Zig Ziglar became a world-famous author and motivational speaker. He suffered personal tragedies, but he had a special ability to cast a positive light on those tragedies. He shared his methods with the world, offering comfort and inspiration.
I've always taught that a poor economy is the best opportunity for salespeople because the naysayers and grumblers have already given up, leaving more territory, more opportunities to be successful than in a good economy when virtually all salespeople are out there, giving it their best.
Hilary Hinton Ziglar was born prematurely on November 6, 1926, in Coffee County, Alabama, to John Silas Ziglar and his wife, Lila. Nine days later, the family doctor declared that baby Ziglar died, but the infant came back to life in his grandmother's arms.
In 1931, Ziglar's father was hired to manage a farm in Mississippi. Tragically, one year later, he died of a stroke, leaving Zig's mother Lila to raise twelve children on her own in Yazoo City, Mississippi, during the Great Depression. To make matters worse, Ziglar's younger sister died two days after their father's death.
Ziglar remembered the first Christmas after his father died. The children imagined they would have a terrible holiday, but their mother gave each child a box filled with English walnuts and something exotic that they had never tasted before - raisins. She read the Christmas story to her children, as she had done in years past. Ziglar's mother kept the magic of Christmas alive for her children - even in the worst of times.
During his grade school years, Ziglar sold peanuts to earn extra money; as an adolescent he worked as a grocery clerk.
After graduating from high school, Ziglar joined the U.S. Navy and started college under a navy training program.
In the late 1940s, Ziglar took a full-time position in Lancaster, South Carolina, selling cookware for the WearEver Aluminum Company. A supervisor from Tennessee encouraged Ziglar, telling him that he had the potential to be a great salesman. Ziglar took this supervisor's encouragement to heart, he worked hard, and he was soon promoted to field manager and divisional manager. As he later said, "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."
He spent the next couple of decades in sales, learning how to encourage and motivate others. He observed, "Selling is something we do for our clients - not to our clients."
By 1968, Ziglar was a vice president and training director for the Automotive Performance Company in Dallas, Texas. He learned from experience that, "Selling is essentially a transfer of feelings."
Ziglar was doing well in his career, but to his mother's disappointment he did not accept Christ into his life during these years.
Ziglar met his future wife, Jean, in 1944, when they were both teenagers. They married two years later, in 1946, and they had four children.
Ziglar believed in the importance of a stable, loving home environment, in addition to a successful career. He said, "I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can't truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles."
At home, Ziglar often answered his telephone by introducing himself as "Jean Ziglar's happy husband." His pet names for her were "Sugar Baby" and "Redhead."
At the age of 45, Ziglar accepted Christ into his life.
Ziglar lost his daughter, Suzan, to lung disease in 1995. He said, "I am so thankful I had the strength and promises of a loving God to guide my choices and decisions, and to uphold me through the unbelievably dark days and times of overwhelming sorrow. I am reluctant to even think how I might have handled such an experience before I had committed my life to Christ, and trusted Him with my days and hours." He also wrote about this tragic loss in his book, "Confessions of a Grieving Christian."
In 1970, Ziglar decided to leave his career in sales and become a full-time motivational speaker. He was originally billed as H. H. Ziglar, but before long he switched to the nickname "Zig." Audiences loved his inspirational turns of phrase, such as, "Confidence Is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you," and, "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."
While traveling and speaking, Ziglar wrote his first book, "See You at the Top." The manuscript was rejected by 30 publishers before it was finally accepted and published by Pelican. It had respectable sales and remains in print in the early twenty-first century.
In 2001, Ziglar received the Cavett Award from the National Speakers Association. This award is given annually to a speaker who has brought honor to the profession of public speaking and who shows his willingness to mentor others.
Ziglar maintained a Wall of Gratitude in his Dallas offices. The first portrait was of Ziglar's mother. Others included teachers, surrogate fathers, business leaders, authors, and inspirational speakers. Ziglar offered this advice to everyone: "All one needs to do is read - books, magazines, research the Internet - and pay attention to the influencers in their lives to discover the myriad people of strong moral character who have and still are making positive, meaningful contributions and differences in our world."
Ziglar motivated himself to lose weight, after taking full responsibility for his lack of fitness. He said, "For 24 years of my adult life, by choice I weighed well over 200 pounds. I say 'by choice' because I have never 'accidentally' eaten anything, so when I choose to eat too much, I have chosen to weigh too much."
Always looking for a positive spin, Ziglar referred to his bedside alarm clock as his "opportunity clock."
In 2007, Ziglar fell down a flight of stairs. This accident robbed him of his short-term memory. Despite this setback, he continued to participate in seminars and he read enthusiastically. He once wrote, "I read for the 'ah-ha's,' the information that makes a light bulb go off in my mind. I want to put information in my mind that is going to be the most beneficial to me, my family and my fellow man, financially, morally, spiritually, and emotionally."
He and his wife, Jean, moved to Plano, Texas, where he lived contentedly until he died of pneumonia on November 28, 2012.
With more than a touch of sarcasm and mischief, Ziglar once said, "New research shows that you will be dead longer than you will be alive." His point, of course, was that we should make the most of what time we have here on Earth. Zig Ziglar certainly lived up to that ideal.