(It’s fitting that this was the most popular post this year, because this year we lost a legend.)
A few weeks ago I had the chance to eat lunch with Zig Ziglar and his amazing family.
One of the most successful motivational speakers of all time, Zig is a legend the world over. I knew I’d get to spend time with his son Tom, a brilliant guy in his own right, but was not expecting to see Zig when I was in Dallas. Lunch was great and, during our conversation, Zig went out of his way to be incredibly kind to me. I was throwing tons of questions at him, his wife and Tom.
“How do you pursue a dream without wrecking your family?
“Did you ever wrestle with fear and your ego?”
“How do you not get lost in all the challenges that come with growing a business?”
Zig and Tom graciously answered every one of my questions. At the end of the lunch though, when we were getting ready to leave, Zig leaned forward on the table, pointed his finger at me, as if to say, “If you only hear 3 things today young man, hear these,” and then said this:
1. True success starts at home.
Zig implored me to pursue my wife continually and ceaselessly. All the speaking gigs in the world, all the book sales, all the fun opportunities don’t matter at all if I abandon my wife in pursuit of some dream. Watching Zig and his wife tell stories at lunch and laugh about decades of a shared adventure, it was easy to see he was living out this principle. When I told him I was bringing Jenny on stage with me at the Quitter Conference to talk about how working on a dream can be a team sport, he said, “That is the most brilliant thing you’re doing.” And I think he was right.
2. Your reputation is everything.
“If you tell someone you’re going to be there at 9:00, don’t you dare show up at 9:01. Do the things you tell people you are going to do.” This one was hard to hear because I’m honestly not good at that. I tend to overpromise and under deliver because I want people to like me. I wrote about my desire to tell everyone, “Let’s get coffee sometime,” when I know we probably won’t. I make big promises that I simply can’t keep, because it’s fun to say “yes” to requests and hard to say “no.” But that kind of thing chips away at your reputation. Hearing Zig say that made me realize I need to do some repairs to my mine.
3. It’s not about you.
“Help other people be successful. That’s what it’s all about.” As I wrestle with building “my personal brand,” Zig’s words were like a lighthouse in a stormy night full of tweets. (That simile got a little away from me.) I know this sounds silly, but writing Quitter and holding the Quitter Conference really got me excited to help other people be successful in a way I haven’t felt before. For years, I was in a bit of a “me, me, me tailspin.” And it’s exhausting when life is all about you. You have to maintain so many edifices and fronts and plans and manipulations. I actually felt a great sense of freedom when Zig said “It’s not about you.”
I’m not done with those three ideas. That is, I haven’t mastered them and moved on. I’m still unpacking that lunch, working through what Zig shared. I think that’s what great leaders do. They shake you up, even over Pad Thai in a quiet restaurant in Dallas. They drop off grenade ideas and then say what I’m about to say to you:
So, what are you going to do with that?