Colin McKay Miller's Reviews > The Greatest Salesman in the World

The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
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Aug 15, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: jesus-fu, short-stories-novellas
Recommended to Colin by: My boss
Recommended for: No one
Read from August 01 to 08, 2012

Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World starts off fairly harmless—in that vague, Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist self-help kind of way—but by the end, I found it rather detestable.

The Greatest Salesman in the World isn’t actually about sales; it’s more of a ‘secrets of success’ book. It centers in on Hafid, a wealthy old man who’s looking to give away his prized possession of 10 scrolls of successful salesmanship to a rightful heir. Each of these 10 scrolls contains a principle like “Persist until you succeed” and yes, the short book winds up sharing each of these scrolls. It’s not quite as broad as allegory, but it’s still ambiguous enough that it’s an everyman’s guide to success. In many ways, you fill it in based on who you are—your challenges, your values, your goals—and that’s where I ran in to problems (so I’ll be ranting a wee bit long in this review).

While I don’t think The Greatest Salesman in the World is the type of book you can spoil, as I’ll give away certain parts in the upcoming paragraphs, consider this your warning. The book contains several blunt Christian undertones—so blunt, in fact, that I think you’d have to be dense to miss them. At first, I figured many readers would feel like they got a bait and switch, as the book isn’t exactly labeled as Jesus-tastic, but by the end I found it quite offensive. To be fair, Christian books live in a weird universe when it comes to criticism. As you can’t possibly cover every theological angle in a book, you’re unfortunately always open to criticism, but on the flip side, by that same measure, you always have a shield against that criticism, too. Given that I’m a Jesus lovin’ fella and this is my review, this is the area where things get awkward:

Late in the read, the Apostle Paul—yeah, Paul from the New Testament—shows up and gets these 10 secrets of success scrolls from Hafid. Now I didn’t pounce on the chapter about kinda sorta praying to an ambiguous God doing something somewhere—as I figured it was part of this catch-all, sell a million copies by being vague routine—but I’ll rip on this specific point: The inference is that the Apostle Paul ‘successfully’ spread the good news of Jesus because he was a great salesman who believed in himself, see? Not because God worked through him, but because Paul learned these 10 fancypants scrolls. Given that the Bible teaches that God wants people to get to know Him—and that, thankfully, isn’t based on any man’s work, good or shoddy—you can see how this effort message is a problem. But this is what irks me: The Greatest Salesman in the World is the type of nebulous philosophy book coated by ‘God wants you to be successful’ Christianity that I can see it being dreadfully popular in the western church. Sure, God cares about your desires and dreams and who He made you to be. Additionally, He not only likes hard work, He usually honors it (as covered by books in the Bible like Proverbs), but there’s more to the equation than just you. If you haven’t noticed, the world is a vast, messed up place full of questions, so if you make your faith all about how you can be really, really good at something, you’re likely missing what Jesus is all about.

Hebrews 11 lists a bunch of faithful people in the Bible. It says a peculiar thing about them (listing verse 13 here, but verses 39-40 also cover it): “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” The point is, there was more than their desires, and even with things God promised them, they didn’t get them before they died. So if God didn’t give the things He promised to the people apparently on the right track in this life, why would He somehow guarantee the things that aren’t promised, like a successful business or a happy-go-lucky existence? Again, God likes hard work, a successful business can be a blessing, and yeah, The Greatest Salesman in the World advocates giving to the poor, but all of this is rather short sighted. Maybe if the book were less blunt in its Christian overtones I’d pass it off as that ‘vague sells’ point I’ve been harping on, but it’s specific enough on this aspect to be dangerous. For most people, they won’t view it that way, but when it comes to me and my review, I’m chucking Og Madnino’s philosophy far away. One star and boot across the room.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Colin (last edited Aug 15, 2012 06:23AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Colin McKay Miller A few more thoughts:

1) It seems like being vague leads to short, dull writing, too. Alas, I wouldn’t be so harsh if it was simply full of lame writing full of forced emotions like people having ‘moist eyes.’ I probably still would have shrugged off a two-star review, noting that many would enjoy this, but I can't recommend it to anyone.

2) I can see several people disagreeing with me on the impact of the scrolls on Paul. Some would argue that Paul is already there as a great salesman of the gospel—be it by the power of God or his own effort—and that’s why he was “trusted” with the scrolls, but I still think otherwise.

3) Mandino wanted people to spend 30 days reading each of his scrolls (multiple times daily, silently then aloud), taking 10 months to complete the book. Feh! To me, this is part of the attitude of why I disagree so strongly with the work.


message 2: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Karpuk Does Paul explain that coffee is for closers? ABC!


Colin McKay Miller I thought that was huevos rancheros.


Molly I am so glad that I am not the only one who was put off by the end of the book. I found it a bit pretentious that we (humans) need to help the God who created the universe in a sales pitch... As if!


Colin McKay Miller Molly wrote: "I am so glad that I am not the only one who was put off by the end of the book. I found it a bit pretentious that we (humans) need to help the God who created the universe in a sales pitch... As if!"

Ugh. Yes, indeed.


message 6: by Ben (new)

Ben Smiley I find it sad that this is all you see from the book. That your ego is so delicate that the mere mention of religion offends you. This book contains a lot of wisdom which you're not going to get by trying to logic it to death. Maybe you're very successful and happy already - no bad habits, no addictions and good healthy relationships with everyone you meet. In that, case I can completely understand that you would think this book was useless because you don't need it :) If that's not the case then maybe you could learn something from this book - I know I have.


message 7: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Karpuk I'm sure Colin will be completely won over by that ad hominem attack on his ego. Also, complaining that someone is being too logical is the surest way to sway their opinion. Whippin' out the big guns there.


Colin McKay Miller Ben wrote: "I find it sad that this is all you see from the book. That your ego is so delicate that the mere mention of religion offends you. This book contains a lot of wisdom which you're not going to get by..."

You mentioned religion; my ego is automatically offended. Totally. Someone call in the prayer team to help me.

I'll give you the same response I give to others who don't like my negative reviews of books they liked: We disagree on this and that's okay. That doesn't imply that there's something wrong with me or something wrong with you, but it does mean that you're (likely) not going to sway my opinion. Feel free to share your own opinion in your own review. I won't bother to comment there trying to sway your view or critique you (at least not seriously) as if you did something wrong.


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