Zig Ziglar is 'Better Than Good'
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CBN.com DALLAS, TEXAS (ANS) -- Motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar believes that he's probably the most optimistic human being that people will ever listen to.
The tenth of twelve children, he was born in "LA," that’s lower Alabama, and was raised in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
"My mom had a fifth grade education, and my dad died when I was five years old. It was the heart of the Depression, but my mom was a very wise woman. We were all hard workers, because we had three milk cows and a big yard, and we survived despite of all the difficulties. We all experienced a wonderful childhood."
Asked by ANS in an interview at the recent 63rd annual NRB Convention in Dallas, Texas, about the seeds of his greatness and how he accounts for his success, Ziglar said: "Well, first of all, my mother a very wise woman, despite her limited education. She taught us with (one) sentence sermonettes. She taught us, 'Tell the truth/Tell it ever/Cost us what it will/For he who hides the wrong he did/Does the wrong thing still,' and 'When a task is once begun/You leave it not until it's done/And be a matter great or small/You do it well or not at all.' "
Ziglar agreed that this was poetry. "She was a very wise, very disciplined, very loving lady, and those Biblical principles, that is what they are, is what we were raised on."
Ziglar was asked if he draws from his childhood and his mother's influence for his motivational speaking?
"Well, that is the foundation on which it was built. And, I'm a constant Bible student. I start virtually every day on my knees. God answers knee mail. Then I get in the Scriptures, and that is what keeps me going. Those are the most encouraging words you’ll ever find anywhere, by anybody, and God's Word inspires me. My excitement and my enthusiasm continues to go because of that."
Ziglar said that until he was 45 years old, "I was broke and in debt. I have always been optimistic. I've always been a hard worker, but I think God let me struggle those 45 years, so that when things did start to happen, I would be fully aware of the reason for it. I became a Christian on July 4, 1972. An elderly black lady spent the weekend in our home, and she was the instrument God used to lead me to Christ. My career immediately exploded. Up until then, I had trouble getting a speaking engagement. But from the moment I was saved, I made it crystal clear that I was a Christian, that I would be teaching Biblical principles, and that they would hear only adult language. (I would use words) like commitment, responsibility, dedication, and things of that nature, and a lot of four letter words like love, or (three letter words) like joy, where people would know that it would be clean, and they would know that it would be pure. I’ve always let people know that I am a Christian and I've not had to solicit a speaking engagement in 34 years. I don't use booking agents; my telephone just rings. People today are so hungry for the truth. When they hear it, they respond."
What was it that this African-American woman said to him that drew him to the Lord?
"Well, for three days, she walked in talking about Christ, she walked out talking about Christ, and all the time she was there she was talking about Christ. It was relentless in her pursuit. She only talked about that one subject. I had been to church about 1,500 times. I had been baptized when I was twelve years old, but I was no more a Christian that I was a goat. When she got through with me, I made that commitment, and every facet of my life radically changed. From that moment until this one, I have been unable to keep my mouth shut about the glory of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, He has honored and blessed that in such an incredible way."
ANS wanted to know if Ziglar subscribed to the tenet that says 'Christianity is caught and not taught'?
"Well, I think it is both. You see, the biggest lie Satan has ever told is that it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter. The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they will live will be totally believed (if you live as Christ taught us to live). (However,) if you do not follow the ten commandments, if you do not have the the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say. If you have that fruit of the Spirit and really have joy in your life, people will want to know 'Where on earth do you get that?'"
"One of my favorite little funnies -- and I like to use a little humor in what I do -- I love the story about the mama skunk and the baby skunk walking by the paper mill. The baby skunk sniffed the air and said, 'Mama, what’s that?' and the Mama skunk sniffed the air and said, 'I don't know but whatever it is, we sure have to get some of it.' I believe that when people see joy in our lives, they will be saying 'I don’t know what that guy's got? Or I don’t know that girl's got, but I want to get some of that.' Over 600 times the Bible talks about joy and rejoicing, and so forth. Then you have a chance through your life to witness to people, because they want to know how do you maintain that kind of a spirit? Too many people walk around looking like the cruise director for the Titanic, or even the picture on their driver's license. People want to see a little joy and encouragement."
