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Born To Win

I have a large library of self-improvement and personal development books, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and digital audio and video computer files that I constantly refer to for inspiration, motivation, and guidance.  Among those items are cassette tapes and CDs that were produced by Zig Ziglar, one of the top motivational speakers in America.

Last week (on November 28), Zig died after suffering through a bout of pneumonia.  His real name was Hilary Hinton Ziglar.  He was the 10th of 12 children and was born on November 6, 1926.  His father died when Zig was five, and he was subsequently raised by his widowed mother in Yazoo City, Mississippi.  Zig was 86 years old at the time of his death.

Within hours of Zig’s death, there were numerous articles published on the Internet by all of the top news services and publications, including the Associated Press, Reuters news service, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Business Week, Fortune magazine, Forbes magazine, Success magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor.

Zig started out as a salesman.  In the 1950s, he began speaking to sales groups, and although he enjoyed motivating others through his speeches, he wasn’t able to turn it into a full-time business until the early 1970s, when he was in his mid-40s.

According to Zig, the turning point in his life was in 1972 when he became a born-again Christian.  In an interview that he did in 2002 with Brian Lamb on the C-SPAN  “Booknotes” program, Zig said that the philosophy of his company, Zig Ziglar, Inc., was “built around the concept that you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.  That works in your personal life, your physical life.  It works in corporate America.  It works in government.  It works everywhere.” Zig’s philosophy was modeled after the biblical principle Love your neighbor as yourself.

Here are some of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes:

• People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.

• Remember that failure is an event, not a person.

• It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.

• There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.

• The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.

• If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.

• You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.

• Expect the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Capitalize on what comes.

During his lifetime, Zig wrote 28 books and produced countless audio recordings on motivation, self-improvement, success, patriotism, and family values.  Two of his books highlighted his faith: Confessions of a Happy Christian (1978) and Confessions of a Grieving Christian (1998), which he wrote after his oldest daughter, Suzan Witmeyer, died at the age of 46 from pulmonary fibrosis.  Zig often said that his mother taught him to “smile” through setbacks and grief.

In 2007, Zig suffered a brain injury after he fell down a flight of stairs.  In an effort to help others, Zig and one of his other daughters, Julie Norman, wrote Embrace the Struggle, a book that covered what he went through after the injury.

Zig’s last book, Born To Win, was released in April, 2011.  Here’s what one reviewer had to say about the book on

Zig Ziglar poured it all into this one.  He even indicates this is his last book as he has reached his twlight years.  When a man that came from nothing, became a successful salesman, then business owner, raised a family, and went to become a millionaire decides to put every lesson learned into a book, I am buying.

In what reads as a farewell book from a man with not much time left, this book is a success manual, a journal, a bio, and entertainment.  Loaded with one-liner wisdoms.  Stories of agony.  Stories of victory.  Business practices.  Childhood lessons.  And entertaining from start to finish.

A keeper so I got the audio and hardcopy.  Have listened to it twice already.

After hearing about Zig’s death, Jack Graham, the pastor of Zig’s church, Prestonwood Baptist Church, said, “He was positive.  He was hopeful.  You just never heard negativity from Zig Ziglar.  It wasn’t just something he did on a platform.  This was who he was.  This is how he lived his life.  And he helped so many people.  He was a leader of leaders and a mentor of mentors and all that you can say.”

In one of the first Zig Ziglar tape sets that I purchased (in the 1980s), I remember him talking about his wife, Jean, whom he always referred to as “the Redhead.”  He talked about the importance of making the extra effort and always seeking to understand your spouse, despite any differences that may arise.  At home, he called her “Sugar Baby.”  On the Monday before he died, Zig and Jean celebrated 66 years of marriage.  They had four children – one son and three daughters.  Zig was first and foremost a family man.

During his prime, Zig appeared on stage at the “Success” and “Get Motivated” events that were put on in cities throughout the United States.  Some of the events included former U.S. presidents and even former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.  Attendance at the events ranged from 10,000 to 50,000 people.

I wish we had more leaders like Zig Ziglar – in government, in business, in the media, in our educational institutions, and in all the families throughout America.

Zig’s life wasn’t only about motivating people.  His message was what is at the core of Christianity.  It is a message about inspiring people to reach their full potential, a message about helping people to develop confidence in themselves, a message about loving God and teaching others how to love their neighbors the same way they love themselves.

I don’t know if Zig realized it, but the title to his last book, Born To Win, was a perfect representation of what his Savior’s birth was all about.  On that first Christmas day over 2000 years ago, a God-man was born to win salvation for all mankind.

We can learn a lot from Christians like Zig Ziglar – Christians who practice what they preach and teach others how to lead exemplary lives.  And we can emulate them by becoming Christian leaders ourselves.

The world is a better place because of Zig Ziglar.  May he rest in peace.

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