One Egg or Two?

Posted on February 13, 2014 by Robert Ringer Comments (22)


I think it was Groucho Marx who used to tell the joke about a guy standing on a street corner and repeatedly hitting himself over the head with a hammer.  A fellow comes along and asks him why he’s inflicting such pain on himself, to which he replies, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

I often think about this bit of goofiness when I’m on the treadmill.  When I start out, I set the machine at about two miles an hour and gradually move it up to three-and-a-half mph over the first five minutes.

Then, I keep it at three-and-a-half mph for another twenty-five minutes.  After a total of thirty minutes, I take another couple of minutes to gradually slow the treadmill down to three mph … then two-and-a-half mph … and so on, until it’s at zero.

What I find interesting about this is that when I first move the speed up to two-and-a-half mph, I’m conscious of having to move my feet faster to keep pace with the treadmill.  Then, after walking at a three-and-a-half mph pace for twenty-five minutes, it feels almost as though I’m standing still when I slow the machine down to two-and-a-half mph.

Of course, two-and-a-half mph is still two-and-a-half mph.  That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is my perception of it.  Relative to standing still, two-and-a-half mph seems fast; relative to three-and-a-half mph, two-and-a-half mph seems slow.  Relativity, then, has altered my perception of how fast I have to walk in order to keep pace with the treadmill.

All this got me thinking about how many of our perceptions are based on relativity.  For example:

  • If you’re dead broke, $20 might seem like a million dollars to you.  But if you have a million dollars in the bank, $20 is pocket change.
  • If a team is a twenty-point underdog in a game it loses by five points, its fans are likely to feel good about its performance.  But if that same team is a twenty-point favorite, its fans would almost certainly be disappointed if it won by only five points.
  • Because I often eat at high-end restaurants, I’ve given the thumbs down to many gourmet meals that didn’t quite measure up to my expectations.  Yet, I can vividly recall thinking that a Thanksgiving dinner I had when I was in the Army decades ago seemed, at the time, to be the best meal I had ever eaten.  Relative to the slop we were served day in and day out in the mess hall, the Thanksgiving meal was a genuine feast.

There are many good reasons to take note of the relationship between relativity and perception, but two are especially important.

First, it’s healthy to always view your problems in a relative light.  If, for example, you have a child with a serious learning disability, it’s a problem that looks a whole lot worse in a vacuum than it does when juxtaposed against the reality of a child with, say, muscular dystrophy.

Second, in your dealings with others, remember that people are going to base their perceptions on their belief systems.  That being the case, when you offer a product, proposal, or idea to someone, you can help swing the odds in your favor by adding a pinch of relativity to help guide his perception of it.

One of the best examples of this time-tested phenomenon was given by the legendary Elmer Wheeler, thought by many to be the world’s greatest salesman back in the prehistoric days of the 1940s.  Wheeler said that when someone orders a malted milk at a soda fountain, the clerk should not ask, “Would you like an egg in your malt today, sir?”  Rather, he should matter-of-factly ask, “Would you like one egg or two today, sir?”

Wheeler’s point was that if the clerk simply asked the customer if he would like an egg in his malt, it would be easy for him to say no.  But by eliminating the no-egg option and giving the customer the choice of one egg or two, it becomes relatively easy for him to make a knee-jerk decision in favor of that same single egg that he might have said no to.  What becomes relatively difficult in this scenario is to say, “I don’t want any egg in my malted milk today.”

Using relativity to help shape another person’s perceptions is a powerful tool which, when consciously applied, will almost always give you better results in all areas of your life.  While products and cultural references may be different today than they were in Elmer Wheeler’s day, philosophy, psychology, universal principles, and, above all, human nature have not changed one whit.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

22 responses to “One Egg or Two?”

  1. Murray Suid says:

    Robert, your post today is really helpful in many ways. I value it all, but especially the notion of seeing things from the other person's point of view. Too often, as I build my current business, I'm focused on what I'm planning to deliver to the customer. Lots of people advise that I need to see things from the customer's perspective. But your insights into relativity give this advice great practicality. Already, I see how I can apply your recommendation. Thank you.

  2. Daniel says:

    Back in the day we called it the "Alternate of Choice" close; credited to Elmer Wheeler, too, and taught by giants like Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins. The man who passed that bit of wisdom on to me, Steve Baker, often said, "The old is forever new." Isn't it.

  3. Aron Haber says:

    When I worked at Walgreens back in the days of 35mm film, we trained the staff to ask 4 questions when they dropped off their film for processing:
    1. Would you like the larger 4×6 prints that look better? Did not give them the option of the smaller prints
    2. Would you like the the second set to share with the people in the pictures? they almost always said yes when we added the sharing part of the question.
    3. Would you like me to put new film and batteries in your camera so you can capture more memories? Even if they did not have their camera, they usually bought the film and the batteries. By offering the service to they were more likely to purchase more.

  4. laleydelexito says:

    Thanks Robert!

    You always manage to create very interesting topics out of things that no others see

    Thumbs up!

  5. Alan says:

    In essence…..ITS ALREADY BETTER NOW BECAUSE IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE. It always seems to come down to finding a way to strive towards feeling GRATEFUL, regardless of the situation or the results. Mr. Ringer obviously gets it.

  6. John Abbott says:

    I'm coming to the same conclusion-it's ALL relative! Remember when we all thought if Gas ever gets to a DOLLAR a gallon, that would be TOO much? Now, those were the "good old days." Ha ha.
    Robert, I listen to a lot of Cd's and DVD's. I've learned that I can go up to DOUBLE speed when listening, because my brain gets USED to hearing it that fast. I can listen to TWICE as much, in the same length of time. Hence, I am DOUBLING my study time(oh the CDs and DVD's are teaching, on sales, business building, relationships, etc.)