How does Ziglar account for the problems that Christians have? Many Christians find it hard to live the victorious Christian life. How does he account for that?
"I always ask them, 'Which part of the Bible is it that you don't believe?' The Bible clearly tells us how to have a victorious life. Christ repeatedly says, 'I am with you always, even until the end of time,' or 'I've guaranteed your Salvation,' ( ), says it is sealed. In both John and Romans, Christ says over and over, 'You are in my hands. The Father gave you to me, and no one can snatch you out of my hands. When you clearly understand that once you are saved, you are eternally saved, then the joy should come forth.' Confidence and enthusiasm will come forth, joy should be all over the place. Yes, Christians do have problems. But remember, He who is in us, is greater than he who is in the world. We’ve already won."
How does he deal with the balance between law and grace?
"I believe the Bible says, on the law, we shall meditate both day and night. It never tells us to meditate on grace. Now, grace is the one thing that Christians have that no religion has. 'For it is by grace, through faith, that you are saved. That not of works, lest any man should boast.' It is a gift. Grace is the key. You don't work your way to Heaven, you believe your way to Heaven through the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit."
If he wasn't doing what he does in writing and speaking, what would he most likely be doing?
"I can't imagine not doing what I'm doing. I recently celebrated the 58th anniversary of my 21st birthday, and for the mathematically challenged, that means I'm 79. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Occasionally, people ask me, 'Why don't you retire?' One person even said to me, 'I thought you said you were retired.' I said, 'You weren’t listening. I said that I was re-fired. I'm not going to let up, give up or shut up, until I’m taken up.' I am just getting warmed up. As incredible as it sounds, at 79, I believe the best part of my career is still in front of me."
In what way?
"I believe that God continues to bless me. I'm more creative, by far, than I've ever been. I'm always coming up with new ideas, and I'm always presenting new information. I'm always being blessed by God in so many ways. And now, everything indicates that what I've been teaching in corporate America is going more into the academic world, because they know that what is taught in corporate America should be taught in every educational institution, because kids get out of school and they don't know everything they need to know. The educated person of the day is one that is prepared for a world that no longer exists. It is only the constant student that is going to thrive in the world in which we live today. I read an average of three hours a day, and I have done that for over 30 years. I read the newspaper every day, I read the Bible every day, and that way I know what both sides are up to."
Ziglar commented: "I'm definitely not going to rust out, but I don't think I’m going to burn out either. The reason I say that is, my stress level, scientifically validated, is virtually zero."
"First of all, I know I've already won. People ask me about my stress level. As a classic example, they used to ask me about 9/11, and if it changed my travel plans. I said, 'Of course not. I don't drive my car looking in the rear view mirror, and I'm not going to run my life looking over my shoulder. This is what I say in public seminars. Besides, I’m a Christian. My Bible tells me in , that my death date was determined before I was born. Iif that is the truth, and I know in my heart that is the truth, that means there is not a terrorist in the world who can put his hands on me, unless it is in God's time and in God's will. If it is in God's time and God's will, number one, I'm ready to go. Number two, why should I be all stressed out about receiving the greatest promotion any human being will receive from the planet earth?"
"I will scientifically validate that fact with this example. Not long after 9/11, I was playing golf one day. I play about once a month, and I get real active and exuberant when I swing the golf club. I literally threw my left shoulder out of joint. I went to my (doctor) and he gave me a chiropractic adjustment, and put my shoulder back in place, and massaged all of my back and my shoulder, and in the process, he said, 'I don’t feel the slightest hint of stress in your entire body.' I've already won. I know I'm registered in Heaven, and it is guaranteed."
