Zig Ziglar Gave Me Confidence When No One Believed in Me

Zig Ziglar
Motivational speaker, author and well-known Christian leader, Zig Ziglar died yesterday, and the world is a little bit emptier for the loss.  I am just one of the millions who was influenced by Zig.  In fact, he changed my life. I was fortunate enough to meet him and spend a few days with him and his team at a "Born to Win" conference back in 1983 in Dallas, TX. 

Having worked in direct sales for half of my adult life, I attended scores of motivational seminars.  I've seen and heard the best of the best.  I learned from all of them.  But NONE of them changed my life or had the impact of Ziglar.  Was it because he was so much better than the others?  Probably not.  But my connection and encounter with Zig came when I needed it the most.  And it was life changing.

What a legacy he leaves.

To illustrate Zig Ziglar's impact on one little life in Maryland imagine a young mother aged twenty, a mother who has made some poor choices, who is married to a compulsive gambler.  She is lonely. She hungers for recognition. She starts to sell Tupperware for extra cash but struggles getting people to buy.  Her lack of social skills and self confidence is mirrored by the insensitive advice and jibes from family and friends who remark that she'll never be successful selling anything.  What's her dream?  A little house with a yard where the kids can play, maybe a dog, a garden, a place where the Christmas tree always goes, a warm kitchen with a table where meals are shared - in short - a home.  

That young mother was me.  And listening to motivational tapes by Zig Ziglar helped me hold on to that dream when no one believed in me.

I won my first set of Ziglar audio cassettes in a sales contest.  Those tapes were playing the day I packed all my possessions up  - the day before the sheriff came to evict us from our apartment.  I was twenty years old and six months pregnant with my second child. I had an adorable little toddler who was eighteen months old at the time.  A few days earlier when I found the eviction notice taped to our door. My husband admitted he'd lost all his money gambling and not paid the rent for several months.  We had no where to live and no where to go where we could remain together as a family.  I was devastated.

While I packed those possessions into boxes the Ziglar tapes were my background music.  Zig's  positive messages distracted me from the panic of having no home for my children. His words helped me focus on moving forward, not look at the defeat.  I can't remember what was on those particular tapes.  What is clear in my memory is how I felt, the empty rooms, the boxes, my son playing on the floor and the cool white vinyl cover of that six-tape package.  I also remember thinking that it was going to be okay.  Zig said so.

I delivered a baby boy three months later and after about a year, we managed to patch our life back together and get another apartment.  I got most of my sales training from the Ziglar tapes, and I became one of the top sales people in my company.  I was making a little bit of money, too. We even won a trip to Hawaii.  Zig's tapes were my constant companions.  Though I had tapes from other trainers and speakers, the Ziglar tapes delivered an impact like no other.

In 1983 we moved into a town house, and I saved enough money to go to Dallas and attend the Born to Win seminar put on by Zig Ziglar.  I don't recall the details of the sessions there, but I do remember that I made good friends and that I came home changed.  I returned home able to look my fears in the face.  I knew my marriage was dead.  My husband was addicted to gambling and with that addiction came lying and financial pressures. He was becoming violent.  Somehow I gathered the nerve to tell him I wanted a divorce.

The next months were very hard.   He pressured me, he abused me, he stalked me.  But he finally left.  I knew that losing him would mean I'd lose my home again and have to start all over with the boys in a small apartment.  It would mean paying for daycare, being alone and still dealing with the ex's drama.  But I stuck to my guns and knew I'd face this now or face it later.  The seminar helped me see things clearly and inspired me to act.

Two weeks after he finally left, I discovered I was pregnant. I confided in people I trusted searching for advice on what to do. A priest after hearing my circumstances admitted he understood why some women choose to have abortions, though he didn't advocate having one.  No one had advice that resonated. 

I was pro-life.  I'd had an abortion when I was seventeen, and at the time was convinced it was the right thing to do. I felt no guilt.  But when I gave birth to my first child ... call it a revelation, epiphany, insight, a a deep sense of knowing -whatever - I knew that abortion was just wrong as soon as I held him.  How do we know when these precious little lives begin?  Who can say?  Shouldn't we give life the benefit of the doubt? 

What a conundrum. I was pregnant. I had two small children, both in day care. I had a dangerous ex-husband who was already stalking me and looking for anything he could leverage to get back in our life.  How could I keep three kids in day-care when I couldn't afford two?  My income was spotty as my earnings were 100% commission.  If I failed financially, my ex would swoop in, claim the children and move in with his family.  I could lose everything.

Abortion would have been such an easy solution.

In the throws of this decision making, I received a letter from a Texan I'd met at the Born to Win seminar.  He gave updates on his family in the letter, and he offered concern and prayers regarding my family troubles which I'd shared with him.  The simple closure to his letter read,  Romans 8:28  Good things come to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.   When I read that, I knew things would be okay. 

I gave birth to a baby girl, and God has been rewarding me for trusting things would be okay ever since.  She's a living testimony to what can happen when we let go of what we can't control, play the hand we're dealt, and walk in simple faith. 

If I hadn't signed up for that seminar, who knows what direction my life would have taken? 

After my daughter was born the road was rough.  But I continued in Sales and continued to lean on the lessons of Zig Ziglar.  I found my life and my dream. I've had a few houses, all with yards and dogs and gardens.  The life I found was better than the dream I imagined.

The two things I learned from listening to Zig Ziglar were to focus on the positive and face all fears.  While this may sound trite and obvious ... like who doesn't already know that?  Knowing a truth is quite different from living a truth.  Zig's delivery of these simple truths connected me to what I needed to learn at the time.  Then I found the way to live them.  He was the perfect teacher and I was ripe for learning the lesson.

I can still recall some Ziglar-isms:

Check up from the neck up.
Spit on 'em, man.
I'll see you at the top.
Give people a label and they'll live up to it
You become part of what you're around
FEAR=False Evidence Appearing Real
It's not where you start it's where you finish
There's no traffic jam on that extra mile
You are the only person who can use your ability

One last thought.  At the Born to Win seminar, Zig said he believed that God would judge us not only on what we do, but for all the deeds done as a result of our actions, both good and bad.  Just as a sincere smile and greeting can cause a chain reaction of good deeds and positive energy, so too can one unkind act generate a profusion of hate and negativity.

With that thought in mind I bid farewell to the friend I made so many years ago.  Zig Ziglar, in my life alone your influence has generate untold good.  Magnify that by the millions you've helped and I figure you scored a good seat in heaven.  

May God receive you lovingly, and bless those left behind who mourn your absence.



photo credit:  Zig Ziglar Facebook Page