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How to reach the top - Zig Ziglar

Published:Wednesday | December 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Glenford Smith, Career writer

On November 28, America and the world lost one of the truly great motivational speaker and author, Zig Ziglar, at age 86. Perhaps only relatively few Jamaicans knew of him. As a decades-long disciple of Zig Ziglar, however, I offer this lesson from his life and work to help you reach the top in your field, profession and career.

My second-year college studies in engineering introduced me to the world of organisational-management theory over two decades ago.

Despite the frenzied cramming just to pass my management exams, a few ideas and names stuck with me.

The critical importance of motivation in performance was one such idea. Consequently, Abraham Maslow's Needs-Motivation Theory, Frederick Herzberg's Hygiene-Motivation Theory, Victor Vroom's Expectancy Theory and Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y became subjects of interest even after college.

I never heard of Zig Ziglar, however, until a few years into my working life at the Jamaica Public Service Company. A friend introduced me to Zig Ziglar's audio books, Over the Top and Success and the Self-Image. I've been a student of Zig's ever since.

At the heart of Zig Ziglar's philosophy of motivation is an inescapable fact which Israel's King Solomon wrote about in Proverbs 27:20 two millenniums ago, and which Abraham Maslow popularised in the 20th century. Solomon noted that, "Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied."

Maslow, in his famous 1943 article, 'A Theory of Motivation', stated: "Man is a wanting animal and rarely reaches a state of complete satisfaction except for a short time. It is the characteristic of the human being throughout his whole life that he is practically always desiring something." It is these desires which motivate human decisions and behaviour.

Ultimately, Zig believed everyone wants to reach 'the top', which he addresses in his flagship book and programme, See You at the Top. The top represents the best which a person is capable of being, doing and having.

Zig Ziglar's work, therefore, centred on answering this central question: How do people get what they want? Here's his key: "You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

Seeking support

Your ultimate success skill, therefore, was to motivate, persuade and influence others to help and support you, by helping and supporting them first. In other words, helping others fulfill their desires was the best way to motivate them to help you. Hence, salesmanship was the cornerstone of success for Zig.

He distinguished himself as a motivational speaker and business trainer by integrating his Christian faith with his work. Consequently, he unapologetically modelled and taught the important values of spirituality, discipline, integrity, sacrifice and hard work as key ingredients of success.

One of my favourite Zig Ziglar sayings is sure to help you reach the top, if followed: "If you will do the things today most others won't do, the time will come when you will have the things most others cannot have." See you at the top, Zig!

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book, 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Send feedback to