Selling the Impossible Proposition

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A couple of years ago I sent my top customers and affiliates a Christmas gift. It was Caroline Alexander’s beautiful book “The Endurance” which chronicles Earnest Shackleton’s treacherous journey to the South Pole and back, in 1914.

This may literally be the world’s greatest adventure story. Shackleton and his 27 men sailed to Antarctica with a team of dogs and plenty of supplies with plans to travel all the way across the continent in the summer.

This would be done after preparing and exercising the dogs while stationed at the edge of the continent during the winter.

The winter went well but in the spring, as the ice melted, shifting plates of ice ground their ship into toothpicks and it sank.

Suddenly 28 men were stranded in Antarctica, nearly 1000 miles from the tip of South America, with nothing but three life boats.

It took an entire year for them to get back and the story of how they accomplished this is nothing short of remarkable. Shackleton didn’t lose a single man.

His story is well worth reading and Caroline Alexander’s book does a superb job of telling it.

This was no adventure for the faint of heart.

According to legend, Shackleton ran the following classified ad:





Nobody has verified the authenticity of this ad; somebody may have made this up much later.

What is "80" and what is "20" for your business right now? Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the highest compound interest on your time and money!

Nevertheless it accurately captures the true spirit of the expedition and the harshness of the job. We do know that the trip was widely publicized before it happened and Shackleton received something like 5,000 applications from potential voyagers.

Please do not fail to notice that Shackleton didn’t have to tweak his story with purple prose to get a host of loyal followers. Nobody made any effort whatsoever to disguise the fact that if you went on this trip, you stood a pretty good chance of dying, freezing or starving to death.

Consider a different mission impossible – the largest single mass movement in the history of the world.

What do you do and what do you get if you sign up for this one?

* Brother, sister, father and mother may hate you

* You may lose everything you possess

* If you have two coats, give one to a person who doesn’t have one

* If someone asks you to carry their load one mile, take it two

* Decapitation, torture or burning at stake possible

* Long prison sentences

* False friends, true enemies

* Gigantic reward after death

* No signup fee, but you must tithe 10% of income right off top, after trial period

* Eternal damnation if you refuse

That proposition has had about a billion plus takers over the last 2000 years.

Hey, who said you have to make everything sound fun and easy?

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

103 Comments on “Selling the Impossible Proposition”

  1. “When it comes to religious “tolerance” Christians get none, but other groups get a free pass”

    It seems to be a popular thought for many (American) Christians to somehow paint themselves as victims of religeous intolerance.

    Interesting spin

  2. Nate,

    You need to do a little studying. The gospels were not 1st hand accounts. Most followers believe that the gospels were written by the apostles, lol. Actually, the earliest manuscripts were written in Greek instead of Hebrew and were not signed. We have no idea who wrote them. Do yourself a favor, and read the gospels side by side. There are massive differences in the accounts , and John is paints Jesus’ story in a very different way. Christianity is being persecuted? Tell that to Middle Eastern families that we commit drone attacks against daily.

    1. Robert,

      You need to investigate this deeper; what you have said is a popular view but is not supported by the best New Testament scholarship. We have very good historical and textual reasons to believe that Matthew was really written by Matthew, Mark by Mark etc. Matthew was written in Hebrew because it contains many Hebrew idioms translated into Greek. Ann Rice does a very good job of reporting the history and scholarship of this entire issue here:

      I recommend that you read every word of this and check out the sources she cites.

      I own most of the books she cites here and I strongly recommend that you investigate this further.

  3. I just fail to understand why so many people have a problem with Christians who express their faith, but never get annoyed when Muslims are allowed to say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map. Only Christians are acussed of shoving their religions down others throuats. How many in the media blamed Muslims for this on 9-11? None. When it comes to religious “tolerance” Christians get none, but other groups get a free pass.

  4. They made a documentary about the Endurance and that voyage which contains actual camera footage. The story is one of great courage and a miracle the way he brought his men back. However, on a more practical note many years ago as a health care administrator I discovered if I ran “nice” ads for help they often quit when the work got hard. I changed my approach to where I did everything reasonable to discourage new help and because they had more realistic expectations they stayed when things became demanding.

  5. I actually enjoyed the article and saw nothing related to Christianity – that should bother me. As a business owner, one needs all the encouragement they can get. Books can be a great resource for this need.

  6. I signed up for that offer Jesus made 2000 years ago 67 years ago At the time I was not aware of all the pieces of the deal.
    It is the best deal I ever made. What a life!

    Are we making our offers too easy?

    What we offer doesn’t have to be easy.

