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Snake Oil Salesman – Personality VS Character

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like reveal the origins of snake oil salesman and how that relates to the difference between personality and character, and, why character is much more critical to success and happy relationships than personality.

First a quick update:

“4 Ways To Rekindle The Fire In Your Relationship”
“My specific request was to learn about short, simple exercises that any couple could do together to strengthen their bond. Here’s what [Patrick Wanis] recommended, along with my personal experience implementing them. They might come across hokey, but they also worked.”

Now, let’s talk about the origins of snake oil salesman and how that relates to the difference between personality and character, and, why character is much more critical to success and happy relationships than personality.

In the 1890s in America, Clark Stanley became famous for his “Snake Oil Liniment” which he advertised as:

“A wonderful pain destroying compound…the strongest and best liniment known for the cure of all pain and lameness…used external only…for rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica, lame back, lumbago, contracted muscles, toothache, sprains, swellings, etc….immediate relief!”

Stanley was a charismatic man (and former cowboy) who marketed his product at Western medicine shows. During the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Stanley, dressed in colorful clothes, entranced onlookers as he slaughtered hundreds of rattlesnakes and then squeezed their bodies to produce the “Snake Oil Liniment.”

An ad for Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment

Of course, like all traveling salesmen of the era, Stanley would leave town before anyone could respond or attest to the actual validity of his “Snake Oil Liniment.”

Eventually, in 1917, following the Food and Drug Act of 1906, Stanley was fined $20 when his product was analyzed and it was revealed there was no snake oil at all and it primarily consisted of mineral oil plus camphor, turpentine and red pepper.

Stanley was found to be a charlatan, and thus “snake oil salesman” became the term for hoax, charlatan, fraud or quack.

How did Clark Stanley succeed in duping people?

His personality was persuasive and influential; he was charismatic, put on a great show, and knew how to sell to people.

His character, on the other hand was lacking: he was willing to lie and to cheat and defraud people.

“The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” – Thomas Babington Macauley (1800-1859)

This is the difference between personality and character.

“A person of character lives by set, certain and immovable standards.” -Nicholas Von Hoffman

Personality is:
the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual: it is the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics.

Personality is the external appearance of a person. Thus, it can be fabricated or natural, a pretense or real.

Personality is like a mask which can be changed or adapted according to one’s circumstances; character, though, is the moral and ethical component of a person – it does not adapt or change for convenience or expedience.

Character is the inner values that determine outer actions.

Character cannot be camouflaged, altered or masked like personality can be. Character is the transparent and true inner nature of a person that evolves from the choices one makes in life.

Unfortunately, we are duped and deceived easily by the snake oil salesman because we fall for the emotional appeal of one’s personality versus the structure and makeup of their character.

In other words, we get sucked in by the words and emotions of the salesperson rather than taking serious note of their actions – their values, morals and ethics.

Who is this ‘salesperson’?

It is everyone in your life.
It can be a politician, a literal salesperson, a boyfriend, girlfriend, colleague, associate, client or friend.

The more credence we have given to TV reality stars (and others in the public eye) who have obviously extremely low morals and values, the more we are saying that personality is more important than character. In fact, by promoting, glamorizing and almost worshipping people with poor character, we are progressively eradicating the need to include the quality of character in our daily choices in life.

This explains why in America, voters are faced with the 2 choices for the President of the most powerful nation on earth – a man with poor character and, a woman with poor character.

“Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow.” – Elias Boudinot (President of Congress, writing to his daughter – October 30, 1872)

Too many people have been fooled into thinking that character isn’t relevant until, they reap the consequences of poor character, of low morality and bad values.

We see them on a grand scale in the form of lies, corruption, fraud, abuse, violence, betrayal and so forth. We pay for those consequences either as direct victims or as indirect victims – increased prices & fees (to make up the shortfall of corruption & fraud) or personal anxiety over the lack of certainty and unity in society.

Good character refers to a person who does what is right, sets a good example, makes the world a better place and lives by the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship –

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” -Abraham Lincoln

Thus, if you want to avoid falling for the snake oil salesman, don’t be tempted by his charisma or promises – look beyond the mask – look deeper into his/her heart and actions.

“To measure the man, measure his heart.” -Audrey Hepburn

Also read

“Sow an act…reap a habit; Sow a habit…reap a character; Sow a character…reap a destiny.” – George Dana Boardman (1801-1831 – American missionary)

If you need assistance to make better choices and be free from the past, book a one-on-one session with me.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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