The Big Secret of Success

By Mark Bowser

Is there one ingredient on the journey to success that is more important than all the others? What was the philosophy that Zig Ziglar focused his entire career and business around? And, will it work for you too?

Well, let me answer the last question first. Yes! This will work for you. It is less of a philosophy and more of a life world view. And, that is why it works!

What is that life world view that Zig lived by?

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Zig Ziglar

This philosophy is a contemporary way of expressing the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is found in the Bible in the book of Matthew. It says this: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT)

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many people — good hearted people — misinterpret the true meaning of this rule. I believe it is important that we truly understand how to live the Golden Rule before we can dig into Zig’s philosophy a little deeper.

Let me give you an example. My favorite soft drink is Dr. Pepper. It is either a drink you love … or hate. There doesn’t seem to be too many people in the middle.

Because I am focused on Dr. Pepper, many days you can find it in our refrigerator — that is if my son and I haven’t already drank it all. Let’s suppose that you come over to our house for a cook out. You sit down in the back yard by the pool and are enjoying yourself. It is pretty hot out, so I stroll up to you and hand you a can of Dr. Pepper. The challenge is that you may hate Dr. Pepper. I don’t know if you do or don’t because I didn’t take the time to ask you.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” doesn’t mean I give you what I would want you to give me. I can’t assume you would enjoy Dr. Pepper just because I would like you to give me a Dr. Pepper if we were sitting in your backyard.

I have to go the extra mile before the cookout and ask you what your favorite soft drink of choice would happen to be. And, if we don’t have it, I go to the grocery store and pick it up. That is the true essence of the Golden Rule and the cornerstone of Zig’s philosophy of “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

So, how do we live this out? There are five principles we can extract from this philosophy — and when we take action on each of them then we are truly living the kind of life that Zig lived.

Principle One: How We Treat Others

In my book, Jesus, Take the Wheel: 101 Inspirations for Your Daily Christian Walk I tell a story of an event that happened at the Seattle Special Olympics many years ago.

The nine fine-tuned athletes lined up at the starting line. This is what they had trained for. The race was the 100-yard dash. As the gun was raised, tension filled the air. BANG! The gun was fired. The athletes broke out in an awkward trot instead of a graceful gait. You see, this was the Seattle Special Olympics. Special was an understatement for this race of champions.

One of the contestants stumbled and fell to the ground. The young boy began to cry. The other eight athletes heard the cry in pain. They paused, turned around, and went to help their fallen comrade. One girl with Down Syndrome kissed the fallen athlete. She said, “This will make it better.” They helped the little boy to his feet and they all joined arms and crossed the finish line together.

Living out Zig’s philosophy means being willing to give something up in order to help someone else. Eight athletes were willing to give up the gold medal in order to help another who was in need.

I love that scene in Disney’s Cars when Lightning McQueen is about to win the Piston Cup when all of a sudden, on the Jumbotron he notices that The King has crashed. Instead of racing ahead, Lightning stops, hesitates, and then backs up to where The King is laying in a heap.

Lightning pulls up behind The King and gently pushes him over the finish line. The King asks, “What are you doing kid?”

Lightning says, “I think The King should finish his last race.”

“You just gave up the Piston Cup, you know that?”

“This grumpy old race car I know once told me something — ‘It is just an empty cup.’” Said Lightning.

How we treat others is key. Are we selfish and think of ourselves only and first … or do we look for ways to make another person’s day more successful?

Principle Two: Success is Serving

Many years ago at the very beginning of my career as a Professional Speaker, I wrote Zig Ziglar for advice. I was a brand new speaker, had no clue even how to begin, and was in desperate need of some insight.

So, I wrote a letter to the master — Zig Ziglar. Zig was the number one speaker on the planet so my reasoning was who better to get advice from. I knew it was a long shot if I would ever hear back from him, but I put a stamp on my letter and dropped it in the mail.

After a number of days, a letter was in my mailbox from the Zig Ziglar Corporation. I hurriedly and I might add a bit nervously opened the letter. It was a personal letter from the man himself.

