino’s subsequent books) — a positivity that I believe can truly change your life if you commit yourself to it.

The other eight scrolls are also great advice, but the scroll marked three is my favorite — “I will persist until I succeed”. Check this out:

In the Orient young bulls are tested for the fight arena in a certain manner. Each is brought to the ring and allowed to attack a picador who pricks them with a lance. The bravery of each bull is then rated with care according to the number of times he demonstrates his willingness to charge in spite of the sting of the blade. Henceforth will I recognize that each day I am tested by life in like manner. If I persist, if I continue to try,if I continue to charge forward, I will succeed.

I will persist until I succeed.

Effects of the Habit Changes
From that short excerpt from the scroll marked three above, you can see from the language how strong each scroll is. Repeating this to yourself every day for 30 days is guaranteed to have some effect on your thinking, and thus your actions.

Many, many people have read this book (more than 13 million copies sold), and many of them have reported life-changing results from the positive concepts contained within it. I cannot guarantee such results for you, but I know that for myself, they are pretty inspiring (in fact, I made the premise contained in the scroll marked one the foundation of the April Challenge).

Does it sound too corny to you? I understand that sentiment, believe me. But as I mentioned in My Story, the effects of positive thinking can be great. It is the one habit that helped me achieve all the others I’ve been successful with. Now, I don’t credit all of my positive thinking to this book, but it (and others) did have an influence, and if you’re looking for ways to utilize the power of positive thinking, this book would be a great start.

I think I’ve been very positive toward this book so far, and with good reason. But in this conclusion, I think I should temper this review with a caution: it’s a good book, with good principles, but it’s not for everybody. If the stuff I’ve written about above seem too corny, and you don’t think you’ll actually try to implement any of the ideas mentioned, don’t buy the book. It would still be an interesting read, and something to think about, but it’s really not for people who are not willing to make positive changes in their attitudes or actions.

If, however, you really think you can change your life, and that your success depends on your habits and your attitudes, this book could start some very powerful changes. It won’t do the work for you, but it could be a seed of positivity that begins some pretty great things for you. In this case, I would give a buy recommendation for this book.

If you’re interested in this book, check it out here: The Greatest Salesman in the World

Read my other book reviews.