Farewell Zig ZiglarCommentary by Bob McTeer
December 02, 2012
Motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, died last week at the age of 86. He will be missed, but he left a legacy of pithy wisdom and good advice in the form of books, tapes and videos.
I used to be a sucker for motivational speakers, but Zig Ziglar was one of the few I ever met in the flesh. I needed the motivation, but I was also interested in their speaking styles since I did lots of the other kind of speaking in my job. I once attended a meeting run by another motivational speaker friend to bring together speakers with corporate people looking to book them for events. When I walked in the door, one of them greeted me loudly (they are all loud) with a “Are you a speaker or a seeker?” I wanted to learn to be a better speaker, but I was there under the false pretence of being a seeker.
I always figured I might have made it as a motivational speaker if only I had a name like Zig Ziglar, although I learned from the local newspaper that his real name was Hilary Hinton Ziglar. I could have changed my name too, but I don’t think Zig McTeer would have been very catchy.
Not only did Zig have the name for the job, but he had the right early career, selling pots and pans. I was introduced to him following a performance by a colleague of mine who used to sell pots and pans with him. Really. Contrary to all the testimonials I’ve read, when he climbed down from the platform to greet me, he did seem to shift personas. He geared it down, so to speak.
Part of his shtick, of course, was corn pone and not re-usable by his listeners. One example I recall from that day was his story about becoming a runner to lose weight and get healthy. He said that before then his idea of exercise was to fill the bath tub with water, pull the plug, and try to swim upstream. I’ve never been able to use it, but I remembered it.
While I met Zig only once, I did spot him at lunch another day at our neighborhood Luby’s, a cafeteria. He was with his wife, whom he always referred to as, “the redhead.” Actually, what he called her was “decided redhead,” meaning that she decided one day to become a redhead.
Rumor had it that Zig and the redhead had deliberately moved to a house convenient to that Luby’s. Frankly, I don’t believe that rumor, but it did cause me to think about the pros and cons of such a move for myself. I gave that thought up when that Luby’s replaced all their chairs that had wheels for chairs without wheels. I missed the wheels, but, more importantly, it was a reminder that if they can change the wheels they can change anything, or even move or go out of business. Then where would you be?
Motivational speakers like Zig give you gobs of good advice and words of wisdom, but we select and retain only the ones that resonate with us and might be of some significance or use. For example, I had been interested in speaking since my high school debate days; so, I was ready for his message when he said “Compared to the spoken word, a picture is a pitiful thing indeed.”
Another powerful Ziglar message that stuck with me was “You can’t make it as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific.” From that seed, I developed my own rule: “Put your goals on your calendar as activities.” I had found myself making lists of goals, but making little progress achieving them. This was especially true of New Years resolutions.
Of course, most goals can’t be accomplished with one or two activities scheduled on a calendar, which led to a corollary rule: “beaver chip.” The beaver has to make a lot of chips before he cuts through the log. Divide your goals into manageable bites.
I haven’t gone back to find Ziglar quotes for this, but I think I remember a couple more fairly accurately. One was his advice to “stay away from stinking thinking people.” Another was “They don’t build statues to negative people,” or something like that. Anyway, those stuck with me because of the millions of meetings I’ve had to endure over the years. Every meeting contained at least one person whose goal was apparently to shoot down every positive suggestion anyone makes. That led me to write down, years ago, my own version: “Some people find fault like there is a reward for it.”
If you ever see a Zig Ziglar book on the sale rack, buy it. One nugget might just change your life.