In that letter, Zig outlined step by step what actions he recommended I take to launch my speaking career. It was great advice!

But, why did he take the time to answer a letter from a kid in Indiana? He must have received thousands of such letters all the time. Answering all those letters must have taken tons of time. So, why did he do it? Simple! Because he was a servant. Success is serving other people. This goes hand in hand with principle one. Zig took the time to serve me when I couldn’t do anything for him in return. That is why he was successful. But, he didn’t serve just in order to get. He served for service alone. Success just happens to be a by product of success.

Principle Three: Value

Our importance to the marketplace is the value we can bring to it. In many ways, this is true in our relationships too. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that I agree or even like it when someone values me only for what I can give or provide for them. All I am saying is that is the way it is for the marketplace and for many people.

So, the question you have to ask in every situation and with every relationship is what value can you bring to the situation? Or, you might ask, how can you improve the situation?

As a selling professional and sales trainer, I stress to my audiences the importance of creating value first. Before they can expect a prospect to purchase their goods or services, they first need to create value for the budding customer. What can they give them that is not a trinket, but actually builds value for them by helping to solve at least part of their situation or challenge?

Problem solving is the key. We must become champions at solving problems. The more problems we can solve for people … then the more valuable we become to them.

Principle Four: Actions Always Come Back To You

Have you ever stood on a sunny beach and thrown a beach ball into the ocean? What happens to it? It comes back, doesn’t it! That is the same with life. What we give out always comes back. The Bible says, “Give and it will be given to you.” The Bible also says that it comes back to us in larger quantities.

So, does that mean if I give a hundred dollars to a charity or to a person in need that I am going to get more than a hundred dollars back? Wow, that sounds like a good investment.

No, it doesn’t work that way. You may not get money back at all. That may not be what you need. When we give, God gives back to us exactly what we need. That may be in finances, an opportunity, or in some other blessing that is perfectly suited for us. That is the beauty of it.

Let me stress again that our main motive must never be in what we may get back, but instead in what we can do for that person or charity. But, you may be asking, “Mark is it ok to WANT to receive back? Or, is that greedy?”

Hmm, I don’t think it is greedy as long as receiving isn’t your only motive. I believe that it is healthy to want to receive. That is part of the motivation.

I believe that many Christians put God in a box. God is too big and too wonderful for a box. He has put in multiple levels of understanding and success in a verse such as “Give and it will be given to you.” On this earth, we may never understand the total depth of that truth … and that is ok. We don’t have to understand a principle completely in order to live by it and be rewarded by it’s truth.

Principle Five: It is a Mark of Your Integrity

The last step is that Zig’s principle speaks to your integrity. So, what is integrity? The dictionary will define it with words such as wholeness. Wholeness to what? Well, to values such as honesty, truthfulness, and uprightness.

We’ve all heard the old phisophy that says honesty is not only the best policy, it’s the only policy. Those words sound nice, but are also very, very true.

So, logic would say that the first step is to be honest in all your dealings with other people. It is true that you need to be honest in everything that we say and do with other people. But, I believe there is a step before this step. That step is to be honest with yourself. If you’re not honest with yourself, then that will impact how you deal with other people. Sowing within comes before sowing without.

In recap, in order for us to live out Zig’s philosophy of “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want” we need to:

• Principle One: How we treat others

• Principle Two: Success is serving

• Principle Three: Value

• Principle Four: Actions always come back to you

• Principle Five: It is a mark of your integrity

And once we have that foundation in place then we are ready to take on the next step which leads us to our next Ziglar Principle.

*Excerpted from Mark Bowser’s upcoming book “Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Success.”

Contact Mark Bowser at

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Stories are everywhere! We all love them! We love them in books, at the movies, and in our favorite podcasts. But, what if a story could be — more? What if a story could change your life in a substantial, positive way? What if a story could take you to the pinnacles of success and show you how to scale life’s mountains too?

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