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Remembering Zig Ziglar – America’s # 1 Motivator

This morning we learned that Zig Ziglar passed away at the age of 86.

Zig ziglar psp

Zig Ziglar has been a positive thinker and professional motivator for many decades. His electrifying speeches had a reputation for drawing standing ovations and leaving audiences spellbound. And he relished every single word of his famous punch line, “You can get everything in life you want if you help other people get what they want.”

During our first interview I realized that Zig Ziglar was more than a motivator. He was a person with a strong, well-established guiding philosophy, one that had enduring value for everyone. Ziglar was his own best success story. It began in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He was born one of twelve children. His father died when he was five, leaving his mother with five kids too young to work.

He became one of the most successful cookware salesmen of all time but quit knocking on doors when he recognized his ability to motivate others. Here is a transcript of my first interview with Zig that was originally published in Sept 1982.

Q: In one of your speeches you mentioned that negative thinking is as common as the cold. Did you find a cure for negative thinking?

Ziglar: If you feed your mind with positive thoughts, if you are selective about the things that you choose to read, look at, or listen to, then you are taking effective action against negative thinking.

Q: So you are saying that there is a direct link between negative thinking and negative input and that people can become more selective about the input?

Ziglar: Absolutely.

Q: What is your definition of success?

Ziglar: I believe that you're successful when you've dealt with the physical, the mental and the spiritual man successfully. If I made millions and destroyed my health in the process, or if I become the best at what I do but neglect my family, I wouldn't call that success.

Q: One of your claims is that your attitudes in life determine ultimately how successful you become.

Ziglar: Yes. Dr. William James said the most important discovery of our time is the realization that by altering our attitudes we can alter our lives. There is also a Harvard University study that points out that 85 percent of the reason people are hired or get ahead in their jobs is directly related to their attitudes.

Q: I once read a magazine article about motivational speakers that stated, "Speakers are superficial on the subject of motivation - like cheerleaders at a high school rally. Thin on content, heavy on performance." How do you respond to that?

Ziglar: I think they are right on the button. A lot of people do leave without any real meat. Excitement, yes, but nothing they can chew on the next day.

As you know, the Bible is my great source, because God's plan deals with this dilemma: He never makes a promise unless he gives you a plan. This translates into the principle that motivation without direction is very frustrating. You need to have a plan in addition to the motivation. Motivation without a goal doesn't get you anywhere. Personally, I never make a promise in a book, a speech or a recording unless I give a plan so my reader or listener can achieve the promise.

Q: What is your theory of self-motivation? How do you develop it?

Ziglar: When I build a fire in my fireplace, it will burn for a while. Then I notice that there are no flames. It has died down. I get up and take my poker and shake up those logs. All of a sudden, we've got bright flames. Now, all I did was just poke them, which created some motion. The motion creates a partial vacuum and new air is pulled into the fireplace. With an additional supply of oxygen, the fire ignites, and now we've got a flame. If I hadn't done some poking, there would have been no flame.

Now, this business about all motivation being self-motivation is only partially true. You can choose among many different sources to rekindle your motivation. In other words, the environment you select and the people you associate with become large contributing factors.

Q: Do positive input and the positive attitude need to be supplemented with a sound business plan and professional skills?

Ziglar: Absolutely. Positive thinking is an optimistic hope, not necessarily based on any facts. Positive believing is the same optimistic hope, but this time based on a sound reason. Here is an example. It would be positive thinking if I said I could whip George Foreman. It would be an idiotic action if I tried to do it.

Q: I've heard many sales managers express doubts about the lasting value of a motivational seminar.

Ziglar: They're absolutely right! Motivation is not permanent. Neither is bathing. But if you bathe every day, you're going to smell good. Fifteen minutes a day of motivation from a good audiocassette or a book can make a tremendous difference in your life and give you a motivational lift every day.

Q: You said once that life is simple but not easy, and that too many people are looking for quick and easy solutions.

Ziglar: Right. I firmly believe that the best work is often done by people who don't feel like doing it.

Q: Why do you recommend that salespeople listen to your books on tape 16 times to completely absorb the full message?

Ziglar: There are several university studies revealing that two weeks after you've learned anything new, unless it's reinforced, you only remember about 4 percent of it. That's the first reason. The second reason is that while we are listening we may experience a certain mood, and our minds will seek out messages that relate to that particular mood. On another day, let's say you just made a sale; you'll be in a different mood, and a whole new range of messages of the same recording will become clear in your mind. So by listening 16 times, the odds are that you will have absorbed the entire content.

Q: Let's say I've listened 16 times to your tapes on motivation. Do I know then how to motivate myself?

Ziglar: Yes.

Q: Do I master the skills sufficiently so that I become independent of your recordings?

Ziglar: Only if you've been practicing the things we've been advocating. It's like driving a car. You don't learn to drive a car by watching.

Q: Can I graduate in self-motivation, ever?

Ziglar: I don't think so, and I don't think I've graduated, because I constantly read and constantly study. I think you could draw an analogy with eating. You can't graduate in eating. You need to continue to make choices about your input. The same is true with self-motivation. You need to continue to make choices about what level of self-motivation you want to maintain.

Q: Many salespeople have a tough time in this economy. What thoughts can you offer to approach these tough challenges more positively?

Ziglar: A good friend of mine, Calvin Hunt in Victoria, Texas, said, "You know, Zig, it's an absolute fact that when we are in an economic slump, 50 percent of all salespeople literally slow down rather than speed up their efforts. They are not motivated to do something. They lose that enthusiasm.

"Now," he continued, "when that happens, it simply means that if business is down 20 percent, but 50 percent of the salespeople are not nearly as active, your own personal prospect list is considerably higher than if there was no recession."

Q: And the winners still keep winning.

Ziglar: Absolutely. It's their discipline, their commitment to maintain a high level of motivation and their sense of direction that gets them to the top.

Tomorrow: Zig’s Keys to Sales Success and his most memorable quotes

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