Six weeks ago, I wrote about a new book by El Pasoan Don Shapiro, “Power at the Pass,” detailing his life and great success in apparel manufacturing.

Shapiro mentioned that one of his biggest motivators was a book published in 1947 by Frank Bettger, a former Major League Baseball player turned insurance super salesman.

Curious to see what Shapiro found that was so helpful, I bought a copy of the book, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling.” I soon discovered why Shapiro found it so inspiring.

While the book was intended as a self-help guide for poor performing sales people, I found many of the book’s suggestions are keys to success in life.

I liked it so much that I bought 20 copies and have given them to my kids and encouraged them to pass the knowledge on to their kids. Of course, I also gave some to the El Paso Inc. sales crew.

The book offers a series of instructions, each illustrated by multiple anecdotes, with the author explaining how he screwed up and what he did to improve.

But so much of the book offers simple practical insights for getting people to like you, organizing our life and winning arguments. What follows are a few examples I hope to instill in my grandkids.

For example, the author tells about getting fired at a bush league baseball club. When the manager lets him go, he is told he is being fired because he had no enthusiasm (thus dragging the team down). When Bettger finally lands a position on another ball club, he resolves to be the most enthusiastic player the world has ever seen. His enthusiasm eventually helps propel him to a spot in the major leagues.

Bettger acknowledges that initially his enthusiasm was just an act. But it soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy. He says if you are enthusiastic, even if just pretending, you will soon be enthusiastic – and it will rub off on others. Think Tom Brady firing up Tampa Bay. Enthusiasm may be a requirement for good sales people, but think how in life people are drawn to enthusiastic individuals.

Another important piece of advice: organization. Organize and track in detail your efforts to reach goals, contacts, appointments or just reaching out to friends. This is so true.

The late Jim Phillips, who owned radio stations here before turning to banking, was one of the most enthusiastic and organized people I ever knew. He once told me he tried to contact five people each day before 9 a.m., just to touch base, find out what they were up to and maybe set an appointment.

Bettger also says you need strong discipline to avoid distractions – that you should never allow others to intrude on your schedule. He also suggests taking half a day to plan your schedule for the week but to make sure you do things in the order of importance.

“The whole secret of freedom from anxiety over not having enough time lies not in working more hours, but in the proper planning of hours,” he wrote. This is pretty basic Time Management 101, but terrific for those who have never heard it – especially grandkids.

One of the suggestions that salespeople and young people applying for a job can use is to find out what people want, “then find the best way to help them get it.”

He says often when people turn you down, they don’t provide the real reason. Sometimes you can draw it out. Quoting J. Pierpont Morgan, Bettger writes: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing; one that sounds good and a real one.”

“The best formula I have ever found to draw out the real one is built around those two little questions: ‘Why?’ and ‘In addition to that…?’”

Another section with daily life application focuses on how to handle arguments. He contends you can often turn someone from an aggressive stance by not contradicting them directly.

This time he quotes Ben Franklin, who in turn said he got the idea from Socrates: “When another asserted something that I thought in error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly … and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference ….”

Perhaps his most endearing suggestion of all: Put a smile on your face – a real smile – “not one of those rubber band smiles that snaps right back.”

“Have you ever noticed,” he writes, “that the breaks seem to go with the fellow who has a sincere, enthusiastic smile, and so frequently against the fellow who goes around looking dissatisfied, disgruntled and glum?”

Our first graphics arts director, Lulu Gonzalez, was cognizant of this, and when a particularly grumpy person she was trying to help left the office, she would quip, “cara de chancla.” That might be translated as “sourpuss,” but more literally “a face like an old beat up sandal.”

Bettger said he was convinced that a man knowing he will be greeted by a spouse with a warm friendly smile has kept many a husband coming home at night.

I suppose I will have to give wife Ellie, a CPA, a waiver on this last point during tax season. Ellie gets a little cranky at this time of year. Perhaps my newfound penchant for enthusiasm will brighten her disposition. Or not.

There is, of course, a great deal more in the book, some useful in life, some targeted more specifically at sales people. But there is an awful lot of advice relevant for everyone today.


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