Motivational speaker Ziglar tells the story of his professional, spiritual, and familial success.
Hilary Hinton Ziglar (“now you know why I go by the name Zig”) was born into a churchly family of 12 in the Deep South—a family constrained in finances but not in affection—and was raised in the “ ‘southern traditions’ of honesty, character, integrity, faith, loyalty, and love.” Along with his mother’s guidance, the difficult material circumstances of his youth fostered in him qualities of thrift and responsibility, open-mindedness and tolerance, self-control and fairness. He notes that he was lucky enough to recognize his failings—an addictive personality, overconfidence, some ego issues—before they laid him low, but what really propelled him to become a super salesman and then a motivational speaker was the good fortune of having had mentors who were willing to give him useful advice and a helping hand, among them a sales supervisor who told him to believe in himself and a sister who led him on his spiritual quest. He returned their favors, understanding “that real joy comes when you make a positive difference in other people’s lives.” Few will find fault with Ziglar’s emphasis on generosity, personal responsibility, and the “southern traditions,” but any who may not share his born-again faith should be prepared for a number of decidedly Christian notions that can appear to subvert some of his better qualities. He explains, for example, that “our nation is a ‘nation under God,’ discovered by a Christian (Christopher Columbus), and founded as a Christian nation by Christians,” and he remarks that when an employee once needed a liver transplant, he “personally prayed that Richard’s donor would be a Christian.”
Few would rank the aspiration to live by the Golden Rule as other than a worthy aspiration, but Ziglar’s zealotry can cast a pall over his larger program.