December 5, 2012

Mark Millican: Zig left behind a great body of work

One of the great ones left us in late November.

Zig Ziglar, a master motivator in the field of human potential, passed away at age 86 from pneumonia. He was still touring the country and speaking to audiences until a couple of years ago with the help of his daughter, according to some news accounts.

A couple of decades ago after I read one of Ziglar’s early books, “See You at the Top” — which was in the small but eclectic library of the Times-Courier newspaper in Ellijay — and listened to some cassette tapes with his distinctive speaking style, I just had to hear the guy live. Then I learned he was going to be in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and made my way up there, providentially scoring a ticket right before the event.

Ziglar spoke that day about his daughter who had passed away just a couple of weeks prior, and his son. After the audience got over being stunned from the announcement, it was obvious that even with a father’s broken heart he felt he had something to share — tell your children you love them and let them know how much they mean to you while you still have time.

I became a disciple of this man’s motivational messages and went to see him speak again at “Success Unlimited” events in Atlanta and Knoxville, even getting to meet him at one venue. An online source called breakingchristiannews.com reported Ziglar was the 10th of 12 children, and after serving in World War II tried his hand in sales. He was unsuccessful for quite awhile, then had a breakthrough and became a vice president and sales training director. But it was when Ziglar took the stage with his unmistakable voice that he relayed his passion that each person can be successful if they work hard, apply themselves to a goal and keep the right attitude.

And he was unabashed in his faith. Ziglar believed each person was endowed by God with a unique set of skills, talents, abilities and gifts that — if developed and utilized — could influence and impact the part of the world where they were placed. It was toward this end that he factored unselfishness and humility into the equation, saying, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Perhaps his best known quote was, “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it.” But he could also be disarming. To wit: “Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.” And he further opined of the home front: “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.”

Ziglar was a master in intonation and timing but also had a way of holding onto the last syllable at the end of a sentence for emphasis. He did meticulous research and once said he put three hours of study into each hour he spent onstage. I think it’s sad that many of the younger generation today didn’t even recognize his name on Internet news sites on the occasion of his passing. But after all, his heyday on the motivational scene was 20 to 30 years ago. There are some Ziglar clips online. One I found on YouTube.com is a 9-minute classic, “Attitude makes all the difference.” His Facebook page contains more clips and dozens upon dozens of tributes.

Closing out with a Ziglar quote is really hard because there are so many good ones, so would you allow me two? The first is humorous, the second more practical.

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

“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.”

Thanks, Zig, for showing us that being successful doesn’t mean one has to sell their soul. They can, in fact, give it away and still win in the end.

Mark Millican is a former staff writer of The Daily Citizen.

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