ANS asked Ziglar about his newest book. Is this his best book yet?
"My publisher thinks it is. It is titled Better Than Good, and it will be out on April 11. This will make 26 books that I have written, and I've had nine bestsellers. But, this one was such a joy to write. And, I have another book coming out, which will be the follow up to this one, God's Way is Still the Best Way. I'm just feeling the teaching of the Holy Spirit stronger every day. He completely re-wrote the last chapter of Better Than Good. I had already written it. But He re-wrote it as I laid there one morning in bed. My first book, See You at the Top, I was a baby Christian when I wrote it. I didn't know a whole lot of Scripture. I had been to church about 1,500 times when I was a youngster, but when I wrote the book, I wrote about things that I knew where true, but I had no idea how I knew it. I put it in there because I knew it was true, but to be doubly safe, I went to my Sunday School teacher and asked her to read it for Scriptural accuracy. I told her I couldn't afford for there to be any errors. She carefully read it, and confirmed its accuracy. The only explanation I can give for that is that I wrote that book like I do all of my other books, with a lot of prayer. The Holy Spirit told me that. That book is now in its sixty-third printing, and not just that book, but my works have been translated into 40 different languages and dialects. I was a very average student in school. I'm not that smart, but the Holy Spirit knows it all. As a matter of fact, Christ told us, 'I go before you, but when I’m gone, I will send the Holy Spirit, and He will not only remind you about things I’ve taught you, but He will show you things to come...' The Holy Spirit is the Greatest Teacher of all time."
Ziglar then explained how he came up with the title Better Than Good, and he discussed the focus of the book.
"For a number of years, when someone would ask me how I was doing, I would say, 'I'm doing better than good.' It has a ring to it. I encourage people to answer that question that way -- first person, present tense self talk -- that identifies who you are and where you are. It has a ring to it, and people who do that are receiving some huge financial benefits because people want to do business with that kind of an individual. The message in the book is all biblical, but it is also very practical. The most practical thing, of course, is biblical training. The book will be effective, and my publisher thinks it is going to be a runaway bestseller. He's put a lot of advertising money behind it. We are very excited about it."
Ziglar was asked how he would like to be remembered?
"I would like to be remembered as a man who loved the Lord, loved his wife, loved his family, and who did everything he could for his fellow man.
If Ziglar had one thing -- if he could stand on a platform in front of a huge audience, or just an audience of one -- what would he say?
"I would simply say that hope is the foundational quality of all change, and encouragement is the fuel on which hope runs. So, you find that hope in God's Word and you find the encouragement in God's Word, and you keep feeding your mind every day with the good, clean, pure, power and the positive message of God’s Word and things will work well. And, one last little example if I may. I had the privilege of speaking in India in 2005. They speak fluent and perfect English, but their sense of humor is very questionable. Their clear understanding of plain, southern English is doubtful. When I speak in America, people respond. They laugh, they cheer, and they applaud. There, there was not one single hint that they were there. Nothing. Zero. I'm telling you, it bothered me. The interesting thing was that we were sponsored over there by the Times of India, the largest newspaper there. The reporter there interviewed the attendees. Their reports were gushing, 'I learned a lot,' 'I am grateful he was here,' 'It was marvelous.' But, it puzzled me that there was not a verbal response. Now, understand, they had Hindu’s, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, and probably one hundred other different religions. The reason they loved it was all that I had done was taught biblical principals. Regardless of the differences in faith, or lack of faith, God's Word does not return void. That's what people like to hear, because God’s Word is powerful.
What's the biggest piece of advice Ziglar has for someone?
"I would say continue to learn. One of the great psychiatrists in our nation's history, and he worked with Norman Vincent Peale for many years, he discovered that any individual, regardless of age, he never met one who suffered from any kind of mental dementia who did three things: they stayed active physically, they were continually learning new things, and they developed a genuine interest in other people. That is the secret right there."
Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in September, 1995. He is married with two children.
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