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Zig Ziglar dies at 86; motivational speaker inspired millions

November 28, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Zig Ziglar speaks at the Get Motivated Seminar at Staples Center in 2004.
Zig Ziglar speaks at the Get Motivated Seminar at Staples Center in 2004. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Zig Ziglar died Wednesday at age 86, a deep-voiced motivational speaker whose clever way with words inspired millions to stop looking for shortcuts to success -- and instead earn it the old-fashioned way by rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

"Zig Ziglar" was a trending term on Twitter, Yahoo and Google today, social media outlets that were unfathomable when a young Ziglar returned from World War II and landed a job in sales.

It was on the job that Ziglar developed a curiosity about human nature -- What made a man tick? Why did some succeed where others failed? -- that ultimately led to a thriving career in motivational speaking.

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Ziglar's speaking career came later in life, something that no doubt added to his appeal to many Americans who felt that after a certain age there was nothing to do but give up. Ziglar's first book, "See You at the Top," was published in 1975 when he was 49.

He would go on to rub elbows with U.S. presidents and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to the Associated Press. 

Ziglar's personal assistant told the Associated Press that Ziglar was suffering from pneumonia when he passed away at a hospital in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

A devout Christian, Ziglar credited his faith and his red-headed wife, Jean, with much of his success. The couple had celebrated their 66th "honeymoon" on Monday. (Watch the video below to find out why Ziglar and his chose to celebrate "honeymoons" instead of anniversaries, and his sweet little joke about his wife's hair color.) 

To today's audiences, Ziglar's words might seem kitschy and a little bit corny, or involved wordplay. Among them: "Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street" and "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."

But it was that same easy-to-remember, home-spun simplicity that caught on with people including rapper-actor L.L. Cool J and social media guru Jeff Bullas, and prompted many to tweet their sadness at Ziglar's death and pass along their favorite Ziglarisms. 

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