I knew at that very moment that I wanted to have the same positive effect on other people’s lives in the future just like Mr. Ziglar was having on me that day.
The direction of my life changed forever when a co-worker of mine insisted that I go to a Zig Ziglar personal development seminar. I was an ambitious 21 year old newly promoted junior, junior, junior manager for a large grocery store chain at the time. I always preferred to use my position’s official title of “Second Assistant Manager” because that sounded so much better and made me feel more important. Using that official title kept me from feeling bad about the career choice I was engaged in back then.
Growing up, I never imagined myself working in a grocery store. At that age, I felt that I should have been in college playing basketball like I always thought I would. I always believed I was destined for greater things in my life. I was just off to a very mediocre start into adulthood, I rationalized. It was a very lonely time for me as I struggled to decide which steps to take next in my life. I didn’t have any parental influence, guidance, or mentors back then so I just put my head down and went to work with the goal of becoming the Head Department Manager of my own store within the company. I worked hard. The pay at the grocery store was solid with good medical benefits and the company really appreciated my effort.
I had never heard of Zig Ziglar at the time and I didn’t know the names of any other motivational speakers either. That whole world was foreign to me. Being into organized sports since the age of six, I did have a fascination with the concept of peak performance. I have always been aware that an athlete’s mental strength was far more powerful than his physical strength. This was especially true in any sport with younger competitors. It seems as though the boys with fathers who were former athletes and really took an interest in their son’s development has a distinct advantage over boys like me who didn’t. I was always amazed and confused every time I saw a physically smaller, maybe even less coordinated, player do so well among far more talent players. Whatever mental makeup those types of boys had, I wanted more of myself.
I was also peculiarly interested in “talk radio” as a very young teenager, for some reason. I didn’t spend a lot of time listening to music back then. I spent the majority of my time glued to my portable AM radio with a huge appetite to learn about politics and current events. During those long hours of talk radio station programming, there would always be a call-in talk show where regular people would talk to a psychiatrist or other self-help expert for advice on their personal problems. That’s the type of conversation that I really enjoyed listening to throughout my day. It was a common occurrence for my stepfather to yell at me to turn off the radio that I was listening to in bed.
I grew up in Sacramento, California and rarely ever left that city up until that point in my life. So, going to the big, bustling city of San Francisco was quite a stretch for me back then. The only reason why even I went to this motivational seminar was because an older co-worker that I thought was a great man told me that I should go.
To this day, that former co-worker Jim is one of the nicest men I have ever met in my life. Even though he was in his 40s, I was actually his boss. Jim had owned businesses in the past that he sold. He was taking a new career path and was working his way up the grocery store ranks just like I was. I just happened to be one level ahead of him.
Jim was a funny, rock-solid family man and a devoted Christian. “I’ve got a good memory–it’s just short” was the self-deprecating, contradicting line that he used over and over again. It was always followed up with a hearty laugh like he used it for the very first time (in the hundreds was more accurate).
If it was anyone other than a person of Jim’s character who asked me to go to this strange new type of event, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone. I had my own plan in place and didn’t feel that I needed any “motivation.”
Although it was over 30 years ago, I remember that day like it was yesterday. Zig Ziglar’s presence and charisma was larger than life. It seemed as though he was eight feet tall standing on that stage with his commanding yet warm and empathetic demeanor. He had the crowd in the palm of his hands with his uplifting, positive message. He certainly had me riveted. Maybe my memory wasn’t all that great because it seemed like there were 20,000 people in the audience that evening who clung onto and reacted to his every word. The venue just wasn’t that big to hold that many people. It just felt like there were that many people because of the electricity in the room.
I had never experienced this kind of emotional event so far in my young life. My life would be forever changed. I realized that right then and there. I knew at that very moment that I wanted to have the same positive effect on other people’s lives in the future just like Mr. Ziglar was having on me that day.
Not only did I make my way to the stage to tell him how much I appreciated his message after the seminar, I began writing him letters and sending them to his corporate office in Texas. In those letters, I shared with him how I jokingly forced my co-workers to wear a novelty baseball hat that had a stuffed animal skunk if they ever engaged in “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” as Zig called negative thoughts. He took the time to write me back a couple of times. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was when his letters arrived in the mail. It was totally unexpected. And, by the way, he loved the skunk hat idea!
I must have talked with a thick Alabaman, deep southern drawl like Zig Ziglar for the next three months. That must have been quite an odd scene having this young California boy talking that way. But I didn’t care. I was hooked!
My motivational speaking career was launched as I recited every powerful message that I learned from his 8-pack audio cassette tape program titled “Born To Win.” Although I could barely afford it, I invested half into that expensive program with my friend Jim the night of the seminar.
