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The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino.
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Part self-help techniques, part sales manual, and part Christian allegory, The Greatest Salesman in the World delivers a prescription for how to live your life more successfully by utilizing 10 character-building principles. Written by insurance salesman Og Mandino in 1968, the book emphasizes that to achieve any goal, you need to develop the habits and attitudes of a great salesperson, which means acquiring self-confidence, emotional control, persistence, generosity, humor, and humility.

The Story Behind the Principles

The 10 principles are taught through the parable of a poor camel boy in Biblical times. Hafid wants to learn the art of selling so he can become a wealthy merchant. Hafid’s mentor, a highly successful salesperson, sees that the young boy is both ambitious and generous, so he rewards him with a chest full of 10 scrolls inscribed with the secrets of selling. But the precious scrolls come with caveats: Hafid must always give generously to those less fortunate, and he must keep the scrolls a secret until he meets their next rightful owner.

Hafid uses the scrolls to amass a great fortune and eventually reaches old age. As he nears his death, he gives away almost everything he owns while he waits for the scroll’s successor to appear. When that person arrives, it turns out to be the Apostle Paul, who will use the scroll’s lessons to “sell” Jesus’s teachings to the world.

The Scrolls’ Lessons

Scroll #1: Form Good Habits

Create a better future for yourself by replacing bad habits with good ones. Today is a new day in which you can spend your time and energy engaged in practices and activities you want to cultivate instead of negative behaviors. With practice, any new action becomes easy, so start forming better habits today.

Shortform Example:

Say you want to eat healthier meals, but you begin each morning by stopping at the fast-food drive-thru on the way to work. Replace this bad habit with a better one—get up 15 minutes earlier and make yourself a delicious, healthy breakfast. If you repeat this practice over many days, it will become a normal part of your routine. You will be a slave to a good habit rather than a bad one.

Scroll #2: Love Others

Approach every person on earth with unconditional love. Recognize people’s innate goodness even if they aren’t showing it. Use love and generosity as tools to attract people to you. The love you send out into the world will come right back to you.

Shortform Example:

You think your colleague is arrogant and overbearing, and you avoid him as much as possible. Tomorrow, seek him out and ask him a question about his family or work, or pay him a genuine compliment. Even words as simple as “that’s a great tie you’re wearing” can be a loving gesture. Genuinely loving words and actions may turn this difficult person into a valued friend.

Scroll #3: Don’t Quit

Don’t quit. Perseverance and persistence are critical sales skills and also life skills. Failures are merely challenges on the path to success. Success rarely comes right away—it typically arrives at the end of your efforts, not the beginning.

Shortform Example:

Even after a full day of hearing “no” from potential buyers, a great salesperson doesn’t allow herself to give up. When you’re weary at the end of the day and want to go home, challenge yourself to make one more sales call. Every single call is one step on the journey to making a sale.

Scroll #4: You Are Uniquely Valuable

Feel pride in what differentiates you from others. Your individuality and originality has value, and you can use it to your advantage to be a better salesperson or simply a better person. No one else in the world has exactly what you have to offer, so...

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The Greatest Salesman in the World Summary The Greatest Salesman in the World Guide Chapters 1-7: Background and Hafid’s Life Story

Og Mandino’s 1968 parable The Greatest Salesman in the World preaches 10 principles that can make anyone a great salesperson and give them the opportunity to create vast wealth. The book’s title is slightly misleading—you’ll find no strategies for how to negotiate a cold call or close a deal. Instead, the story “sells” the premise that becoming a great salesperson means developing a better, stronger version of yourself through good habits, discipline, perseverance, and self-control. Whether you’re in the sales business or not, these self-development efforts may improve your life.

Half of Greatest Salesman recounts the story of Hafid, a lowly camel boy who yearns for wealth and believes he can acquire it by mastering the art of selling. Hafid builds a vast financial empire based on the teachings inscribed on 10 leather scrolls bequeathed to him by his mentor, a wealthy merchant known for his masterful selling. The book’s other half reveals the scrolls’ lessons, one chapter per scroll. Each lesson serves double-duty as a broader life lesson, which gives the book a broad appeal extending beyond the realm of sales and marketing.

Greatest Salesman is set in the...

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The Greatest Salesman in the World Summary The Greatest Salesman in the World Guide Chapters 8-17: The Scrolls’ Lessons

Each of 10 the scrolls is described in its own short chapter, and the book shifts from narrative to instruction manual.

(Shortform note: Hafid vanishes for 50 or so pages, and although we rejoin him in the final chapter, we don’t get to witness him applying the scrolls’ lessons and developing his skills as a salesperson.)

Scroll #1: Good Habits Are Key to Success

The first scroll extols the virtues of good habits, noting that they are what separates those who succeed from those who fail. All humans are slaves to their habits, so it’s much wiser to develop and maintain good habits than bad ones.

Each day gives us a new chance to destroy bad habits and start good ones, and the easiest way to do this is to replace bad habits with a better alternative. If you indulge in good habits all day, there’s no time or space for bad habits. For example, if you want to sell more widgets, then fill your waking hours making sales calls rather than with frivolous pastimes. Repetition is the key to forming good habits—constant practice makes any task easy.

Scroll #1 also lays out the first good habit you should adopt—the habit of reading each scroll for 30 days,...

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The Greatest Salesman in the World Summary The Greatest Salesman in the World Guide Chapter 18: Hafid Meets His Successor

The book zips back to where the story began—Hafid is an old man who has liquidated all his fortunes, and he’s waiting to meet the successor to whom he will give the scrolls. One day a poor man in beggar’s clothes appears at Hafid’s door, saying that he is searching for “the greatest salesman in the world.” He is Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul.

Paul’s Story

Paul tells Hafid that several years ago, he was hired to round up the followers of a man named Jesus, a preacher who had been crucified by the Romans. Jesus’s followers were severely punished, even put to death. Paul routed out the crucified man’s disciples...

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Shortform Exercise: Apply the Lessons of Scrolls 1-5

Think about how to apply the scrolls’ lessons to overcome bad habits and treat others in a loving way.


Think about how you spend your time each week. What “bad” habits would you like to replace with better habits?

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Shortform Exercise: Apply the Lessons of Scrolls 6-10

Think about how to apply the scrolls’ lessons to set goals and take action.


Everybody has emotional traps. Make a list of three things that can trigger you to lapse into a bad mood.

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Chapters 1-7: Background and Hafid’s Life Story
  • Chapters 8-17: The Scrolls’ Lessons
  • Chapter 18: Hafid Meets His Successor
  • Exercise: Apply the Lessons of Scrolls 1-5
  • Exercise: Apply the Lessons of Scrolls 6-10