Motivational speaker talks about his own health problems

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by By JEFF BRADY / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 2:14 PM

Zig Ziglar interview

Jeff Brady reports.

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He's shared the stage with three US presidents, been recognized by Congress, and he literally wrote the book on motivation - 27 of them.

The name Zig Ziglar is almost synonymous with optimism and enthusiasm.

But what does he have to say in the face of a staggering economy and his own health setbacks?

He's the father of self-help motivation and - for the last 40 years - the ultimate after-dinner speaker.

And Zig Ziglar still knows how to deliver a one-liner.

"I read the Bible every day and the newspaper every day and that way I know what both sides are up to," he said.

But last year - he suffered a brain injury in a fall - leaving him with severe short-term memory loss.

Now, he delivers the same joke over and over - accidentally.

"I do have a good sense of humor and I can laugh at myself more than anyone else," he said.

But he's still in demand as a public speaker - commanding more than $50,000 every time he takes the stage - now with the help of his daughter Julie.

"He can't be that physical today, but it's still all in there. We just have to bring it out a little differently," said Julie Ziglar-Norman.

She's edited the last nine of her father's motivational books.

Another one's due out in 2009 about embracing the struggle, using his own brain trauma as a metaphor.

"A lot of speakers would have just given up and gone home. Instead, he looked at his situation with his short-term memory loss and figured out a way that he could continue to do what he loves to do," said Julie Ziglar-Norman.

And what he loves to do, Ziglar says, is more in demand now than ever.

Even in tough economic times, he enourages people to give thanks.

"Psychologists say gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions," he said.

Proving the point, he has an entire "wall of gratitude" in his office, with framed photos of the people who he says taught him critical life lessons.

Other advice for those suffering now, according to the master motivator - hang on to hope.

"Because hope is the foundational quality of all change. If you've got no hope, why go to work? If you've got hope - then man, I've got to go to work! I got to go to work! That's the difference right there," he said.

He also makes family a top priority stressing what he calls the "home court advantage" of a supportive spouse.

"Nobody ever gets very far on their own," said Ziglar.

He and his wife Jean are celebrating 62 years of marriage this month and she admits he's starting to slow down.

"The main problem is with memory and that really got worse when he fell down the stairs," she said.

But he remembers enough to keep up his speaking engagements and to record his favorite lessons and memories at a recent family gathering.

Retirement for Zig Ziglar is not an option.

"He looks forward to speaking," said his wife.

Short-term memory may flicker but Ziglar still remembers meeting his bride Jean.

"I can tell you the exact moment I laid eyes on her - September 15th, 1944, 9:08 pm. YWCA, Jackson, Mississippi," he said.

At the height of his career, just a few years ago, Ziglar commanded $75,000 per appearance.

One of his most frequent lessons - in good times and bad - is for listeners to help themselves by helping others.

"You can have everything you want in life, if you'll just help enough people get what they want - that's been my mantra all these years," he said.

He still refers to his Christian faith as the core of his success in life beginning when an elderly woman in Mississippi said something prophetic to Ziglar - who was then a young cookware salesman.

"All she talked about was, God's been waiting on you all these years, don't make him wait any longer because one day it might be too late. My whole life changed," he said.

As for his legacy, Ziglar keeps it simple.

"I hope it to be that people will recognize that what I was teaching was the truth, and they benefited from it," he said.

The king of confidence, now reflecting on his career in coaching success.

"I've just had a charmed, wonderful life," he said.

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