BY TRES KERNS

In 1982, I got a job selling Cutco knives.

My sales manager, George, treated me to a conference with Zig Ziglar that changed my life. From then on, I began to believe in myself and the power of timeless principles in sales and life. During the next 12 years, I attended more seminars and honed my craft.

At a 1994 event, Zig told the audience how Jesus had changed his life. He offered everybody a cassette of his testimony. I must have listened to that tape a dozen times, later that year; I gave my life to Christ. After that, I continued attending many Ziglar conferences. His passion was to encourage us to be our best and do the right thing.

Zig lived by Biblical principles. This cost him some speaking engagements, but it also afforded him others because he could motivate without being off color. He taught me that “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

He loved his wife, the “Red Head,” and warned men that “the grass may be greener on the other side, but it still has to be mowed.”

Even when Zig had a weight problem he consulted the Bible to help control his behavior. He was honest. An old school salesperson who believed the customer is always right and customer service is king, he’d often say, “If the customer is wrong, they just need more information to make the right decision.” When he published his life story, it began and ended with his faith. The New York Times wrote of his death at age 86 on Nov. 28 “... the turning point in his career was when he became a born again Christian in 1972, and began teaching ‘Biblical principles ...’ ”

Zig coined the famous phrase about the culture war that Ted Koppel borrowed for a graduation speech: “If God had wanted us to live in a permissive society. He would have given us the Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments.”

Humor was his primary method, “I read the paper and the Bible every day,” He said. “That way I know what both sides are up to.” On salvation, “I don’t believe smoking will send you to hell — with smoking you smell like you’ve been there.” Of marriage, “If you treat your wife like a thoroughbred, you’ll never end up with a nag.”

Zig taught me so much. Selling begins with believing in yourself, representing a great product, working for a good company and doing a lot of hard work. The first and last are up to you, it’s the ones in the middle that are the hardest to achieve.

Born Hilary Hinton Ziglar on Nov. 6, 1926, he was pronounced dead by the family doctor 10 days after his birth. His grandmother came into the room and started praying over his lifeless body. God heard her prayer and Zig lived. He grew to manhood, graduated from University of South Carolina and started raising his family just outside of Columbia.

When he was failing in sales, his boss told him that he was wasting his talent with a poor attitude. After that lecture, Zig strived to honor God, family, country and company. He became a top producer and began challenging people to think positive and outside the box.

Zig Ziglar wrote this about his daughter’s untimely death, “Even in tragedy, God through His word offers hope for those who seek and believe. It starts with the promise of a better tomorrow, of life everlasting, of eternal peace… and it offers hope where none existed.”

Like millions of others whose lives he touched, I already miss him.

Tres Kerns, a former Christian radio talk show host, lives in the Charleston area. His e-mail is tres.kerns@gmail.com.