By Scott Westerman

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“Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.” -Zig Ziglar

The first time I met Zig Ziglar, I was running down Haslett Road. He was talking with me through my Sony Walkman about goals. “Studies tell us that only 3% of people in the USA set goals, and they are among the wealthiest people in the nation!”

The notion of actually sitting down and writing out some objectives was totally new to me. But the way Zig introduced the idea made me want to try it out. That was the first day that I actually knew where I wanted to go, and began to draw the road map to get there.

Zig reawakened my long lost ability to dream and asked me the question that I love asking everyone I meet. “If you could do anything you wanted to do, and get well paid to do it, what would it be?”

Things haven’t changed in the 35 years since Zig first introduced me to goals. The percentage of the population who dreams them up, writes them down and works toward achieving them hasn’t changed very much. And Zig’s maxim that. “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile,” is still as valuable today as it was then.

The only time I met Zig Ziglar in the flesh was in an elevator in Dallas. I was in the midst of my first entrepreneurial adventure and was attending a conference where he was speaking. This was before iPads and I had just spent an hour thinking about what I had learned in the morning session, writing down some associated goals on my ever present yellow legal pad. The elevator doors slid open and there he was. I expected an entourage. He didn’t have one. And as luck would have it, the doors closed and it was just the two of us, descending four floors to the lobby.

I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted out, “Thanks for changing my life, Zig.”

He looked at my legal pad. “Whatcha got there?”

“Some new goals,” I answered.

Zig smiled. “I can promise you this,” he said quietly. “If you can dream it, you can do it. That little yellow pad might just be the biggest gold mine anyone ever discovered.”

The doors opened again and Zig vanished into a sea of people.

I just stood there. “Are you going up,” someone asked?

“Yes,” I said. “Definitely.”

In the ensuing years, I’ve had face to face encounters with some pretty amazing people. But I’ll never forget that day. Just as I’ll never forget my top 5 favorite Zig Ziglar maxims.

5) “Failure is a detour, not a dead end street.” Tom Hopkins would cement this one in my head when he told me, “Our success is not determined by how many times we fail, but by how many times we succeed. And the number of times we succeed is directly proportional to the number of times we can fail… and keep trying.”

4) “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Success is the journey not the destination. The exuberance comes not from what you win, but from the things you do to prepare you to win. And no goal is worth sacrificing your character or compromising on your ethics.

3) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” Always have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D. Learn to keep your cool when everybody else is losing theirs. You’ll discover that the biggest opportunities are often wrapped deep inside the biggest challenges.

2) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” And this corollary, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” Find ways to give without the expectation of reciprocation, and your return on investment will be exponential.

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” Every great accomplishment began as a idea in someone’s mind. Imagine what you might do if there were no obstacles in your path. Work backwards from the assumption that anything you imagine can come to pass and you’ll be more likely to turn that dream into a reality.

Zig Ziglar achieved what many of us aspire to and few accomplish. His message will continue to inspire, excite and energize people like you and me long after his name has faded from memory.

When Zig passed away this week, I posted a YouTube video to Facebook where he was talking with an audience about how attitude makes all the difference. One of my friends wrote to me, saying, “I never heard of this guy but his ideas will make me a better person.”

I can’t think of a better legacy.


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