That purchase put me on a special mailing list for people who were committed to improving their lives. Soon after the seminar, Nightingale-Conant catalogs filled with all kinds of motivational programs from a large number of speakers would show up at my house. I had no idea this world even existed. I had no idea there were that many motivational speakers in the world. Looking through those catalogs for me and planning which program I was going to buy next was like at 5 year old child looking through a toy catalog a few weeks before Christmas.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many mindset/motivational programs that I bought. They were really expensive back then costing about $300 to $400 for an 8-pack set of cassette tapes with a workbook. That was the start of an all-consuming journey for me.
This was at least six years before I even started working out in the gym on a regular basis. This was my first true passion as an adult.
I had the cassette tapes continuously playing during my commute to work back in those days–both ways. I had those tapes continuously playing during my downtime when I was all alone and waiting for my afternoon shift to begin. I was so obsessed with listening to motivational material that I bought an expensive cassette tape player that would automatically play the other side of the cassette when it was finished on one side (instead of having to manually take it out and flip it over). I did this so that I could listen to the cassette tapes while I slept at night. I remember many times being mentally and emotionally drained not realizing that my brain had never really turned off for days.
At one point in my life, I was over $75,000 in debt just because I invested in live personal development seminars around the world, special intense training programs, more audio programs, and all of the expensive airfare and hotel accommodations that went along with all of those seminars. I’ll talk more about that later.
I never stressed out about all of the money I was spending though. I saw it as an investment in my future. I absolutely loved every single aspect of my self-improvement journey and I knew my investment would pay off eventually in terms of the money that I’d eventually earn from my newfound personal power and in terms of the overall quality of my life that I’d enjoy someday.
When I “retired” from my grocery store career to pursue my dream of becoming a fitness professional, my structured daily routine was filled with listening to this type of material. From 12 pm to 3 pm, I would listen to talk radio show advice hosted by Dr. Laura Schlesinger. She gave people a big serving of direct-and-to-the-point “tough love” to help them solve their problems. From 3 pm to 6 pm, I would listen to The Tom Leykis Show that focused primarily on solving men’s life issues. And, from 10 pm until midnight, I’d listened to “Loveline” with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla. Loveline deals with a host of personal challenges like chemical addictions, childhood traumas, and sexual problems.
I had this same routine for years. I’d hate for the weekends to come around and have my listening pattern broken. Working for myself for so many years while I was a bodybuilder, I lived a rather isolated lifestyle during the week. It felt like I was missing my real friends.
I have probably heard every person’s problem that’s known to mankind and exactly what any clinically-trained psychologist or physiotherapist would have to say about it. I eventually realized that there were only so many problems that we as human beings ever experience in this world. Once you have a pretty good understanding of the foundation that everyone’s problems in life are built upon, the solutions aren’t all that difficult to come up with. There are only so many problems and only so many solutions.
My obsession with learning why people do the things they do and my own personal development was also a great distraction from all of the angst that was going on in my heart (that I was very well aware of) and all of the “chatter” that was going on in my head (that I wasn’t aware of until much later).
As I stated before, once you have a pretty good understanding of the foundation that everyone’s problems in life are built upon, the solutions aren’t all that difficult to come up with. There are only so many problems and only so many solutions.
Knowing what your challenges are in life is one thing. But doing what’s necessary to solve your challenges in life? Well, that’s an entirely different story.
Perspective and objectivity are extremely important when handling our own challenges–and are very difficult to acquire.
From my experience working with so many people over the years, I’ve found this to be true even for most intelligent, most committed, seemingly happy and successful people who have the very best intentions. No matter how good we might be at identifying the challenges and solutions in other people’s lives, we oftentimes don’t have the perspective and objectivity that we need to effectively and efficiently solve our own more complicated problems.
We all could use some help acquiring perspective and objectivity on our own most-pressing issues, myself included. That’s why I’m such a huge proponent of continual coaching for myself. That’s also why I’m so passionate about coaching other ambitious men who come to me to help them get their lives to the next level.
As my late mentor Zig Ziglar used to say “Information can go around the world in a matter of seconds–but it may take years to get through that last inch.”
By that “last inch” he meant that last inch through your skull and into your brain so that you’d actually do something with the information that you’ve accumulated.
Although I was becoming a bonafide expert at identifying other people’s challenges and advising them on the appropriate solutions, what I needed to learn to take my own life to the higher levels was going to take some time. To make everything that I learned make it through that “last inch,” it was going to take years to acquire the perceptive and objectivity I needed from that day I attended that Zig Ziglar seminar.
If you can relate to this story and you’d like some help taking your life to the next level, here’s your chance to get some help from Skip La Cour.
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