What I Learned From Reading ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World’

A columnist speaks on a book, a 2-month hospital stay, and treating people well

Charlton Harris avatar

by Charlton Harris |

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“Who is of so little faith that in a moment of great disaster or heartbreak has not called to his God? Who has not cried out when confronted with danger, death, or mystery beyond his normal experience or comprehension? From where has this deep instinct come which escapes from the mouth of all living creatures in moments of peril?”

Five years ago, when I spent two months in the hospital because of a spontaneous pneumothorax (a collapsed lung), I read “The Greatest Salesman in the World” (1968), from which I quote above. Its author, Og Mandino, has written several books that I’ve read, but this one I especially enjoyed. It focuses on leadership skills, but it also teaches character building and humility. That’s my takeaway.

While absorbing the book’s knowledge, I started practicing some of its principles of character building. This wasn’t the first book I’d read on the subject. Back in the ’80s, I took the Dale Carnegie Effective Communications and Human Relations course. At that time, I was selling high-end video production systems, and this course was mandatory for me and the sales reps I worked with.

I’ll admit it was difficult to start “Greatest Salesman” while I was worrying about my health and trying to get back to my normal. I finally bit the bullet and started reading, and Mandino’s words began to make sense to me.

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“Greatest Salesman” taught me that much depends on how we talk to people and not so much on what we have to say. I remember addressing every nurse as “Ms. (insert name).” Even though they insisted I call them by their first name, I always addressed them properly.

And that led to results. After a few days, for instance, I noticed that the nurses were coming by more often to check on me. I even developed an awesome rapport with the housekeeper, Ms. Marylyn. Every day before she took her lunch break, she would stop by and ask if I wanted anything from the outside world. On occasion, she brought me my favorite wonton or egg drop soup, and she sometimes played my lottery numbers: small vices for a cooperative patient.

When the day of my release finally came, I think everyone had teary eyes. All of the nurses came by to wish me well, and they gave me a card and a lung-shaped pillow. Each of them told me how much they enjoyed having me as a patient. I guess I learned more than I thought while reading.

I can’t believe five years have passed.

Some things have changed, and some things have remained the same. I’ve learned that pulmonary sarcoidosis has changed me in a positive way. This condition has taught me empathy, humility, and patience. This journey has also taught me about those in my life who need to learn those lessons.

I’ve learned a lot from living with sarcoidosis — primarily, not to take any day for granted. Each new day I’m blessed with is an opportunity to improve on the day before. Whether I’m exercising at the gym, cooking, or enjoying life, I have to do something; anything productive improves my condition. I don’t have the luxury of complaining.

I posted the book excerpt that leads this column on Facebook five years ago, on my first Thanksgiving after my two months in the hospital. I forgot all about it until recently, when the post showed up in my Facebook memories. I’m thankful that I got another chance to see it after all of these years.

I need to reread that book to remind myself of the lessons I learned. The bigger task is to put those lessons to work.

Over the past five years, I’ve had various health challenges related to sarcoidosis that I’m able to talk about. These challenges have become my testimony. We all have a testimony, so don’t be afraid to offer it. My spirit, and yours, are bigger than sarcoidosis.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” — Philippians 3:13 (King James Version)

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


Mary Tabone avatar

Mary Tabone

Thank you!

Charlton Harris avatar

Charlton Harris

Thank you for reading, Mary. Happy Holidays to you, and make sure you enjoy yourself the most!

robert moore avatar

robert moore

Having taken two years to have my sarcoidosis diagnosed back in 1980s aged in my late 40's a recent specialist advised after fresh tests in 2020 that my heart was clear of sarcoidosis and lung air capacity normal the inference being whether I had sarcoid at all. 6 months on I had an operation to have gallbladder removed. The surgeon came to release me after operation and just said it was sludge and walked off? On follow up visit he said could only get half of it out and one of two gal stones as it was like sludge. He had sent samples for lab testing and said the results were it was riddled with sarcoidosis turning it to sludge The outcome being my system clearing remaining residue and I live on. Back to lungs scans still clearly show lower quarter of lung still sarcoid infected so although not working, obviously as tests proved has normal air capacity?

Charlton Harris avatar

Charlton Harris

Thanks for reading, Robert.
I have sarcoid in my lungs and I know that I've lost some lung function, but not like others I've seen. I keep working out at the gym, and I've changed my diet a lot-which helps. I'm still a "happy hour" guy and love sipping, but I've tapered that down a bit because alcohol is inflamitory, so it's necessary. Please continue to read and comment. I'll continue to share my experiences in this fourm.

Melinda Joyce avatar

Melinda Joyce

What a heartfelt and uplifting article and message, Charlton. Thank you for posting this. My husband also has sarcoidosis in his lungs along with significant damage from COVID - we do not take any day for granted and I have yet to hear my husband complain about his condition, despite his need for oxygen for all activity. We are blessed to have each day together and are grateful to the doctors and nurses who cared for him so diligently and compassionately while in the hospital and to date. May your journey continue to be filled with the support and caring of the community around you. Merry Christmas!

Charlton Harris avatar

Charlton Harris

Thank you for reading and the kind words, Melinda. Sometimes it gets hard with our day-to-day activities, but I'm glad to hear your husband, like me, is stable. I try not to complain much and if I do, it's usually under my breath and it's out of frustration. One thing I keep in mind is that I'm still here for a reason and I'll continue to live that way. Having a medical team that has empathy and cares makes all the difference in recuperating. You and your husband are truly blessed.
Thank you again for reading and contributing to the column. Merry Christmas to you and you family and have a blessed holiday season!


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