That morning, and for weeks thereafter, whenever he called a customer, Mel was regaled with tales of Nat's famous "sparkle."
Mel guessed Nat's sparkle was largely a matter of physique. The man was an athlete, after all. Mel was out of shape. So to get some sparkle, he began to diet, take long walks, and practice deep-breathing exercises.
Then Mel's wife got on his case.
Phyllis told him that, though she'd been smitten when they were dating, after three years of marriage to him she'd decided Mel was unattractive. He was a day-dreamer, a worry-wart, a promise-breaker, and an intellectual lightweight, Phyllis said. "No wonder you haven't made the hit with the firm that Nat has."
So at Phyllis' insistence, Mel went to the public library and checked out a pile of books: books on improving concentration and memory; on the psychology of personality; and on business and the industry he worked in.
Mel studied the books and, within only weeks, saw his sales increase. His customers began to mention his "sparkle." His boss gave him more room to negotiate prices. And Phyllis grew more affectionate.
Mel became a regular patron of the public library after that. He was firmly on the path to self-betterment.
Mel Ordway's story appeared in the March 1918 edition of The Business Philosopher, a monthly magazine published by Arthur Frederick Sheldon. It was just one of hundreds of similar case studies of under-performers who embraced "Sheldonism" to turn things around.
Now forgotten, Sheldon was once a prominent Chicago business executive; a cofounder of the Rotarians; and the man who coined the slogan, “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.”
Sheldon also launched an industry that came to be called "correspondence education."
In 1902, full of sparkle himself, Sheldon began offering a mail-order self-help course that, at the height of its popularity thirteen years later, would be taken by more than 10,000 salespeople annually.
Sheldon's interests, as reflected in the course materials and the pages of The Business Philosopher, spanned many topics, from personal selling to labor relations, business ethics to economic justice; and helped shape the thinking of a generation of salespeople.
In 1908, Sheldon relocated his mail-order business from downtown to a Chicago suburb named Rockefeller. He bought a 600-acre campus, built a school, and hired nearly 200 local residents to help run it. The Sheldon School offered courses in shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and, naturally, salesmanship.
A year after the school opened, the town changed its name from Rockefeller to AREA, in tribute to the school's motto, Ability. Reliability. Endurance. Action.
AREA, says The Business Philosopher, names a "four-fold capacity" you must embrace; until you do, "complete success is impossible."
Don't believe it?
Just ask Phyllis.