The Zig Ziglar Story (RIP)
Insights from the Motivational Speaking Expert “Zig” Ziglar,
Chairman, Ziglar Training Systems
By: Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

On November 28th, I learned the sad news about Zig Ziglar’s death in the hospital after a bout with pneumonia. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to personally interviewed Zig about overcoming adversity and leadership for my Leadership Doctoral dissertation.

I have had the honor of Zig Ziglar has been my hero, friend and mentor for over thirty-five years. Zig has regularly encouraged me to write and speak. He help shape my life vision with his motto “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

In 2012, Zig, my wife Rose and I had the opportunity to additionally to meet privately with Zig, his wife Jean and daughter Julie. We all met in Spokane before Zig spoke at a Get Motivated event. Zig who had recovered from a bad fall several years ago was still on the road speaking along with his daughter Julie interviewing Dad and Zig answering the questions.

Zig for the last thirty years, regularly commented that her was not going to retire with the following “The only time they talk about retirement in the Bible is a form of punishment.” Zig in his 80’s said “I am not going to shut up, until He [God] takes me up.”

My longtime mentor, hero, and friend "Zig" Ziglar generously contributed his time and keen insights for this important research on overcoming adversity and leadership. This a brief summary of Zig Ziglar’s amazing and motivating story:

Zig Ziglar was born in 1926, in what he termed “very modest circumstances” to a family that was “financially challenged in many ways.” He was “the tenth of twelve children born to a family living in rural Mississippi.” He lost his father at the age of five. Zig worked from an early age to support his family. He shared that he “had what was known as an inferiority complex.”

Until “Judge” Ziglar’s (Zig's father) untimely death, he worked hard in a very depressed economy to provide for his large family. Zig said his Papa “was a thoughtful man possessed of great confidence. Everyone respected his intelligence, fairness, and judgment.”

Two days after his father’s funeral, Zig’s 14-month-old baby sister also died. Zig’s mother decided to move the family to the “big city” of Yazoo City on the Mississippi River delta. His mother was well-versed in the Bible and regularly quoted from it. “My mother was famous for her ‘one minute sermons.’”
Zig worked his way through school, beginning with elementary school and continuing through his college years.

My Mentor & friend of over 35 years- Zig Ziglar, shared his personal thoughts on leadership and adversity, and specifically how to overcome adversity.

In 1943, Zig joined the Naval Air Corps. Zig said, “I never would have had a chance to get into college were it not for the V5 Program.” He continued, “Despite being a poor student, I did well enough on my [Navy] Air Corps entrance exams to be accepted into the Navy’s pre-flight training program.” He entered Millsap College in July of 1944, as part of the Navy’s V5 program for Navy pilots.

It was while Zig was attending Millsap College that he met and started dating Jean Abernathy. But then Zig was transferred to the University of South Carolina by the Navy. Then when World War II ended Zig continued to attend the University of South Carolina, selling sandwiches to other students to pay his expenses, and continued to court Jean Abernathy by mail. Zig and Jean were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1946.

The summer after they were married, Zig’s sandwich business died off. The couple began to struggle financially.

Zig got a job selling expensive cookware through dinner parties, but he still had his “inferiority complex.” That was the case until an important talk and words of encouragement from a respected mentor became the pivotal event that changed Zig’s entire life. Ziglar proved his mentor right, moving from failure to success.

Zig has shared his story about growing up during the depression, losing his Dad, and how that influenced him. He said that besides his widowed mother being an incredible role model, he noticed that observed in every decade that regardless of what was going on in his community or around the country, that some people lived in nice houses, drove the nice cars and took great vacations. He observed that even when the economy was bad and many people hurting, some people thrived and conversely in good economic times there were people struggled for survival.

Zig shared not to focus only on the national economy, but they need to focus on improving their “personal economy.” He said those that accepted responsibility for their own personal economy were able to thrive. Those that focused on improving themselves not only survived, but flourished.

Zig said, “Don’t wait to get inspired. You have to manufacture your own inspiration and motivation.” He said you do that by talking to like-minded people and reading books. Zig read over three hours every day for over 35 years. His reading material included autobiographies, newspapers, and the bible.

Zig said that when there is someone that is very knowledgeable, but not living up to his or her full potential that the missing piece is the picture they have of themselves.

Zig talked about his early selling days. He said his self-image was of when he was a boy who was always struggling. Zig shared if you see yourself struggling you will always be struggling. If you see yourself poor, odds are you’ll be poor. You need to have a vision of you succeeding. Zig, who read the Bible daily, often quoted the Prophet King Solomon, said “without vision my people parish.”

