An Afternoon with Zig Ziglar

My friend and mentor Zig Ziglar passed away today. I thank God for his life. Following is an article I wrote in October 2010 about my last visit with him.

We all need good mentors to help us grow as leaders. Like many of you, I have been positively influenced by Zig Ziglar’s messages of motivation and inspiration over the decades. Zig has written twenty-nine books and continues to inspire audiences around the world. I will always be grateful to Zig for endorsing my first book, Selling Above the Crowd, way back in 1998, when I was an unknown author and unable to get the attention of a major publisher. John Maxwell introduced me to Zig, and I instantly knew I had found a mentor to help guide my personal and professional life.

Zig Ziglar suffered a tumble down seventeen stairs in his home three years ago that left him with a brain injury and severe short-term memory loss. He no longer is able to give keynote speeches, but instead brilliantly communicates with audiences in an interview format with his daughter, Julie. Rhonda and I recently had the chance to spend an afternoon with Zig and his family at their headquarters in Dallas. I had been invited to give the Monday morning devotionals for Ziglar employees and invited guests, and to then present a webcast from their production studio to their thousands of subscribers around the globe.

Zig is now eighty-four and has been married to his incredible wife, Jean, for over sixty years! We had lunch at their residence with their children Tom and Julie, who help run their business. As Zig shared wisdom over a great meal, I found it difficult to concentrate on the food! Here are some of the gems I want to share with you from my time with this terrific leader:

“People tell me that they’ve heard I’ve retired. I tell them, ‘Friend, you’ve misunderstood. I haven’t retired, I’ve been re-fired! I’m not going to let up, slow up, give up, or back up, until I’m taken up! In fact, I’m getting ready to step up!'”

“You have to embrace the struggles in your life and live life on its terms. Wherever there is struggle, there is life.”

“I read at least three hours every day. But I read from people who have something to say, because they’ve actually done something.”

“Dave, you and I were smart enough to marry way over our heads. Our wives were in the top half of our classes, and we were in the half that made their half possible! But our ‘home court’ advantage-a happy marriage-gives us the edge when we’re away from home doing our work.”

“I have a wall of gratitude in my office where I display photographs of people who have helped me and taught me throughout my life. Not all of these people were close friends, but I was able to learn from them, and for that, I am grateful.”

“Whenever I autograph a book, I include a Bible verse. It is my life verse: Romans 8:28. It says that all things work out for good for those who love God. For years I talked to others about this to encourage them as they were struggling. For the past three years, I’ve personally experienced the power of these words as I work through my own struggles.”

“I have so little to complain about that I’m not going to complain about any of it.”

Zig Ziglar is a national treasure. I highly recommend his book, Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life’s Terms. It details life since his brain injury, and supplies encouragement and strategies for leading yourself and others through struggles.

Special Note: You might enjoy this recentlly-found footage of an interview I did with Zig Ziglar at his Dallas offices in 2010. It was one of the last public appearances Zig made. It runs 16 minutes and includes outtakes; no edits. The footage is rare. I believe you and your team will be inspired by his words. Click here to view.