In 1959, Augustine “Og” Mandino was a teetering alcoholic.
Then he made the right turn — into a library to get out of the rain.
There, he discovered self-help books and was especially impressed by “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone.
Mandino sobered up and asked Stone for a job.
“He was hired to help in sales promotion for Clement’s Combined Insurance,” Don Green, executive director of the Napoleon Hill Foundation , told IBD. “He had excellent writing skills and achieved amazing results, so Clement made him editor of his Success Unlimited magazine.”
In 1968, Mandino wrote his own classic inspirational volume, “The Greatest Salesman in the World.”
It was a sensation, selling 25 million copies in 25 languages as it became one of the top self-help books of all time.
Mandino went on to write many other best-sellers, bringing his career book-sales total to 50 million copies. Through those books, he was a role model for the success that he preached.
Mandino (1923-96) grew up in Natick, Mass., where his mother encouraged him to read and write at an early age.
He hoped to study journalism, but she died just after his high-school graduation in 1940, and he went to work in a paper factory to save money.
In 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps as a bombardier, flying 30 combat missions with actor and pilot Jimmy Stewart on B-24s, and was promoted to first lieutenant.
Between bombing raids, Mandino blew most of his pay partying in London. So he didn’t have much money when he arrived in New York City after World War II’s end in 1945.
What to do? He rented a tiny apartment and began writing articles — which were rejected by 50 magazines.
Next it was on to Boston, where he drew a tiny paycheck for his Army service while visiting homes to collect insurance premiums.
Soon he had a wife and daughter, but financial strains led to his excessive drinking, and his wife left him.
“This was the start of 10 of the most terrible years of my life,” he wrote in 1990’s “A Better Way to Live.” He moved around the country — driving trucks, waiting tables and drinking heavily.
In 1959 he found himself in a mental abyss in Cleveland. As he looked in a pawnshop window one night, he considered spending his last $30 to buy a gun and kill himself.
Instead, the memory of his mother’s encouragement of reading prompted him to seek shelter at a nearby library. Thus began his reading of books by Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Dale Carnegie — and, of course, Stone and Hill. Soon he cut back on drinking as he found hope.
“The message from Stone and Hill was loud and clear: You can accomplish anything you wish that is not contradictory to the laws of God and man, providing you are willing to pay the price,” Mandino wrote. “I reread their book so many times I memorized parts of it.”
He traveled back to Boston and applied for a job at Stone’s insurance company. “To my great surprise, they hired me, a 35-year-old loser!” he wrote. “Soon afterward, I married Bette. A year later, I was promoted to sales manager in northern Maine. I wrote a sales manual and mailed it to Clement Stone and was invited to join the Chicago office in sales promotion.”
Stone had started Success Unlimited in 1953 as a magazine for his agents. He had 2,000 readers when he made Mandino editor in 1965, with two assistants.
Mandino turned it into a motivational resource for the public and in 10 years had circulation up to 155,000. His staff grew to 50.
His big book break came in 1967, when a New York publisher read the magazine while waiting at a dental office.
He was so taken, he gave Mandino a contract to write “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” an immediate best-seller.
Awake With Ideas
Mandino took “the time-tested wisdom of the ancients” used to overcome bad habits and distilled them into a tale.
Among the messages that readers were encouraged to let “seep into the other mind, that mysterious source that never sleeps,” were:
• “Today I begin a new life.”
• “I will greet this day with love in my heart.”
• “I will persist until I succeed.”
• “I am nature’s greatest miracle.”
• “I will live this day as if it is my last.”
• “Today I will be master of my emotions.”
• “Today I will multiple my value a hundredfold.”
• “I will act now.”
• “I will pray for guidance.”
Mandino left the magazine in 1976 to become a motivational speaker and write other best-selling books, including 1982’s “Og Mandino’s University of Success.”
Mandino broke the book into 10 semesters, with Semester 1 listing causes of failure:
• Blaming others.
• Not having goals.
• Choosing the wrong goals.
• Taking shortcuts.
• Neglecting little things.
• Quitting too soon.
• Being burdened by the past.
• Thinking you’ve achieved success and can rest on your laurels.
Other Mandino books that readers devoured were “The Greatest Secret in the World” in 1972, “The Christ Commission” in 1980 and “The Choice” in 1984.
Mandino also gave motivational talks. He later wrote about how, in his early speeches, he was too ashamed to mention his down-and-out days.
But after one lecture, a woman who sold Amway approached him and said he made success sound so easy, adding: “That’s probably because you’ve never had to suffer through much failure and sorrow, and so you don’t really understand what it’s like to struggle from the bottom of the pile.”
Reflecting On The Rebound
Mandino wrote that after her lecture, “I didn’t sleep a wink that night. Only a few close friends knew that I had crawled out of the gutter and discovered a better way to live only after years of horror and pain and tears. Once more, God had moved a chess piece in my life. That soft-spoken Amway lady had delivered the message.
“Within a week, I had rewritten my entire speech and from then on I spoke without hesitation about my not-so-glory days. I wanted the listener or reader to think, ‘If he can turn his life around, with the little he had to work with, then, by God, so can I.'”
“Mandino had great leadership skills and gave credit to the fact that he really loved people,” said Green.
In 1993, the Napoleon Hill Foundation awarded Mandino a Gold Medal for literary excellence.
Mandino died three years later at age 72. “Og is alive and well in our hearts and continues to change lives,” said Dave Blanchard, CEO of the Og Mandino Group, which he co-founded with Bette Mandino in 2000.
In “Today I Begin a New Life: Og Mandino for the 21st Century,” Blanchard wrote about how Mandino’s ideas remain relevant to “understanding how to support one’s plans with the right thinking and behavior rather than unintentionally self-sabotaging.”
At a new site, CoachIC.com, the Og Mandino Group applies his principles to business.
“We use deductive science that goes below the surface of personality and behavior, and tells us which thoughts are driving both,” said Blanchard.
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