    Just thought I'd share that. Your treadmill analogy made me think of that! Thanks!

    • Patrick says:

      John, Where can I find a machine that doubles the speed with a pitch control? Any brand names that you can find on Amazon or Ebay?

  7. Mike says:

    Perspective is nice, but this speaks "manipulation" to me. It is ME setting up the person to buy something from me or to agree with me, vs them being truthful. I call it leading the witness: "Doesn't that taste good(my homemade whatever) vs what do you think about my whatever? We've conditioned ourselves….if we buy into what your promoting, that "helping people make decisions" is in their best interest, when it is purely a one way proposition of me getting them to do something for ME. It's getting the answer I want. That's manipulation, and I don't like being manipulated.

    "Here's what everyone is talking about"….."now doesn't that make you mad"….."don't we all feel that way some times"….."you're just like me"…. and on and on. Same B.S from MLM folks who what to "help people better their lives by making more $$." Would that MLS person do it without getting ANYTHING in return? I think not!

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      The reality is that 99.99% of the ads we see on TV are what you refer to as manipulative. I once heard Zig Ziglar give the counter argument to your position when he said, while pitching his products from the stage, "If I believe my product will help you, it's my moral obligation to convince you to buy it."

      Of course, outright lying is a different story, but the sad truth is that most ads lie in one way or another. When an actor is dressed up like a doctor, that, in itself, is a lie. It's nice to be a purist, but it's also important to understand the world we live in rather than dwell on the way we would like the world to be.

      • Liz says:

        I've heard many variations on that premise, such as "if something is good for you, why wouldn't you want to share it with others" or "no one is harmed by owning (whatever it may be )" I'm a nightmare for a sales person, if I get even a hint of "tactic" my shields go up further. I've let many pros go through their whole playbook only to hear me say the dreaded "no, I'm not interested, but thank you." By the same token, I'm a terrible salesman — adults shouldn't have to be coaxed into doing what is good, right, necessary or actually desired by them. My sales pitch is this: Here it is, have any questions? Don't want it? Next!

      • Robby Bonfire says:

        Doctors are actors dressed up as doctors, too.

      • jenkins says:

        That is why I always do nothing with any offer. I give myself time to research, verify and think. I will not buy unless there is a money back guarantee that does not waste my time and money. While test driving the product, I ask myself if the benefits claimed for the product will actually solve the problem I'm trying solve; if the answer is no then I return the product and if yes I keep it.

  8. R Van Der Voort says:

    Yes, VERY important point. PERCEPTION is everything. I am an American ex-pat living in the Philippines, and I have been "in the street" poor in Manila, and now better than ok. Now I live in a nice house and eat the best food, and can't imagine eating some items I used to be forced to eat for survival. Relativity, Perception, yes! Excellent that you are pointing this out to your followers, of which I have been one since a change time in my life when your WINNING THROUGH INTIMIDATION came out. And LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE. Those two excellent works were PART of my transformation moving from a good life to a better one! I am 78 years old and never stop admiring your work.

  9. bullwink says:

    Usually I just say "how many do you want ? ", if you want a good life , take yourself "out" of the equation ! most things…sex etc. aren't much fun alone…
    also never try to sell "a bill of goods", one sale means little, only thousands count ! never interrupt or keep people waitng,, "keep the ball in motion…"

  10. Rod says:

    This reminds me of the theory of happiness I heard in a Ted Talk some time ago. It says that in order to be happy you should live without expectations. Expecting something and then not achieving or receiving it is what creates frustration. Like when you have heard so many comments of a movie, about how great it is, when you actually go and see it, usually it does not live up to all the amazing comments you had heard. But if you go see the movie with no expectations whatsoever, it will probably surprise you.
    Good post. Thank you.
    Rod Caceres

  11. Les Wallack says:

    Very enlightening stuff !! I loved hearing the old Groucho Marx joke about the hammer. I've sold myself and my products for over 40 + years in the photography profession so that part is easy but just last night the best analogy I can offer as to how I felt as a webinar attendee for Internet Marketing is this; I felt like a June bug in the midst of a herd of buffalo! This was because my mailing list was only 79 while most of the others were 50,000 to 100,000! But your article on the "relativity" of things has kind of helped! I'm in the middle of changing my vocation and it is far more difficult than I figured. Thanks for you excellent content.

  12. Tom G says:

    RR, my Dad defined "tact" as the art of letting other people have your way. Fits right in with the relativity gambit.

  13. Robby Bonfire says:

    Interesting how some of us may have been using "relativity" in our sales pitches without even realizing its power, until now, thanks to Mr. Ringer expanding upon the subject and ramming its powerful message home. For example, I have created a casino dice game I tell potential backers is a "better game than Craps and Backgammon," which it assuredly is – light years superior in every way.

    I go on to tell them that everyone who is a Craps or Backgammon playing professional, or casual hobbyist, playing my game ONE TIME, will never play those other games again, and that is a fact with no exceptions, ever.

    Best example of someone else using relativity to empower the sales pitch and obtaining the desired result is Brian Epstein telling record business executives and A & R people in England that "The Beatles will be bigger than Elvis Presley." So that at least one studio session producer, George Martin, got the picture.

    The qualifier here, if you are going to use relativity to make fantastic assertions and claims, is that you must be able to back yourself up, and not be perceived as a "carnival barker" or "huckster" if your claim fails to stand up, because to lose credibility is to completely lose your way and destroy your valued business world contacts.

  14. fghgfhfg says:


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