For 15 years I was in direct sales. I was in the cookware business. I put on cooking demonstrations. After several years I finally got half-smart and realized that I needed help. I ran an ad in the paper; all I wanted was somebody to do some of the work. I wanted somebody to go buy the groceries, or get them ready to be cooked, buy the vegetables, things like that. Then, I wanted them to cook the meal and then help serve and then wash the dishes and the cookware. I guess I wanted them to do just about all the work!
Well, this very quiet lady named Jerry responded to the ad. She had been earning money by taking in sewing and baking cakes. Does that tell you something about her personality? She was very shy. She had three daughters. And when I told her what I wanted her to do, she said, “Well, I wouldn’t start with you until four o’clock in the afternoon. I’ve got to tell you, I love to cook, and I don’t even mind washing dishes. I’ll be happy to work with you, under the condition that under no circumstances do you require me to participate in the actual demonstration in front of the people.” She said, “As you can tell, I’m shy and quiet.” But she said, “I’ll do the other things.” Well, I thought her terms were pretty harsh. You know, me do all the talking, she do all the working. But anyhow, I graciously agreed to accept her terms.
Well, things worked wonderfully well for a couple of months, and then one night my mouth overloaded my back. And I said to her, I said, “Jerry, you got to help me.” She said, “What do you want me to do?” I said, “I want you to deliver the six sets of cookware I have sold and teach the people in their homes how to use them, all this cookware.”
Now 99 percent of the people who hear this will not be able to completely understand it, but sheer terror appeared in her eyes. She literally started to shake and said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” I said, “You can’t do what, Jerry?” She said, “I can’t teach those ladies how to cook on their own stoves.” I said, “Jerry, every night for the last two months that’s what you’ve been doing.” She said, “Yeah, but you’re always here, and I know you’ll bail me out if I foul it up.” I said, “Jerry, it’s easy.” She said as she started shaking her finger in my face, “I ain’t going to do it.” Said, “I just can’t.”
Well, fortunately we had about a 30-mile ride back to her home, and I guess she got to thinking about it. And just before she got out of the car, and she denies part of this to this day, she turned to me and she said, “I did not shake my finger in your face.” I said, “Jerry, you did, too.” She said, “All right. I’ll deliver them tomorrow. But if we ever do this again, I’m going to let you do it. I will not get a wink of sleep tonight, and I’m sure I’ll do a miserable job tomorrow.” Well, I don’t know if she slept that night. I know I didn’t.
Well, anyhow, the next night about 10 o’clock I got just about the most exciting phone call that I’ve ever heard or received. For the next 20 minutes she gave me every detail of what happened. She said, “When I got to the first couple, they had a cup of coffee and piece of cake waiting on me. And Zig,” she said, “I had a wonderful time with them. And when I got ready to leave, they thanked me profusely and invited me to come back and bring the girls. And they said, ‘This time we’ll do the cooking.’ And they closed by saying, ‘Jerry, you have such a beautiful personality, and you’re so professional.’ ”
I so regret that I did not maintain that customer’s name and address because those words literally transformed Jerry’s life, totally and completely. The shy cake-baking seamstress became one of the most highly motivated, enthusiastic people I’ve ever known. She continued through that day, that week, that month, and that year. Less than five years later, Jerry was the vice president in charge of training for a multimillion-dollar cosmetic company. And she and her husband, for many years, manufactured their own private line of cosmetics for small companies that wanted individual labeling for what they were selling.
She took what she got there with, and she got there. She had courage. It took a lot of that to make that delivery. It took commitment. She had compassion. She knew that if the merchandise would not deliver, the next day, it would affect my reputation. Now I am absolutely certain that when Jerry made the decision to do this, she did not say to herself, now what I always wanted to be was a vice president in charge of sales training of a multimillion dollar cosmetic company, and Zig’s been telling me you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. I’m absolutely certain that did not go through her mind.
But what did go through her mind was her life of giving. She knew that it would be a wonderful favor for me. She extended a helping hand at a time that it was needed. And folks, what you’re going to find all the way through life is, with that attitude, other good things will happen. She got that with one set of values, and they were all good. But when she used those values, then the other values and the other skills, the other talent was added to her. Yes, it does make a difference.
It started with the courage that she displayed, because I’m absolutely certain that she was frightened to death. Until she made that first delivery. I’d be willing to bet she ran to the second one and to the third one because three of the six couples had dessert and coffee ready for her. Everybody said nice things about her. I mean, her fire was lighted that night, and she kept the fuel on that fire, and it kept on burning.
Caring is a task and agreement to help others. Delivering that cookware was not in her job description, but it’s true that when you do more than you’re paid to do, you will eventually be paid more for what you do. Jerry developed into a real optimistic, caring, positive thinker, skilled speaker, trainer, because she took what she already had, put it to work, the other developed.
On Friday, July the 10th, 1972, I boarded flight number 874 from Dallas going to Norfolk, Virginia. When I got aboard the aircraft, I was the first one aboard. I was in seat C-2. That’s right up front. And I’d been seated but a few seconds, when a mother carrying an infant, leading a toddler, followed by a little girl about four years old walked in. And the three of them went down the aisle, and then the little four-year-old stopped. They were loading the food on.
And she was fascinated with how fast they were moving, snatching it off one cart and putting in another. And then she turned and looked into the cockpit. And she saw those three figures sitting there and more electronic gadgetry in all probability than she had seen in her entire lifetime. It was obvious that this was this family’s first flight on an airplane.
And when she turned around, as the saying goes, her eyes were as big as saucers. She looked down that long fuselage, put her little hands on her legs, and she just said one thing, “Gosh!”
