The Greatest Success in the World by Og Mandino

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:   The Greatest Success in the World by Og Mandino

Synopsis of Content: 

This is a story within a story. Although it is written in a religious context it should not be rejected as a religious tract. It is much more than that.  The narrative is a fictitious account of Zacchaeus at the time of Jesus. Zacchaeus is mentioned in the Book of Luke of the New Testament as a tax collector who climbed a tree to glimpse Jesus as he entered Jericho. According to the biblical story Jesus spends the evening having dinner with Zacchaeus and discusses salvation.

In Mandino’s version of the story Zacchaeus is a small crippled man born in poverty and great disadvantage due to his deformities. Despite his being ill-treated and living in poverty as a child he learns to be successful – so successful that he becomes the richest man in Jericho. He is charitable and well-liked by the people, especially the less fortunate he helps. The story is narrated by his good friend and bookkeeper, Joseph. Zacchaeus teaches Joseph and others the secrets to success through example and through lessons. In time he is asked to teach the people these lessons more formally and he has them written on the wall that surrounds the city.

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, does not like Zacchaeus’ popularity and forces him to become a tax collector or publican because he knows the people hate tax collectors. Zacchaeus does not want this job but has no real choice but to do it, and he does it with fairness and kindness as he does all his work. It is then that he meets the preacher Jesus and experiences a personal transformation.

Mandino was a devout Christian and wanted to present this story in the context of his religious beliefs and especially in the context of this encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus. Within this story however he conveys the secrets to success that Zacchaeus taught to others. In the end Zacchaeus follows Jesus’ teaching and gives away all his wealth and resigns as tax collector. Yet Mandino never really reconciles the two great lessons of the book: the lessons of financial success that Zacchaeus taught and the ultimate lesson Zacchaeus learns leading him to renounce the wealth and the financial success.

The “ten commandments of success” that Zacchaeus lays out are familiar to anyone who has read about success. They are very similar to the lessons written about in the Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. That book is also a fictitious story set in ancient times.

If you are Christian you may find the story inspirational on a spiritual level. If you are not Christian you will still benefit from the story – it inspires in ways beyond Christian doctrine. It is a short book, just 96 pages in paperback, but well worth reading.

What I found useful about this book:

The classic “commandments” of success are classics. They align with most of the great writing on personal success both before and after this book was published in 1981. For anyone interested in personal success they are very useful.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is well written and easy to follow. It is a story and well written stories are always easy to follow.

Notes on Author:  

Og Mandino flew in a bomber plane during WWII and went on to be a successful salesman, author and lecturer. In fact he became a hugely successful writer and speaker on success and sales.

Other Books by This Author:

Mandino wrote a number of books the most famous being The Greatest Salesman in the World.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Through application of the principles that lead to success even the most disadvantaged person can overcome obstacles and attain success. Those principles include hard work, patience, the need to plan, the need to save in good times for hard times, the power of persistence, the need for action to execute plans, avoid wasting time and mental energy worrying about the past or future, avoid hording possessions, and striving to be yourself.
  2. We need others to succeed and it is therefore critical to treat others fairly and well.
  3. While achieving material success is important one must also pay attention to one’s spiritual needs.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The Greatest Success in the World by Og Mandino
Copyright holder: 1981 by Og Mandino
Publisher: Bantam Books

This review was published first on 11.06.15 as the November 2015 Book of the Month

You can buy the book here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.