This very short book - which is available as a pdf here - is really more of a story which you could read in an hour or two. Purely speculative and hypothetical in nature - he uses the time of the Bible - a few events that are recorded in its pages - to create a format through which to communicate life-lessons. The story starts less than a century before the birth of Christ and continues until middle of the first century AD. The tale starts with an older man, Hafid, who's at the pinnacle of success by all accounts - dismantling his business empire to the astonishment of his trusted servant. Hafid narrates the course of his life - going back to the decision that first put him on the path to his ultimate fortune ... and leaves him now - waiting for the right person to assume responsibility for the "secrets" that made him so successful. I won't give you all the ups and downs, ins and outs of the story of Hafid's life that's interwoven with events we all recognize from the pages of the New Testament. Hafid goes back and recalls each of the scrolls given him - one "secret" per scroll to becoming the greatest salesman in the world - and after all the scrolls - the story leaps back to the end of Hafid's long life - where at least he meets his long awaited successor - who is surely someone nearly everyone would have to agree did indeed change the world and could in some regards be considered the actual and literal greatest salesman in the world. It is a good story to be sure. I confess - it is one of those stories whose ending makes my throat catch when I go to tell it.
Mandino wanted a career in writing - but the early death of his mother and the advent of WW2 sidelined his dream - so instead of pursuing a degree in journalism - he worked for a paper company, then joined the army - eventually becoming a bombardier and even flew one mission with Jimmy Stewart. After the war Mandino returned home with a little bit of money and quite a few military honors and decided to sit down and write the great American novel with a manual typewriter in a little cold-water flat in Times Square. By the time his money was out - he had more rejection slips than medals! He gave up on his dream - moved back home - found a job selling insurance married his sweetheart - bought a house - had a daughter - but dealt with his lost dreams by drowning them in wine. Within fifteen years he'd lost everything and found himself standing outside a pawnshop, depressed and contemplating suicide.
He worked menial jobs here and there across the country - and chose to spend his off-hours combing through the library shelves for answers. Libraries were free, clean and warm - and peaceful to boot. He began trying to answer the question "Why had I failed?" He was in his late thirties and afraid it was too late. He read the Bible, he read the works of other salesmen. He finally was hired by another insurance company to sell again - and re-married - and soon after took time off to write a sales manual based on all he'd learned during the lean years of wandering from library to library. He didn't even own his own typewriter anymore - but took a week off with a rented one and went to work. That manuscript became this story, The Greatest Salesman in the World - which eventually led him to new job opportunities - including becoming the executive editor of W. Clement Stone's magazine, "Success Unlimited". The book had absolutely no impact at first - but he mailed a copy to Stone - who he credited with inspiring him to write the story - Stone liked it so much that Stone purchased 10,000 copies to distribute to all of his employees, salespeople and shareholders.
Mandino went on to write about 8 more books - and started collecting awards for his talents at speaking including being inducted to the National Speakers Association's Speaker's Hall of Fame. Most of the books do combine his Christian faith with his belief about what makes for a successful salesperson or person in general. His writings were considered by many to be self-help writings and he was one of the early self-help authors to write about "creating your best life now".
Below are a few video clips of Og Mandino speaking about The Greatest Salesman in the World - which was a story he wrote into a book - that formed the basis of his own philosophy on how to interact with people and life-challenges.
If you'd like to listen to Og Mandino reading the 10 chapters where he discusses each scroll in the story - you can do so by going to this video on YouTube. (please note - this the the scrolls only - not the rest of the story)