See You at the Top

Features - Business Bookshelf

Ziglar makes you feel real good even when you feel real bad. He pumps up your mind and your worth and your outlook on life. He wants to build. He wants to inspire.

December 12, 2011
Matt LaWell

Editor’s note: To help out busy contractors, each month throughout 2011, Lawn & Landscape will run a review and synopsis of a business book – either from the accepted literary canon or a more modern classic. The 12th installment is Zig Ziglar’s “See You at the Top.”

Of the hundreds of stories Zig Ziglar shares throughout his first book, "See You at the Top," there is one about him and his family that tells you more about the man in one paragraph than any biography ever could.

Ziglar is in the car with his wife, Jean, their 10-year-old daughter Suzan and their daughter's friend. The friend, curious and uninhibited as children tend to be, asks Suzan what Ziglar does. Suzan responds that her dad sells that "positive thinking stuff." The friend asks, "What sort of positive thinking stuff?" "You know," Suzan answers, "that's what makes you feel real good even when you feel real bad."

And that is exactly what Ziglar does – in the nearly 400 pages of "See You at the Top," which was first published in 1975 and is still in print decades later, in his thousands of speeches across the country, in his everyday life – he makes you feel real good even when you feel real bad. He pumps up your mind and your worth and your outlook on life. He wants to build. He wants to inspire.

The rest of the year’s reading list includes:

Are his stories repetitive? Yes, and he could probably have edited out a chunk of them years ago, but millions have loved reading and listening to them. Does he preach his own life views along with his motivation? Often, but his conservative stance has only endeared him more to regular folks in every industry. And is he just a little hokey? More than just a little, but that is his delivery, his character. That is Ziglar.

The man celebrated his 85th birthday last month. Decades removed from his days as a salesman, he is now in the twilight of his life and his career as the founder and head of a motivational and personal development company that has reached out to millions. Here are a few tips from Ziglar's classic first book:

Believe in yourself first. Ziglar illustrates his book with drawings of a businessman, suitcase in hand, forced to walk up a series of steps rather than hop in the elevator for an easy ride to the top. The first step is a marked self-image. "You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself," Ziglar writes. "See yourself as a deserving person and you will be. See yourself as nondeserving and you will not be." It sounds so simple, so obvious, but this one point is at the core of everything Ziglar has said and written over the last 40 years.

Work well with others. Ziglar writes again and again how much he likes to hand out compliments – not just empty air, but sincere compliments. He wants to live by the golden rule, and always see the good in others and forever believe that we are all good. Before he sees anything else, he sees all that untapped potential. "The way you see people is the way you treat them," Ziglar writes. "And then you treat them is the way they often become."

Just get started and set goals. Do you set goals? Do you write them down, share them, show them to everyone in the office? Or do you go about your work, quietly, every day? If you listen to Ziglar, he wants you to set a big goal, then set realistic steps to reach it. Once you hit the first step, you can aim for the next. Oh, and tell only those folks who you know will believe in the goal. "Once you've started," he writes, "it isn't so hard to keep going." Believe in yourself first? Work well with others? Set goals? Ziglar's ideas are not complicated and they are not deep thoughts. They are simple, the things we all know inside our minds, but might never had the courage to believe.


The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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