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Communicate Effectively — Keep It Simple;
Make It Clear

By Zig Ziglar

© 2012 Nightingale-Conant Corporation

Several years ago while jogging in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I passed a beautiful home that had been restored and then boarded up.  A sign on the front stated, “Trespassers will be shot — Survivors will be shot again.”  The message was clear.

The Canadian government found a clear way to communicate the dangers of smoking to their young people.  They put on a package of cigarettes, “Smoking can kill you,” and it was so effective that 83 percent of the 2,471 students polled, ranging from 12 to 17 years in age, remembered that message.  In America, the wording on cigarette packages is bland, quoting the Surgeon General’s warning that “Smoking can be hazardous to your health.”  Only 6 percent of American students polled remembered even a couple of those words.

Sometimes we communicate without saying even one word.  When Benjamin Franklin lived in Philadelphia, he recognized the need for street lights, but things were different in those days, and city governments did not have budgets to light streets.  Franklin took action and erected a beautiful post in front of his home with a lantern on top.  At dusk he lit the lantern but said nothing to anyone about it.  After three or four nights, a neighbor followed suit, then another.  Soon the whole street was lighted, and it spread across town.  Franklin’s example sent a simple but effective message and demonstrated again that example is the best teacher.

In today’s high-tech world, we communicate via our smartphones, email, Twitter, television, satellite, and every other electronic gadget imaginable.  But the most effective communication still takes place face to face with the spoken word, provided we “practice what we preach,” because people might not believe everything you say, but they will believe everything you do.  Give it a try, and you’ll love the view from the top!

Word Meaning Does Change

There are many people today who believe the word pride is somewhat of a negative word.  Some people who read the Bible say pride was the cause of man’s fall — I believe they’re only partially right, so let’s look at the meaning of words.

If I were to confront you and accuse you of being silly, you would probably be offended.  But if I explained that the word silly comes from the Old English word selig, and that it meant “blessed, happy, healthy and reasonably prosperous,” instead of being offended, you would be complimented.  Yes, word meanings do change.

Genuine pride is an honest evaluation of that which is good.  Think about it.  Can it possibly be wrong for me to say to one of my co-workers, “I’m proud of the job you’re doing,” or to one of my children, “I am proud of your character”?  Pride is what you display in your job, in the way you dress, in the way you treat your associates, mate, and children. 

The pride mentioned in the Bible is false pride, or vanity, which is an extremely negative emotion that often leads to disaster.  False pride says, “I’m better than you.”  That’s bad.  False pride leads to arrogance, and when you become arrogant, you are “riding for a fall.”  For example, when “Iron Mike” Tyson, the “unbeatable” reigning heavyweight boxing champion, signed to defend his title against lightly regarded Buster Douglas, it was labeled a “mismatch.”  Iron Mike’s arrogance led him to believe he did not need to train.  He was knocked out by Buster Douglas, who never won another fight.


I love the acrostic formed by the word “pride.”  It’s Personal Responsibility In Daily Endeavors. Think about it; develop genuine pride by accepting personal responsibility in your daily endeavors.

One Sure-fire Way to Success

One of the main reasons people fail to reach their full potential is because they are unwilling to risk anything.  They are fearful of losing, failing, or getting hurt and just want to do the things they believe will keep them safe. They simply want to maintain their status quo and avoid anything that might upset the mediocre expectations they have for their lives. Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that I am making fun of people who have mediocre expectations. Most people have mediocre expectations for themselves, and they come by it naturally. Their experience has conditioned them to believe mediocrity is about as good as it gets, so their expectations match their experience.

What I am saying is that experience is a great teacher, but we should never let our experience influence what we think about our potential. Did you know that every human being is created with a purpose and that they have a responsibility not only to discover their purpose but also to fulfill it? I don’t mean that it is every person’s destiny to be rich and famous, but it is every person’s destiny to do something that will make a positive difference in the lives of others. That is one of the reasons I believe you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. I love what Joan of Arc said when she stated, “I’m not afraid. I was born to do this.” If you believe as I do that you were born to win, you’re going to have to find your fears and start facing them. Face them over and over again until you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

To discover your purpose and act on it, you will have to take risks. What does it mean to take a risk, and how can you overcome the fear of taking risks? First, let’s consider how you might have become fearful of taking risks in the first place. Most people become fearful because they have been hurt by taking risks in the past. That is why our experience contributes to possibly limiting what we think we can do or are willing to do. The way to correct this thinking is to realize that the mistakes we made in our past are actually assets that we can use for our benefit today. It is not that we should stop taking risks. It is that we should not repeat things we have done in the past that did not work.

There is a big difference between the two!

Think about all the lessons you have learned from past attempts and then find a way to use them in a new endeavor.  By taking risks, you open your life up to new and exciting possibilities.  Let others sit around and wait for opportunity — you go out and find it.

The Bull’s-Eye Is ‘Hittable’

Somebody once said that the major difference between a big shot and a little shot is that the big shot is the little shot who keeps on shooting.  There’s much truth in that witticism.  The reality is, no matter what our target might be, we seldom hit it on the first try unless the target is low, which means the accomplishment — and the rewards — will be insignificant.

In bow shooting, experienced archers will test the wind by using the first shot to judge its strength and direction, enabling them to zero in on the target with their following shots.  In short, archers learn from their mistakes.  That’s good advice for all of us. 

Success in business, athletics, science, politics, etc., seldom comes on the first effort.  Walt Disney went bankrupt a number of times and had at least one nervous breakdown before he made it big.  Athletic skills are acquired over a long period of time and after countless hours of practice.  Authors by the hundreds can tell you stories by the thousands of those rejection slips before they found a publisher who was willing to “gamble” on an unknown.  It’s more than just a cliché that persistent, enthusiastic effort produces powerful, positive results, that failure is an event — not a person — and that the only time you must not fail is the last time you try.

Whatever your target might be, chances are good that you’re not going to hit the bull’s-eye on the first effort you make at being “successful.”  The key is persistence and the willingness to try again in the face of those early misses.  You can learn from those early mistakes, and if you do keep on shooting, it’s just a question of time before you, too, are hitting the bull’s-eye.   Give it a try — keep shooting — and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP! 

During his extraordinary life, Zig Ziglar  was known as America’s Motivator -- a designation he lived up to in spades. One of the most electrifying speakers of his time and the author of 30 books and numerous audio and video training programs, Zig inspired and empowered millions of people to realize their potential, reach for their dreams, and create lives of real significance. Zig was a genuine master of the art of living -- a beloved teacher, colleague and friend who truly "walked his talk", and lived out his message every single day.

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