My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Greatest Salesman in the World (1968) by Og Mandino is a book that will change your life for the better. It did for Matthew McConaughey. Before he became a well-known actor, Matthew was going to become a lawyer.
Instead he became lost in reading The Greatest Salesman in the World and it changed his life ever-after. Perhaps losing ourselves is what we need.
“The book’s a kind of philosophy on life,” Matthew told one magazine. “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.”
This book has also changed my life as well. The Greatest Salesman in the World tells the story of Hafid who has earned such incredible wealth through trading throughout all of ancient Europe and the Middle East that he turns to his most trusted friend, Erasmus, and asks,
“Old friend, how much wealth is there now accumulated in our treasury?”
And Erasmus replies, “I have not studied the numbers recently but I would estimate there is in excess of seven million gold talents” (p 3).
But to Erasmus’s confusion, Hafid decides to sell everything.
“I do not understand, sire. This has been our most profitable year. Every emporium reports an increase in sales over the previous season. Even the Roman legions are now our customers for did you not sell the Procurator in Jerusalem two hundred Arabian stallions within the fortnight? Forgive my boldness for seldom have I questioned your orders but this command I cannot comprehend…” (p 4).
Hafid goes on to tell Erasmus the story of how the boy-Hafid was given ancient scrolls and sworn to secrecy and later rose to such heights of success where men who chase such desires often fall into madness.
“All but one of these scrolls contain a principle, a law, or a fundamental truth written in a unique style to help the reader understand its meaning. To become a master in the art of sales one must learn and practice the secret of each scroll. When one masters these principles one has the power to accumulate all the wealth he desires” (p 12).
Hafid, the greatest salesman in the world, continues,
“It is, indeed, a simple task provided one is willing to pay the price in time and concentration until each principle becomes a part of one’s personality; until each principle becomes a habit” (p 13).
But there is much more to this story than principles and codes and precepts of conduct. As a boy, Hafid stumbles to bed one cold night into a stable in Bethlehem after a few days of failed attempts to prove himself worthy as a salesman by selling an expensive robe given to him by his master, Pathros.
“Hafid closed his eyes and sighed. Then he walked swiftly toward the small family, knelt on the straw beside the infant, and gently removed first the father’s tattered cloak and then the mother’s from the manger. He handed each back to its owner. Both were too shocked at Hafid’s boldness to react. Then Hafid opened his precious red robe and wrapped it gently around the sleeping child” (p 31).
Hafid returns to his master, Pathros, without having sold the robe, but rather having given it away for free, and the boy considers himself a failure. But the words from Pathros will provide a clue to the business of sales and to the true nature of living:
“Hafid, so far as material wealth is concerned, there is only one difference between myself and the lowliest beggar outside of Herod’s palace. The beggar thinks only of his next meal and I think only of the meal that will be my last. No, my son, do no aspire for wealth and labor not only to be rich. Strive instead for happiness, to be loved and to love, and most important, to acquire peace of mind and serenity” (p 20).
It will be Pathros who judges the boy-Hafid’s heart to be pure and gives Hafid the secret scrolls which unlock the keys to success.
And so we begin with the Scroll Marked I:
“Today I begin a new life…Failure no longer will be my payment for struggle. Just as nature made no provision for my body to tolerate pain neither has it made any provision for my life to suffer failure. Failure, like pain, is alien to my life. In the past I accepted it as I accepted pain. Now I reject it and I am prepared for wisdom and principles which will guide me out of the shadows into the sunlight of wealth, position, and happiness far beyond my most extravagant dreams until even the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides will seem no more than my just reward…
“Nature has supplied me with the knowledge and instinct far greater than any beast in the forest and the value of experience is over-rated, usually by old men who nod wisely and speak stupidly…
“Good habits are the key to all success… I will form good habits and become their slave” (p 51-54).
The Scroll Marked II:
“I will greet this day with love in my heart…
“Is it not so that birds, the wind, the sea and all nature speaks with the music of praise for their creator? Cannot I speak with the same music to his children? Henceforth will I remember this secret and it will change my life. I will greet this day with love in my heart…
“Henceforth I will love all mankind. From this moment all hate is left from my veins for I have not time to hate, only time to love. From this moment I take the first step required to become man among men…I will greet this day with love, and I will succeed” (p 58-62).
The Scroll Marked III:
“I will persist until I succeed…
“I will persist until I succeed. I was not delivered unto this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny…I will persist until I succeed” (p 63-64).
The Scroll Marked IV:
“I am nature’s greatest miracle…
“I am nature’s greatest miracle. I am not on this earth by chance. I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply all my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy” (p 69-70).
The Scroll Marked V:
“I will live this day as if it is my last…
“I will live this day as if it is my last. This day is all I have and these hours are now my eternity. I greet this sunrise with cries of joy as a prisoner who is reprieved from death…
“I will live this day as if it is my last. I will avoid with fury the killers of time. Procrastination I will destroy with action; doubt I will bury under faith; fear I will dismember with confidence. Where there are idle mouths I will listen not; where there are idle hands I will linger not; where there are idle bodies I will visit not. Henceforth I know that to court idleness is to steal food, clothing, and warmth from those I love. I am not a thief. I am a man of love and today is my last chance to prove my love and my greatness. I will live this day as if it is my last” (p 73-76).
The story unveils a total of ten scrolls (the remaining five will be up to you to discover).
And what of Hafid? Of Erasmus? Of the robe Hafid gave to the infant in the manger?
Well, I’ve got my copy but you will just have to read The Greatest Salesman in the World to learn those secrets for yourself.
But I must warn you: this book will change your life. Are you ready for such change?
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 350,000+ followers