Did you know that’s what people do when they first come to America. They see the beauty, the surroundings, and everything that’s here, and they say, “Gosh!” That’s one of the reasons legal immigrants are four times as likely to become billionaires in America as people who are born here. They come here with a dream. They know others here are rich, so they can become rich. And they wake up to new experiences. They’ll look at ads in the paper, and they see where somebody’s going to pay them $5 or $6 an hour; it blows their mind. Man alive, that’s more than I made in six days at home they’ll say. They work hard; they work overtime. They enroll in the community colleges. They follow through, and amazing things happen.
When was the last time you looked at your mate and said, “Gosh!” When was the last time you looked at your child and said, “Gosh!” Or your mom or your dad? When was the last time that you looked at a sunset or a sunrise and said, “Gosh!” It’s one of the most beautiful words, most expressive words. It demonstrates an attitude that makes the difference in life. It’ll make a difference in your life.
Let me simply say that this is one of the most important things that we can do, and that is “never lose the awe of the new day.” If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one of them. I think you’ll find out that, yes, it really is that. Your impact on others can be very, very significant.
I went to summer school in 1943. I went to Hines Community College. It was Hines Junior College in those days. It was in Raymond, Mississippi. I wanted to get in the V-5 program, join the Naval Air Corps. I wanted to fly the Hellcat. I wanted to go off to battle and come back home to Yazoo City, Mississippi, and have a ticker-tape parade.
Well, I get over there, and they tell me the first thing you got to do is get your high school diploma. Second, you got to know your American history. You got to take a course in American history. I was absolutely furious. What good is history going to do me? I came over here to get more math and science so I could get in the Air Corps. I mean, all of those things. Well, if you’re going to get in the Air Corps., you’ve got to take the history.
I walked in that classroom that day with a chip on my shoulder, which is a pretty good sign of wood up above. Well, anyhow, Coach Joby Harris was a teacher, and for the next hour he didn’t talk about history; he just told me why I needed to know it. He was an incredible salesman. I mean, he sold me on knowing my American history. I walked out of there a history major. It was the only course I consistently received and “A” in. Today my favorite type books to read are history books because we’ve got to know what happened in the past or we’re doomed to repeat that in the future. Or if we encourage others, we will repeat that.
He said something else that really had a huge impact on my life. He said, “If you have an ability that goes beyond just providing for your own needs, you must use that ability to reach down and lift up those who do not have that ability. Because if you don’t do that, then the day will come when they’re going to reach up and pull you down by sheer weight of numbers.”
The work our organization has done in schools and prisons, the work we’ve done in churches, in drug rehab centers, all of those things, come as a direct result of what Coach Joby Harris said to me that day.
Well, let me tell you why you can make such a huge difference in life. When Joby Harris was a Boy Scout, he had a scoutmaster whose name was Mr. Thomas B. Abernathy. Mr. Abernathy was the first scout official in the state of Mississippi. He took an additional interest in little Joby Harris. He taught him scouting, but he also became his mentor and had a huge impact on his life.
Now Mr. Abernathy had three daughters and a son. His youngest daughter is named Jean. And Jean Abernathy has been Mrs. Zig Ziglar for nearly 55 years. Yes, you never know what’s going to happen down the road. That’s where you can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want. Mr. Abernathy obviously had no earthly idea that when he was developing the young Joby Harris, he was preparing the boy who would become the man who would become the husband of his daughter and the father of his grandchildren. It does go on.
When you do a good thing today, when you help somebody else today, there’s no telling how far it’s going to go. Two of my favorite people are the late Mary Kay Ash and the late Mary Crowley. Mary Kay Ash resigned from a job because she disagreed with a decision management made. They had ladies who were making too much money, and so the boss restructured the pay plan. She resigned in protest and said, “I’m going to design a plan that will be fair to everyone.” And she went to work a few days after she had “retired” and drew out the plan.
I have a special affection for Mary Kay Ash because when I was a young, struggling speaker, when we first moved to Dallas, she heard me speak and opened the door to her whole organization, invited me to go in and hold six-hour seminars for her directors and consultants. It gave me an opportunity to really expand on my philosophy. Her heart was, I want to give somebody else an opportunity. She was extraordinarily successful doing what she’d been doing.
Mary Crowley is another great lady. She sold things for home interiors and special gifts. And this is one of the most successful direct sales companies, does nearly a billion dollars a year in business. I mean it’s huge. And she had the idea that she should pay your bills when they came due. That she would do exactly what was right. She taught leadership out of the book of Proverbs in the Bible. She donated tens of millions of dollars to Christian causes and scholarships, education for hundreds and hundreds of young men and women.
They both had everything they wanted because they helped so many other people get what they want. Encouraging others, helping them, spread the line out is really what it’s all about. Yes, it really is true that you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. It’s a philosophy that works.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine; his name is Lou Holtz. Chances are extraordinary that you’ve already heard of him. He’s a football coach, one of the best in the country. Lou Holtz was fired from his first job at the University of South Carolina.
Now, let me tell you something about Lou Holtz. When he was at Arkansas, he adopted this philosophy that you can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.
Now, here’s the way it works in coaching. A lot of people don’t realize it, but when he was at Notre Dame 11 years, he promoted 10 head coaches from his assistant coaches. Now you might say, “Wait a minute! Weren’t they his best assistant coaches?” Oh, absolutely! That’s the reason they got the offer to become head coach. Well, now that’s good for the coaches, but what does it do for Lou? How does he get what he wants out of it?
Well, an interesting thing happened. After the second head coach was made from the Notre Dame staff, assistant coaches all over the country — they have their networking — they said, “Hey! Lou Holtz is teaching people how to be head coaches!” and they started applying in droves to coach there at Notre Dame. He was able to replace his good coaches with sometimes even better coaches. But he got a bonus! You see, those new coaches brought all of their high school contacts with them.
It really does work, folks. You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.