by Steve Roh
Hello, I’m happy to offer my latest article for the Banyan Hypnosis E-Zine. This series is intended to help hypnosis professionals by briefly summarizing books from outside of the field, and describing how the information can be applied within a hypnosis practice.
In this issue, I am going to summarize “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. This is a classic book of the motivational genre, often referenced by figures in the sales and marketing world.
With a title like that, it is surprising to often find this book in the Christian Inspirational literature section of a bookstore. The reason is clear once you read the book. Not only is it set in biblical times, but the story is cleverly tied together with significant events of that time. I will not reveal specifics about the plot because it is enjoyable to see how it unfolds.
Note: I am personally not a follower of the Christian religion so this is not meant to be some kind of subtle proselytizing. The principles in the book would be of interest to anyone, regardless of faith or skepticism.
From a hypnotist’s perspective, I find it notable that classic, enduring books such as “The Greatest Salesman in the World” often are structured as stories within a story (another example being “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Clason, which also has a storytelling theme centered around ancient-times).
This is an example of the power of metaphors, and how they have the ability to resonate with people and “stick” in their minds, much more than a simple series of facts which are presented dispassionately.
In fact, the structure of Og Mandino’s book can be viewed as a set of metaphors in nested loops with direct suggestions embedded within. The book is setup mainly as a story being told to an old friend of the “main” character, who is a great merchant, as he recalls the story of his youth and lessons which were taught to him by an older great merchant of those times.
I think that is a classic application of indirect communication — the themes of the book are not being pressed upon the reader as a lecture from the author, but within a story being told by someone to someone else about something that happened a long time ago in a land far away.
I believe this is a well-known tactic in hypnotic indirect communication, for example: where in certain cases it can be useful, instead of directly instructing the client “now do this” or “do that” in order to elicit hypnosis, they are told a story about how the hypnotist once went to a presentation where the presenter told a story about how once upon a time during a hypnosis demonstration in college, their professor was able to help a subject go into hypnosis just by telling them a story about how someone once went into hypnosis just by listening to a story about someone who went into hypnosis by listening to a story about a person who went into hypnosis.
Anyway, that older merchant revealed that he was in possession of a set of scrolls which contained the secrets to becoming incredibly successful. The central part of the book involves the content of each scroll being revealed, chapter by chapter. I will not specifically describe the content of the scrolls, because the way the book is structured, they are meant to be studied one at a time.
I will say, however, that the contents of the scrolls are very relatable to anyone who uses hypnosis to bring about positive self-change or change in others.
Og Mandino appears to have a useful understanding of human nature. For example, he understands the power of habitual behavior; he knows that humans are creatures of habit and only have the ability to choose between good habits or bad habits.
The book accepts that humans experience a wide range of emotions and encounter many adversities and disappointments. Mandino himself was no stranger to this, because he only wrote the book after hitting rock bottom as an unsuccessful traveling insurance salesman whose family had left him partly as a result of his alcohol use.
So you may wonder, what gives him the right to write a book about the greatest salesman? Well, this book is not about “how to sell stuff”.
The general themes of the scrolls include persistence, the power of operating with good intentions, action-orientation (since good intentions alone are not enough), emotional mastery, and total rejection of complacency.
A brief passage from one of the scrolls gives you the flavor of this work:
“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.
The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny.”
Although this book is largely about self-reliance and being able to master oneself, one of the scrolls relates to the natural human tendency to call out to a “higher power” at times of trouble.
This can be applied when working with hypnosis clients, because from what I understand, humans who struggle to make some sort of significant change in their life, can potentially benefit if they make it about more than “just themselves”, in other words, if they frame it in the context of a larger spiritual meaning.
(I admit that in working with clients I often neglect to leverage this spiritual aspect, mainly because I find it difficult to gauge the level of “spiritual motivation” that can be applied, especially given the generally short-term nature of the hypnotist-client relationship).
Anyway, in hypnotic terms, these scrolls are very simple, yet powerfully written, direct suggestions framed within a metaphor that the reader can emotionally relate to (the struggle to succeed and achieve goals). The scrolls make use of the power of repetition and are written in the first person. The surrounding stories are richly told and describe a vivid world that anyone who has seen “The Ten Commandments” can immerse themselves in easily.
I am guessing that Og Mandino would have made a great hypnotist!
Well, I hope this short summary of “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino is of interest to you, and possibly even to some of your clients! I highly recommend it.
Even though I mentioned that this book is not about “how to sell stuff”, I think this book can help anyone, especially hypnotists, start thinking about “sales” in a different way. I think it is far too common for hypnotists to do nothing with their training, using the excuse that “they aren’t into being a salesperson”. This claim is sometimes made with an air of implied superiority, many times hiding insecurity.
The messages in this book can help people see that being complacent and satisfied with being a poor salesperson (or marketer) is nothing to be proud of — that just means that they lack the desire or inclination to add real value to other people’s lives in the open marketplace.
PS. Interestingly enough, none of the great merchants in the story are the “Greatest Salesman” described by the title. The identity of that person is one of the wonderful surprises which awaits the reader of this book, so I will not reveal it here. Read it and find out — it’s a short book and enjoyable reading.
© 2010 Steve Roh