Motivational speaker, author and corporate trainer Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar died yesterday in Plano, Texas, “after a short bout with pneumonia.” He was 86. The erstwhile cookware salesman was a “man of a million motivational maxims who bucked up and cheered on three generations of Willy Lomans over a 40-year international speaking career,” Mark A. Kellner writes in The Washington Times.
Under the hed “Waging a Crusade Against Stinkin' Thinkin',” the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Miller writes, “a traffic signal, to Mr. Ziglar, was a ‘go light,’ the morning alarm was an ‘opportunity clock’ and every setback could be a steppingstone.”
Ziglar wrote “more than 29 books” –- 10 of them bestsellers -- including See You at the Top and Over the Top, according to his official bio. He has appeared with many notables, including six presidents, has been featured on everything from “60 Minutes” to the “Phil Donahue Show” and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including The National Speakers Association Council of Peers Award for Excellence.
See You At The Top was rejected by 30 firms before a small Louisiana publishing house published it in 1975, according to Kellner, and it went on to sell more than a quarter of a million copies and remains.
A 1972 recording of a speech Ziglar delivered titled “Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles” is described as “perhaps the definitive work of his career.” Introduced as a man who has “won everything from dollars to Lincoln Continentals in sales contests,” the 60-minute exhortation “lays out a plan for living a balanced and fulfilling life, teaching us that we can have everything in life we want if we will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Kevin Kruse picks his Top 10 Ziglar maxims in Forbes, with No. 1 being “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”
Ziglar not only built a cult following along the way but also a vibrant company. The 17 other speakers who preach "The Ziglar Way" in trainings and seminars for corporations, small businesses and individuals include his son Tom, and daughter, Julie Ziglar Norman. His daughter Cindy Oates and granddaughter Katherine Lemons are also involved with the business.
“I can tell anyone who asks, with confidence, that Zig Ziglar, my grandfather, is who he is in public and private,” says Lemons, who is director of planning at Ziglar Inc.
Confidence is, of course, a key component of The Ziglar Way -- “a continuous stream of motivation and retention devices” that contains three basic elements for success: “Skill,” “Will” and “Refill.” Clients have included thousands of small and mid-sized businesses, Fortune 500 companies, U.S. government agencies, churches, schools, direct-selling companies, and non-profit associations, according to the company’s website.
Here’s William Yardley’s lede in the New York Times:
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude. Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile and a grateful heart. There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.
“Be grateful. Believe. Try.
“Zig Ziglar said so, over and over and over, and he made a fine living doing it.”
According the Wall Street Journal’s Miller, “If his hokey presentation sometimes inspired laughs, that was part of the ‘Zigmanship’ package of keeping a positive outlook.” And “if his books and tapes seemed repetitive, it was no accident. ‘People often say that motivation doesn't last,’ Mr. Ziglar liked to say. ‘Well, neither does bathing -- that's why we recommend it daily.’”
Funeral arrangements are pending, according to the Washington Times, but Ziglar’s Facebook page tells us “the angels in heaven are rejoicing and his family is celebrating a life well lived.”
Ziglar, a devout Christian, is survived by his wife, Jean, to whom he was married for more than 65 years, according to a package of articles and videos put together by the Dallas Morning News.
“I’ve always believed that when you get married, you’re supposed to court the person you married forever,” he told the paper’s Ruth Haesemeyer in a reflective piece published in February.
The World War II Navy veteran was the tenth of 12 children born to a farming family in Coffee County, L.A., or “Lower Alabama,” as Ziglar was fond of saying, and he was raised in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
But "where you start is not nearly as important as where you finish,” Ziglar also said. “Many people don't realize it, but you can start in Yazoo City and go anywhere in the world you want to go. The neat thing is, the maximum distance to any place you wish to go is only 12,000 miles.”
And the gift of gab can get you there.