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11 Life-Changing Business Lessons from Zig Ziglar

By:     Topics: Entrepreneurship

Zig Ziglar was a best-selling American author and speaker who uplifted millions with his motivational message. He was also a savvy salesperson and businessman, who founded the Zig Ziglar Corporation and grew it to a staff of 60 employees.

On November 28, Ziglar passed away at the age of 86. Below I’ve shared 11 inspiring business lessons from his life.

#1 First, Help Others

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

It’s possible to get ahead in life by taking advantage of other people.

But it’s far better (and easier) to get ahead by understanding what people want and then helping them get it. Once you’ve gone out of your way to solve somebody’s problem, they’ll go out of their way to help you achieve your goals.

The goal of every successful startup is to help as many people as possible as much as possible. When you create something that’s of great value to many people, your business is assured of success.

Note:  here’s an in-depth article about the power of helping others and why entrepreneurs who give more, get more.

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#2 Success is Lived

“Success is in the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph.”

Seeing success as an end goal is one of the biggest misconceptions of success. Success is actually an ongoing experience, more process than product.

According to Ziglar, the most rewarding part of becoming a successful person is the actual becoming. He said:

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

#3 Keep Moving

“Remember there is plenty of room at the top — but not enough to sit down.”

At his prime, Ziglar would speak at over 150 events each year in locations all over the world. In the process, he traveled over 3 million miles and wrote 29 books. Ziglar was always moving forward, until the very end.

This work ethic was a key to Ziglar’s success. So as a motivational speaker, he didn’t sell any “get rich quick” schemes. Ziglar told his audience, “The elevator to success is broken, but the stairs to success are always available.”

Many people have negative associations with hard work. But just as climbing the stairs can be more satisfying than riding the elevator, the work of success doesn’t have to feel hard at all. Ziglar said, “You don’t pay the price for success. You enjoy the price for success.”

#4 Actually, You Do Have Time

One excuse Zig Ziglar didn’t have much patience for was, “I don’t have enough time.”

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

From Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs, every person that’s ever lived has had the same number of hours in a day, week, or year. The difference between people who achieve their ambitious goals and those who don’t is the ability to harness those hours purposefully and efficiently.

Next time you feel like don’t have enough time to do what you want to do, think about somebody you admire who’s accomplished that and more. If they could find the time, then so can you.

Learn to use your time wisely. As Ziglar said, “You can earn more money, but when time is spent it’s gone forever.”

Note:  if you want to spend your time better, here are 7 surprising productivity tips for self-employed entrepreneurs.

#5 Make Motivation a Habit

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Ziglar saw people get worked into a frenzy at his events only for them to stumble as the days passed and their motivation faltered. That’s why he recommended that people think of getting motivated as part of their daily routine.

Note:   If you want to get motivated now, here’s some Inspiration from 20 of the World’s Top Online Entrepreneurs.

#6 Find Good Everywhere

“The healthiest of all human emotions is gratitude.”

Zig Ziglar was born prematurely in 1926. According to the doctor, he died nine days later but was revived in the arms of his grandmother. At the age of six, Ziglar’s father died and his younger sister died only two days later.

Perhaps it was because Ziglar grew up knowing extreme adversity that he became so grateful for what he had.

Ziglar has always emphasized the importance of your attitude (“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude”) and he’s called gratitude “the most important and by far the most life-changing attitude.”

No matter how bad you think your situation is, you can still be thankful for what you have – whether that’s your health, your family, or simply the fact that you’re alive on this amazing planet. Ziglar says that appreciating what you have can help set in motion events that will give you more to be thankful for:

“The more you express gratitude for what you have the more you will have to express gratitude for.”

Ziglar liked to give the example of woman who hated her job — but then started to love it once she reminded herself every morning and every night of everything she liked about her job.

Note:  if you’re an online entrepreneur, you may want to start with this list of 20 things to be thankful for.

#7 Over-Deliver

“When we do more than we are paid to do, eventually we will be paid more for what we do.”

This is a principle I’ve noticed at work with my service business. We were able to grow because we treated our $1,000 clients like they’re $10,000 clients.

Over-deliver in all you do — and soon you will be rewarded for the extra effort.

#8 Delay Gratification

With fast-food restaurants on every corner and high speed Internet in the palm of our hands, we live in a world of instant gratification. But instant gratification disappears as quickly as it comes — and it often does little to advance your long-term goals.

“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.”

If you always succumb to immediate desires, then you’re always going to be living from one fleeting pleasure to the next. Instead, take action in the present based on what you want most in the long-term.

“Discipline yourself to do the things you need to do when you need to them and the day will come when you will be able to do the things you want to when you want do them!”

