On October 26, 1990, 1964 Olympic diving bronze medalist Larry Andreasen was killed jumping from the west tower of the bridge in an attempt to set a diving record.
I had an idea of myself as someone free and unencumbered, and virtuous for being so. Of course, one cannot live like this— I can’t, anyway. And in fact, I find that all the best things in my life have come about precisely through the things that hold me in place: family, work, routine, everything that contradicts my old idea of the good life. For years I lived mostly out of a backpack, traveling light and living cheap, often bestowing my mendicant presence on my brother, Geoffrey, and his wife, Priscilla, on my patient friends. But, you know, it seems as time goes on that the deepest good for me as man and writer is to be found in ordinary life. It’s the gravity of daily obligations and habit, the connections you have to your friends and your work, your family, your place— even the compromises that are required of you to get through this life. The compromises don’t diminish us, they humanize us—it’s the people who won’t, or who think they don’t, who end up monsters in this world. I’m not talking about dishonesty, I’m talking about having some give, sometimes letting go of things that you aren’t inclined to let go of, that you may even have attached the name of principle to, to justify your fear of bending.
(Tobias in the Paris Review, picture from the collection of the blogger)
Here’s Swedish inventor Gustaf Dalen:
Gustaf Dalen lost his sight in an explosion while developing his earlier invention, a porous substrate for storing gases, Agamassan. Forced to stay at home, Dalen discovered that his wife was exhausted by cooking. Although blind, he set out to develop a new stove that was capable of a range of culinary techniques and easy to use.
His invention was the AGA cooker:
In the 1920s these were sold, door to door, in the UK. And the greatest AGA cooker salesman of all was David Ogilvy:
His success at this marked him out to his employer, who asked him to write an instruction manual, The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA cooker, for the other salesmen. Thirty years later, Fortune magazine editors called it the finest sales instruction manual ever written.
I went looking for this manual, and found it at Patrick Lannigan’s blog. I make sure to link because Patrick Lannigan reports that “I’d have to say my number one obsession is playing with Google rankings.” I wish him well.
Anyway, Ogilvy has some good writing and interesting advice:
Salesmen are only too often unpopular people in Aga-worthy houses.. Show straight away that you are not of the so-called canvasser variety. Never bully, get into an argument, show resentment, or lose your temper. Do not talk about “your husband” – “Mr. Smith” is less impertinent.
Never talk down or show superior knowledge. Never appeal to a prospect’s pity because the more prosperous you appear the more she is likely to be impressed with you and to believe in you and your Aga.
The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted. Pretend to be vastly interested in any subject the prospect shows an interest in. The more she talks the better, and if you can make her laugh you are several points up. If she argues a lot, do not give the impression of knowing all the answers by heart and always being one up on her. She will think you are too smart by half, and mistrust your integrity. Find out as soon as possible in the conversation how much she already knows about Aga; it will give you the correct angle of approach. Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardisation in your sales talk. If you find yourself on fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.
When the prospect tries to bring the interview to a close, go gracefully. It can only hurt to be kicked out. Learn to recognise a really valid reason for the prospect being unable to order (there are mighty few such reasons). With these reservations you cannot be too tenacious or too persevering. The good salesman combines the tenacity of a bull dog with the manners of a spaniel. If you have any charm, ooze it.
The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake the quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship.
Later, in the “Attack” section:
Learn to recognise vegetarians on sight. It is painful indeed to gush over roasting and grilling to a drooping face which has not enjoyed the pleasures of a beefsteak for years.
From the section “Wise-cracking”:
The longer you talk to a prospect, the better, and you will not do this if you’re a bore. Pepper your talk with anecdote and jokes. Accumulate a repertoire of illustration. Above all, laugh till you cry every time the prospect makes the joke about the Aga Khan. A deadly serious demonstration is bound to fail. If you can’t make a lady laugh, you certainly cannot maker buy.
David Ogilvy might be better than Mystery.
After enjoying this video:
I did a typically cursory investigation into his backstory:
Ross enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at age 18 after graduating from Elizabeth Forward High School in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and was living in Florida early in his military career when the Air Force transferred him to Eielson AFB (in Alaska), where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork; he developed his quick-painting technique in order to be able to create art for sale in brief daily work breaks. Having held military positions that required him to be, in his own words, “mean” and “tough”, “the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work”, Ross decided that if he ever moved on from the military, “it wasn’t going to be that way any more”, “vowing never to scream again.”