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Mackay: Remembering a legend, and a friend: Zig Ziglar

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • December 9, 2012 - 7:43 PM

When I was cutting my teeth in the sales game right after college, I made sure to read or listen to everything I could get my hands on from several sales and motivational legends -- Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar.

I, like many people around the world, was saddened to hear about the recent death of my friend Zig. He was one of a kind. I was fortunate to share the stage with him several times, and I will be forever grateful for those opportunities.

His inimitable style was contagious. If you were lucky enough to ever hear him speak, you understand how he stayed at the top of his game for more than 40 years. As he was fond of saying, "People often say motivation doesn't last. Neither does bathing -- that's why we recommend it daily."

Zig was simply one of the greatest motivators and sales trainers of all time. He made everyone better with his extremely positive attitude. Who can forget his classic line, "I'm so optimistic, I'd go after Moby Dick in a rowboat and take the tartar sauce with me"?

He espoused the theory that everyone can develop an enthusiasm for life. He told a story about a woman who was the top salesperson in her company of 1,200 salespeople. She broke every record in the industry. Zig asked her, "How did you do it?" She said, "God didn't make me with an off-switch."

Another big subject for Zig was balancing work and family, which was so important to him. One of his pearls of wisdom on this subject: "Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they are on the same side."

We were both active in the National Speakers Association and members of its Hall of Fame. We shared a similar speaking philosophy. Both of us realized that in order to educate, you need to entertain. Make your audience laugh every five to 10 minutes. Introduce a new lesson, concept or idea to your audience every few minutes as well, to keep their attention.

Zig was genuinely friendly to everyone. After every speech, he hung around and answered any and all questions until the lights went out. Motivational speakers come and go, but his work will live on because he practiced what he preached.

Zig started out in sales, just as I did. He hawked everything from lawn-mowing services to cookware and insurance. He said, "Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust."

After many years in sales, he realized that his real gift was his positive attitude and energy. He became a full-time motivational speaker and author. He wrote more than two dozen bestselling books, chock-full of take-home value. Gems like these, short and sweet and definitely to the point, will live on and on:

"Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."

"There are no traffic jams on the extra mile."

"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."

"Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission."

"If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost."

"People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons."

"A lot of people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job."

"Every choice you make has an end result."

"Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days."

Mackay's Moral (from Zig): "You are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind."

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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