One Egg or Two?

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Robert Ringer


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.

28 responses to “One Egg or Two?”

  1. texas wolfie says:

    That's how Tom Sawyer got his fence painted, exactly.

  2. Tom says:

    I just turned 73, I have been hitting myself in the head for most of that time. If I had a brain I suppose I would stop, but I think I have knocked my brains out. Oh well, I'm sure it is all relative, or so Albert and Robert say so.

  3. Scott theczech says:

    I'm constantly preaching the perspective gospel…mainly as a reminder to myself! Thanks for the reminder Robert.

  4. Robert D says:

    I am sure you have read it but in case others have not the best book I have read on human psychology and resulting sales behavior is Robert Ciadini's "Influence" if people here have more interest in the topic of persuasion and sales even a few chapters of that book is mind expanding.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Thanks for the reference tip. I have not heard of that book, but will look it up.

      • Paul Herring says:

        With respect to Robert Cialdini, the author of "Influence", I wouldn't bother. I read it some years ago and found it to be of very little value. It said nothing really useful apart from everyday commonsense things.

        Having been in insurance sales for 25 years I'm always looking for an edge and hoped "Influence" would deliver it. It didn't.

        • Gordon Shumway says:

          You're the first person I've heard say that. It seems every message board and comment section can't praise this guy enough. Since you've been in sales for 25 years and probably have quite a bit of insight I was wondering what your top 2 or 3 would be?

  5. larajf says:

    One of my favorite scenes from Young Frankenstein was in the graveyard.
    "It could be worse…it could be raining!"
    cue thunder.

    So yes, it could always be worse, be grateful for what you have where you are, but don't tempt fate either :-)

  6. Rick G says:

    Whenever I have a life issue or problem, I always try to put it a new perspective by saying or thinking that it could be worse, a lot worse. Sometimes I look at what has happened to someone else and I ask myself, "Do you want that problem or do you want yours? I nearly always choose mine and it makes it all appear to be better and not so bad at all.

  7. Ivan says:

    My freedom of choice tells me to pick not 1 nor 2 eggs, so I chose non of the above. Personally I don't like eggs in my malt. My human nature tells me to have personal freedom in my life and choices. Putting politics and the western world aside, I think most folks aspire to have personal freedom of what to do and be. When choosing freedom to be ourselves, and compete with ourselves, we will shine who we were meant to be.

    • Bruce says:

      Personal freedoms are quite different than personal choice. People make bad choices because they think they have the freedom to pick and choose whatever THEY want. The choice to be obese, to smoke or to just abuse things that are bad for you and others is OK because it is my decision. Is it OK for a woman to choose her right or freedom to abort an unborn child. Just saying — too many freedoms can be destructive without some control in place

      • James Parker says:

        Personal freedoms and personal choice are inexorably connected. Reducing an inidividual's choices — even if one deems those choices "bad" — is introducing a limit on that individual's freedom. Excluding cases where an action would either violate a contract or create a tort, no individual's freedom or choices may ethically be restricted. Further, in cases which would violate a contract or create a tort, actions to restrict choices and/or demand compensation from the violator may ethically be triggered only with the explicit assent of the one being violated — that is, a third party (usually a "government" entity) may not ethically restrict the supposed "violator" in any way.

  8. sixxfingers says:

    Same thing applies to time. When you're having a blast, it goes too fast. When you're bored, minutes seem like hours.

    The very last sentence also applies to the Constitution, in the sense that it is NOT a living document that can be ignored or reinterpreted simply because it's 228 years old and civilization has advanced so much in that time.

  9. Jim Hallett says:

    I enjoyed the reference to the Groucho Marx quip, as he was one of my favorite comedians of all time. The Elmer Wheeler reference (sell the sizzle and not the steak) reminded me of my brief days selling encyclopedias door-to-door as my first job on moving to San Francisco in 1974. He and Maxwell Maltz, Napoleon Hill, David Schwartz (The Magic of Thinking Big), and W. Clement Stone were my mentors. I hated the job (only did it for 3 months), but was so thankful for the exposure to all these great minds, and I have read many more in the years since. Sure beats the typical minimum wage job where you learn almost NOTHING useful, other than customer service skills if you manage to pick them up. And since it was a straight commission job as well, one learns quite quickly what it means to produce, as otherwise you are not eating or simply munching on Ramen noodles! Good lessons. I wish some of our politicians would learn the "one egg or two" marketing approach, since many of the assumptions presented by the "progressive" clowns are not valid at all, and the choices could be presented in such a way that their evil agenda is in the "None of the Above" category. Things like how many regulations should we discard today – two or three – instead of the usual, "We need more govt. regulations."

  10. GW-Montana says:

    It is called "assuming the close". a famous guy named Tom Hopkins made millions in real estate sales by knowing this one tactic. Great stuff Robert!

    • "Yuge" Ringer fan says:

      Tom Hopkins' book "How to Master the Art of Selling" is my second most favorite book ever,
      right behind Mr. Ringer's book "Winning through Intimidation". Love these writers!

      • Jim Hallett says:

        I agree, as I was also in investment real estate and found the book and a subsequent TH seminar to be very valuable.

  11. Greg says:

    This may seem a bit off-the-point, but why "order" an egg if you don't want one?

    Seems to me that this characterizes the so called right all too often. People take an egg because they want to "be nice". Since when are you obligated to cave in to pushy waiters?

    The Dems are offering one egg or two as a principle. The so called right all too often says one egg, please! No wonder we are in such a state that we are in.

    You guys can stop hitting yourself on the head now. Don't you feel better?

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Your point is valid, Greg (see my comment above RE: politicians and making the egg choice fall into the None of the Above category). We as consumers are always in control, but from a marketing perspective, it is undeniable that one can increase sales by giving people two choices, both of which are favorable to the marketer. As to our progressively-destroyed country, we have been convinced by both parties that govt. is the solution, so the more govt. the more solutions, when the EXACT OPPOSITE is actually true. Govt. is immoral, incompetent, and inefficient, and EVERYTHING they do is made worse by their involvement.

  12. One egg or two?

    That's the same psychological mind-game executed on a smaller scale as played by every collectivist politician on a grander scale, e.g., would you like one form of socialism or communism?

    Would you like more taxes or much more taxes?

    Would you like Obamacare or Trumpcare?

    Would you like to add to the national debt a half-trillon or a trillion?

    Would you vote for a Republican president or the Democratic candidate to let Goldman Sachs run the US Treasury?

    However, the psychological mind-game go even further. The following is an interesting perspective on how the ignorant, immoral masses are total cowed.

    Theodore Dalrymple:

    Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.

    When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.

    A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

  13. Rock roach says:

    What is really amazing is that democrats complain about an across the board tax cut (as something that only helps the Rich), but the 9th circuit supports sanctuary cities and all the riff raff that goes along with that.(like free health care,food stamps,not protecting borders,and more crime)

  14. Fred A. says:

    Looking at things from many angles gives us a better understanding.
    Inviting another to consider a specific given facet of reality is always a valuable skill.

  15. TN Ray says:

    I believe most successful salespeople are naturally adept at using psychology when dealing with clients. In the case of one egg, or two, the resulting sale is harmless and just plain good use of psychology. I enjoy seeing salespeople use initiative when selling, as long as their sales objectives are honorable. That would exclude most timeshare salespeople and politicians of course.

  16. Jose Jackson says:

    Glad to see you Robert staying in shape, a sharp mind and fit body;, we need your types to warn us of the wicked. evil dems and repubs. Let the flyover deplorables reign!

  17. sharewarepot says:

    Very interesting posting,,

  18. fred says:

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