Og Mandino (1923-1996) is a strange name to be sure, but there are few people who are unfamiliar with it. Mandino wrote a series of self-help books that really did help millions of people worldwide. Mandino, you could say, was one of the first writers to really popularize the idea of finding help from a book other than a sacred text such as the Bible. He did this in part by taking ideas found in the Bible and retelling them in such a way that the average, modern person could identify with them on a more practical level. But he had to overcome plenty of difficulty himself to do so; and this is another explanation, without a doubt, for Mandino’s incredible success. He had suffered, and the sufferers who read his books were drawn to him for that reason; and, what’s more, he had suffered as your average Joe suffers, and most of his readers were average Joes. That is, they weren’t Dostoyevsky—they weren’t poets and philosophers—they were salesman and housewives. Og Mandino had been a salesman himself, and somehow his success didn’t make him swell up and strut around and start affecting “great man” poses.
Mandino started out with certain ambitions, to be sure, but they weren’t lofty by any standard. He worked on his high school newspaper, and thought that a career in journalism might be interesting, and planned to study journalism at the university level. From the very first, then, his instinct was for those mediums that reach the maximum amount of people—journalism over philosophy, say. But then disaster intervened. Mandino’s mother, whom he loved very much, died unexpectedly one day while preparing lunch in the kitchen. This had the effect of sending Mandino off on a rather random, wandering course. He worked in a paper factory; drudge work; a difficult, sweaty job. Then he decided to join the Army. The Army’s structured lifestyle fit Mandino very well, and subsequently he became an officer. During World War Two he flew many successful missions; but when the war was over, and he became a civilian again, he found, as did so many other ex-soldiers of that generation, that while his country was ostensibly very grateful for his sacrifice, most businesses were unwilling to hire him as an employee.
Mandino had no other option but to sell insurance door to door; a job that took him on the road; and that led him, for comfort and companionship, into bars; which led, in turn, to a terrible alcoholism that eventually cost Mandino his job, his family, and everything that was important to him. He thought about suicide; he didn’t see any point to his life. One night, however, while searching a local library for books that might inspire him, he found a classic of the early self-help genre, W. Clement Stone’s Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. From this reading Mandino slowly built an outlook that he would eventually publish in his first (of many) bestsellers, The Greatest Salesman in the World.
Mandino, by practicing what he preached, was able to reclaim all of those things in his life that he had lost through misfortune and the abuse of alcohol. He remarried, quit drinking, and went on to write a total of nineteen more books. His message, basically, was do it now. It seems simple enough, but the majority of the human race seems to have trouble implementing this bit of wisdom nevertheless. Mandino felt that most of us have the right impulse most of the time: get up early; eat healthily; apply for that job; follow through on that idea; make that phone call; raise your hand, ask that question; and so forth. But something, some fear or laziness, blocks us from following through on our healthy impulses, and it is by continual obedience to that “something” that we find ourselves unhappily on the road to nowhere. Mandino’s books encouraged people to just act once on one impulse, and act on it now, and then utilize the feeling of positivism and energy that results to walk another step ahead.
Mandino, by all accounts, was an ordinary man with ordinary problems who discovered an approach to life that millions have been blessed by. His success didn’t change him, except that he abandoned those bad habits that had cost him so dearly to begin with.