This is especially important for entrepreneurs, who must often put in long hours up front in order to realize their vision. As the anonymous saying goes, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

#9 Focus on Inward Change

“You are the only one who can use your ability. It is an awesome responsibility.”

People would often tell Zig Ziglar their problems with co-workers, friends, and spouses. But he would tell them, “You’re not going to change anybody else,” and that they should just focus on responding differently to others. People do what they want, whether you like it or not. Exerting your energy to try to force someone to do something they won’t or be something they aren’t is frustrating to both parties.

With that said, people may choose to treat you differently when you behave differently. Ziglar said, “When you choose to be pleasant and positive in the way you treat others, you have also chosen, in most cases, how you are going to be treated others.”

#10 Just Start

“People who won’t take step number one never take step number two.”

Sometimes beginning is the most difficult part of a project, especially when we get wrapped up thinking about all of the potential complexities and challenges. If you’ve been procrastinating something important, commit to taking five minutes and completing the first step. You may be surprised how much more do-able the project seems after you simply start it.

Note:  if you’re thinking about getting started with blogging, check out Income Diary’s beginner’s guide.

#11 Character is Everything

“Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life – all areas of life.”

Zig Ziglar was a man of values. He conducted himself with honesty and integrity because he believed it was the right thing to do morally — but he also recognized that it was good business practice. As he explained, “If people like you they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you they’ll do business with you. ”

You might benefit in the short-term by deceiving and short-changing people. But it’s a losing game in the end:

“You can get everything money will buy without a lick of character. But you can’t get any of the things money won’t buy:  happiness, joy, peace of mind, and winning relationships.”

Zig Ziglar’s Legacy

“Yesterday ended last night.  Today is a brand-new day and it’s yours.”

Zig Ziglar, 1926-2012

When Zig Ziglar passed away on November 28, 2012, he left behind a family, an organization, and millions of people who have been inspired by his message.

It speaks volumes to the quality of his impact that Ziglar’s official website currently states, “In leui of flowers, please consider donating to a charity below in Honor of Mr. Ziglar.”

When you lead a life like Zig Ziglar’s, you keep doing good long after your time on earth is over.

You can donate here.

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  • Netek Putu

    Fair thee well friend and Motivator.

  • Adesoji

    Brilliant one Nick.. This is epic!

    • Nick

      Thank you!

  • David Neff

    Great post Nick! So much can be learned from Zig Ziglar. The world would be such a nice place to live if we all jumped on board with these principles as they are really life lessons that can be applied to anything in your own life, business or personal. Thanks for the inspiration today :-)

    • Nick

      Very true. I find that there’s a great deal of overlap between good business practice and good life practice.

  • James A. Bower

    Grand post. Mr. Ziglar had a large impact on many lives including mine. I l eanred to read as a result of listening to Zig at a seminar. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nick

      Wow – that’s an amazing account. To think that you wouldn’t have been able to read this article about Ziglar without his inspiration…

  • Umar

    Great People have some very extraordinary views about life/business/professions. Thank you.



  • Cheptiony Mutai

    The name Zig-Ziglar is a new name to me but through your eye I have vivid picture of he was; I like the idea that ”Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” Great. I am almost done with the initial batch of the years(few years)!

    • Nick

      Haha — yes, I guess those are the difficult ones, then. Good luck with the rest!

  • saurabh

    very real knoweledge of Zig Ziglar

  • Gilbert Samuel

    We will never forget his motivations, he’s really going to be missed. There’s one thing I noticed about you nick, you blog with passion. Right from your last post “20 things to be thankful for as an online entrepreneur”. And thisI don’t know how to put it but I wish you could understand. I noticed a slight change on ur blog (related posr) or was I blinded to it before?

    • mobile maestro

      Big zig, was a genius salesman and motivator, everybody has heard of him. his teachings are a legacy. RIP zig. – mobile maestro

    • Nick

      Hmmm… not sure, Samuel. I don’t make any changes to the design personally, but it looks the same as ever to me.

  • Crystal Onneng

    Great post as always. Very inspiring, thank you :)

  • John Burnside

    I particularly like point number 8. If you just do what feels good now then you are never going to reach any of your long term goals.

    • Nick

      Yes – I think there’s something to be said for living in the moment too. But resisting short-lived temptation for long-term gain is an essential habit to inculcate.

  • David

    Thanks Nick,

    This is a very good post and weirdly I don’t know of any other 20th Century person who has so applicable many real life motivational quotes as Zig Ziglar has.

    He will be missed and thanks a lot for sharing Nick.

  • Liz

    Ziglar’s books are very informative, may he rest in peace
    thank you for the post

  • victor

    Thanks for sharing this information which are very useful for us.keep sharing more and more.

  • Srivathsan G.K

    Amazing amazing post .. I have read some of the quotes. can be related to life at every moment :) thanks for the great post buddy :)