Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Greatest Salesman in the World

The first book I read in 2010 was a slim volume, the 111-page 1968 parable written by Og Mandino. I first -- and last -- read the book about eight years ago, near the end of January 2002, on the recommendation of a friend who sold faucets and fixtures for Kohler. I often pick up books on the suggestions of friends. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. With Mandino's classic motivational tale The Greatest Salesman in the World, even though I've read it twice, it's a mixed bag.

As a book, pure and simple, it's a quick read. I read it in one sitting yesterday evening before going to bed. It's a clear and clean story about a successful merchant more than 2,000 years ago -- and the lessons he learned that helped him become a success. The major themes are pretty basic Positive Mental Attitude stuff, with a Christian corollary (and Christmas tie-in!) thrown in for good measure. The main thing (though a minor thing) that rubs me the wrong way is the text's focus on business and sales as the vehicle for success. Readers should feel free to replace "salesman" with whatever they're striving to be the best of: father, husband, son, brother, worker, friend.

Mandino, who went on to author other similar books and become a sought-after motivational speaker, overcame a struggle with alcoholism by diving into some of the best PMA writers of the early 20th century: Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, and Emmet Fox. In fact, this book so impressed Stone that he hired Mandino as editor of Success Unlimited magazine. Success Unlimited continues today in the form of Success magazine. You can learn more about Mandino's ideas thanks to Dave Blanchard's work.

Also of potential interest is the book's relationship to other business parables such as Animals Inc., Miller's Bolt, The Radical Edge, Sandbox Wisdom, and Who Moved My Cheese? I'm not the biggest fan of the subgenre, but if you're going to read one, go to the source.