Zig has shared his story of struggling financially for over two years as a salesman selling waterless cookware. Zig drove a long drive in bad weather to attend to a sales meeting—that he almost missed. (There’s an important lesson in that alone.) After that sales meeting, Mr. Merrell, the president of the cookware company, pulled Zig aside to talk with him.

Mr. Merrell, was Zig’s hero told Zig, “I’ve watched you for 2 ½ years and I’ve never seen such a waste. I believe you could be a national champion if you just recognized your own ability, believed in yourself and went to work on a regular schedule.” That remark changed Zig’s personal vision and his life.

Zig said nobody ever said he could be a champion before. Having Mr. Merrell, a man Zig respected, telling him he could be a “National Champion” was a turning point in his career and his life. After Zig’s new vision of himself as the champion, he went from the bottom of the sales force and became No. 2 in the company out of 7000 sales people. When his vision or self-image changed, then Zig became successful and changed his life.

As Zig’s sales career and sales management progressed he faced many obstacles as a field manager, obstacles that were to test him in the extreme. After his sales and sales management experiences, Ziglar made a career change, focusing his attention on becoming an accomplished public speaker.

He had not been attending church regularly, but he returned to it, becoming a devoted Christian. He described the importance of his embracing Christianity:
"My greatest help came in the form of my faith when I became a
Christian on July 4, 1972. As I came to realize how much God
loved me, as a result I loved myself more and respected myself
more. Again, here was a factor in my life that made a major

Cavett Roberts, founder of the National Speakers Association (NSA), who was one of Zig’s many mentors, persuaded Zig to put his message in writing. He did so. In fact, Zig has now authored twenty-four books on leadership, personal growth, sales, faith, family, and success.

I have known Zig Ziglar for over 35 years, attended several of his training sessions, listen to his recordings, and read his many books. One of Zig’s trademark lines sums up his attitude perfectly: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

The initial prominent successful leaders, who’s stories are told and shared their secrets about how to overcome adversity were: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (UT), Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (HI), Dr. John Malone, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow (Ret.), Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

The data from the above eight research participants was materially augmented by seven other successful individuals who overcame adversity and became successful leaders including: Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, J. Terrence Lanni, Angelo Mozilo, Dr. Nido Qubein, and Dr. John Sperling.

Additionally, five internationally known, highly respected Best-Selling authors, and major academic scholars offered their peer debriefing comments, reviews and their agreement with the findings of my research findings including:
Dr. Ken Blanchard, Dr. John Kotter, Professor Jim Kouzes, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

The full results of this research are presented in the just published book, “Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders,” by Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

Copyright 2005-2012 © Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.
Chief Enlightenment Officer, Intrapreneurship Institute and The Leadership Success Institute
Author: “Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders”
Publisher: VDM Verlag Dr Müller AG & CoKG ISBN 978-3-639-09841-9

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Howard E. Haller, Leading Expert on Intrapreneurship & Intrapreneurship Speaker
Chief Enlightenment Officer
Intrapreneurship Institute

Dr. Howard E. Haller is Founder/CEO of the Intrapreneurship Institute. As a member of NSA, he regular speaks to Corporations, Associations, and Non-Profit Organizations on how to effectively use the innovation and creativity of Intrapreneurship (Corporate Entrepreneurship) within their Organizations.

The Intrapreneurship Institute can help evaluate, design, and implement an Intrapreneurship Program within a company to effectively utilize the intellect and creativity of human capital of an organization to help maximize productivity and profits. The Intrapreneurship Institute can provide Keynote Speeches, Executive Briefings, and Workshops on the benefits and program features of an intrapreneurial program.

Howard E. Haller, Ph.D., is a successful serial Intrapreneur, an accomplished serial Entrepreneur, seasoned senior corporate executive, and published author of two books: "INTRAPRENEURSHIP SUCCESS: A PR1ME EXAMPLE" published by VDM Verlag Dr. Müller AG & CoKG ISBN 978-3-639-17509-7, and is now available on Amazon in the US, Canada, UK and Germany. “Intrapreneurship Success” tells the inside full story of how a small OTC listed company grew to be the #1 performing stock on the NYSE in only five years. Dr. Haller is also the author of “Leadership and Adversity: The Shaping of Prominent Leaders.”

Contact Dr Haller for inspirational Keynote Speeches, Motivational Speeches, Seminars on Intrapreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Leadership, and Servant-Leadership.