  7. You are to be commended for using the talents and success given to you as a platform for informing others of the greatest issue before us all. His words and message do not return to Him void. One day, the atheist, mocker & rebel will know the part that their own words played in sealing their own destiny. Even then they will blame God.

    May God continue to bless your efforts as you remain in Him.

    1. You guys are right that it isn’t anything to get angry about…

      I’d describe it as just tiresome and SO predictable. It seems (for us foriegners) that ANYTHING coming out of the states has to carry some sort of religious message on some level.

  8. Several respondents to Perry’s blog post have
    fretted about him proselytizing. Perry is a
    good writer… but not a pro in total
    “Mind Control.”

    If he written something positive about some Eastern Religion notion, you can bet your sweet bippie there would have been far fewer
    VERY ANGRY comments!

    Calm down:
    If it’s fiction, forget it.
    If it’s the Truth, embrace it.

    1. John,

      I”ll see your sweet bippie and raise you two bippies…

      I can only speak for myself but I PROMISE you that if someone has compares Shackleton to the Great Lama and states that eternal riches in heaven are yours if you believe and that you will be reincarnated as a toad forever if you don’t- That I will raise an equal stink, OK? I promise!

  9. A friend sent me this. I have been trying to sign up for some time and think I finally succeded. Actually, I signed up a long time ago but am finally truly realizing what I’ve gotten myself into. I wouldn’t trade my signup for all the riches in the world. I don’t care about being in this “world” much. Not when I’m going to a much better one. I have a few more things to make right but know I’m forgiven. My wife and I are ready for whatever we have to go through but knowing Christ is worth anything we may have to go through. If He gave His life for us, there is nothing greater we can do but follow Him.

  10. After reading all the comments, I think one thing that needs to be addressed is the fact that between 1947 and 1956 the dead sea scrolls were found which were carbon dated to be written all the way back to 150 B.C. (thats Before Christ, by the way, even written history seperates time by ONE MAN’s existence) and that these documents contained identical writings to those that were in the Old Testament of the
    King James Bible.

    Now, the reason why that is so significant is that it proves that the old testment was written before Jesus. Jesus Christ fulfilled over 100 prophecies from the old testament. Everything from being born to a virgin, to being born in bethlehem, to being hated by his own kind, to performing miracles to even being pierced with a spear.

    Modern scientists and mathmeticians have calculated the probability of one man “coincidently” fulfilling even 8 of those prophecies and they said that it is the same probability of spreading silver dollars over the entire state of texas, 2 feet deep, marking one with a red dot and being able to pick that one out of the entire bunch.

    This proves that 1. the bible is the true Word of God, because who but God could predict to such detail what would happen in the future?

    2. that Jesus Christ is the prophecied Messiah that “would take away the sins of the world” John 1:29

    Jesus Himself said “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life, NO ONE comes to the Father but through ME” John 14:6

    So the question to ask yourself is… was Jesus Christ a complete liar who just happend to fullfill over 100 prophecies dating back thousands of years before His birth? or was He then and is He still the only Son of God, who will take you to heaven if you accept the payment He made for YOUR sin by giving HIS life on the cross at calvary?

    Perry and I know the answer to this, hopefully soon you will too.

    Love, blessings and truth,
    a sinner saved by grace

  11. …And then it hit me:

    This is the exact same concept (and near language) the Marines use!

    Here’s there Marine Manifesto:

    “Earned. Never Given. We don’t ask for anything more than everything you’ve got. And we will let you know when you’ve give it. You will be measured not by what you have, but how much of yourself you are willing to give. Not by your ability to pull yourself up, but your commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder. Not by your strength, but your honor. You will not be given anything other than the opportunity to prove that you have the courage to stand on the impenetrable line of warriors stretching 234 years. Our title is earned, Never given. And what’s earned is yours forever.”

    If this is the language and concept that young men/women happily sign-up for (knowing that Iraq and Afghanistan is a boot-camp away), then it must work. I think the Marines have the best copy out there. I am serious. Beat that control Carlton!

    And I think that this is what Perry was going after (Although, adding the religious element sure increased comments!)


  12. WOW, did you ever expose a RAW nerve!! But, I guess you knew you would. Thanks for all you are doing, you’re helping me a lot – this is from a “baby boomer” who just turned 60. You’ve got a lot of courage…keep up the good work.

    Paul Johnson
    ATM – Accountant Turned Marketer

  13. That was a great surprise. I actually thought you were going somewhere else with that.

    I beg to differ on the mission impossible part. Jesus did all the hard stuff. For us, the journey and the mission are only as difficult or complicated as we make it. What He asks of us is really very simple.

    Thanks Perry!

  14. You didn’t fool me for one minute! This is just a presell for your new and improved rose colored glasses, and you sure did haul in the prospects!

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