The Greatest Salesman in the World was written by a guy called Og Mandino and first published in 1968.
We had the book around the house, as my mother Shirley had shelf after shelf of motivational and self-help books.
If you read the section titles, you will quickly realize there are essentially no negative messages in the book. All right, I’m an atheist, but the spiritual stuff was sort of expected at the time, and it still is in most markets. People are still looking for a magic bullet to fix their lives. (It’s not going to do you a great deal of harm. – ed.)
Mr. Mandino was the publisher of Success Unlimited Magazine and was inducted into the Public Speaking Hall of Fame.
I suppose I always pooh-poohed such books. For one thing, my mother wasn’t famous, she wasn’t on the speaking circuit, and she never sold millions of books. (She did write Financial Strategies for Women: the Basics.) She was basically just my mother, an amazing person who had done a lot of stuff. Obviously the books had an influence on her. They probably also had an influence on me, although I really only read a few of them—for example Leo F. Buscaglia, David Chilton, and of course Tony Robbins.
She must have read a thousand of those books. Mom loved them guys, I always viewed them with a slight suspicion. That was because I understood the message a little too well and didn’t much want to do the work. And yet, somehow, in spite of being a naturally lazy person, perhaps even a negative person in so many ways, I have done the work. The necessary work, all that goes into becoming a writer.
This is a tough job, and it requires some serious personal motivation.
As a construction worker, there’s not such an obvious correlation in terms of motivation.
But let’s think about that for a minute. You can learn much by observing your fellow man.
(We were doing industrial doors much like these.)
Some of my co-workers were notable for showing up at ten after eight, their boots untied and the laces hanging. They would have a newspaper in one hand and a coffee in the other. The first thing they did was to disappear into the restroom for forty-five minutes or so while they read the paper and caught up on the comics or the sports pages. This was our lead hand, ladies and gentlemen. The rest of us were basically sitting around in the lunchroom, (seriously, boss, secretary and all, hell, even the odd customer sometimes), while we waited for him to come out and begin the process of figuring out who went where, and with what, and using which truck, and which welder and which helper and so on.
As a young guy, showing up for work at eight a.m. it is definitely a bit of a lesson when you can’t seem to get out of the shop before nine-thirty; and the first place we all headed was the coffee shop—after all, nine-thirty was break time. Bear in mind we’d just screwed the company out of an hour and a half for seven or eight men and now we were standing on principle.
I liked welding and carpentry. I liked my job, and fixing things, and making the customer happy. For me, anything, even working, was better than sitting around with our thumbs up our asses while we awaited old Dinglebob’s pleasure. It was far preferable to sitting around talking about the Leafs and the Blue Jays and the Jets and the Tigers and the Red Sox and what Mayor Dingbat was up to yesterday. And let’s be honest, Dinglebob was always going to get all the good jobs while we got all the shitty ones. All you had to do was look and listen, you knew that after a while.
We all have to start out somewhere in life. I’ve never held that against a person.
After you put your time in in the trenches, you get to decide who you want to be. And so I have.
I am a writer and I sell books. This is who I am and this is what I do.
As for you, you do what you want.
Here’s my take on the business of writing and publishing in particular, as well as sales in general.
You have to love the job, you have to love the work. You have to love the product and to believe in it. You have to believe that the people want it or need it and that it will serve their needs and improve or benefit their lives. You have to love people, and to love the customer. You have to love it so much that you do it every day, for the rest of your life, and it’s not work—it’s fun, it’s being who you are, and it’s what you are now meant to be doing.
Money, and draining people’s wallets and wasting their valuable time, is the last thing on your mind, because that’s not who you are. This is not what you are about.
Trust me on this: if it is really meant to be, the sales will come, and it’s a lot less work and a lot more natural when you are doing what you love.
This is the message.
You are destined for better things, assuming that is your decision and you make the effort.
That, believe it or not, is basically what I got out of Og Mandino’s book as well as a few others.
If that was all I got out of it, then it has served me very well.