Book Summary: Born to Win by Zig Ziglar

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Born to Win, Find You Success, by Zig Ziglar and Tom Ziglar (121 pages)

Brief Overview

Born to Win is a classic self-help book by one of the icons in the field, the late Zig Ziglar. It is designed to help you maximize your potential in both your personal and professional life.

Zig is most famous for his quote:

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

Zig Ziglar

According to both Ziglars (father and son) there are 3 steps to living your best and most successful life. The first is to planning to win. This begins with becoming familiar with knowing what you want.

A common theme in just about every self-help book I’ve read is a mindset adjustment. Zig is no exception. To underestimate the necessity of reflecting upon who you are and what you want to become is to limit your abilities. Re-setting negative ideas and self-talk will allow you to break through new ceilings.

The second step to your success is preparing to win. After you have a clear set of goals and dreams you need to build skills and abilities that will allow you to achieve those goals. Ongoing education through podcasts, courses, reading and coaching is a lifelong endeavor. 

The third step of the success journey is expecting to win. Once again, this involves a lot of mindset work. You must have hope and believe you will succeed, even as you fave failures and frustrations.

Don’t worry about the results. Instead, expect results even before you experience any. Worrying about a problem often makes it worse. You will make decisions out of fear rather than an expectation of success.

Should You Read the Whole Book or Just the Summary?

Ziglar dives into the 3 steps to success with optimism, energy and lots of anecdotes. He is generous with sharing his own personal life stories. His humorous personality is infused throughout the book.

At 121 pages this book is not a long read. As I read it I felt like I was experiencing one of Zig’s coaching seminars (he traveled the world giving thousands of presentations). I could see him pacing along the stage and throwing his hands in the air as he spoke of his ideas. I could feel his energy and optimism seeping from his pores.

Born to Win addresses the whole person. Many of Ziglar’s other books are more oriented to sales and business. In this book he makes it clear that success means doing well in ALL areas of your life: health, family, relationships, spiritually AND in business. You cannot achieve your highest business goals unless your foundation is also in place.

This is a feel-good read with a lot of life wisdom sprinkled throughout.

Comprehensive Summary

As I mentioned above, this book is divided into 3 parts: planning to win, preparing to win and expecting to win.

Part 1 – Planning to Win 

Planning to win starts with goals. Like a roadmap, you cannot write down directions until you know your intended destination. 

Everyone has innate abilities, talents and desires. Reflect on yours. Journal, meditate, pray and just allow yourself quiet time to figure out what you want and why. The why is important. The why will get you through tough times.

Your why can be micro or macro. Do you want financial independence to travel the world? Or a secure income to buy a home for your family? Perhaps it’s a passion to solve a problem in your neighborhood, city, state, country or the world.

When you decide your goals it’s time to map your path. There will probably be detours along the way but if you have clear goals and know your why you’re ahead of many people.

There are 6 qualities you must possess  in order to reach your goals. These are honesty, character, faith, integrity, love and loyalty. Ziglar calls these the foundations stones to get to the top. 

He uses a chart like this in several variations throughout the book.

Each of the “spokes” on the wheel is necessary for wellbeing. Assess where on the scale you fall for each category. This will focus you on the areas that need work.

On top of these 7 areas of your life are 6 characteristics that make you a winner. They are:

  • Honesty
  • Character
  • Faith
  • Integrity
  • Love 
  • Loyalty

According to Zigler, these are the foundation, the “weapons” of success.  He suggests that a person is a thinking and acting organism. What you think directs how you act. So it is imperative to build the right mindset and character to enable winning actions.

What you think is malleable, you can change it. That is the place to start in order to improve all aspects of your life.

These characters are addressed in Born to Win separately. Zigler offers stories to model why these characteristics make you a better person but also increase your business success. For example, if you buy a couch from a salesperson who is not fully honest with you at some point you’ll realize it. And the next time you need a piece of furniture guess where you will NOT be buying it?

Know What You Want and Why

You can’t swing a stick without hitting someone who spent years and thousands of dollars pursuing a “dream” only to find out they did not like the job. There are accountants, lawyers, nurses, doctors who drag themselves to work each day. Many have good salaries, but they’re not happy.

In order to flush out whether you’re on the right path introspection is necessary. Are you pursuing a goal because you’re “supposed” to? Is it what your parents expect? Will it give you bragging rights? Are you just chasing the money, thinking it will bring happiness? 

These motivations will not lead to winning. Figuring out what lights you up, that’s where the magic is. This is often the most difficult part of the journey. We were wired to think of what we want to be when we grow up instead of: What’s our passion?

Part 2 – Preparing to Win

Whatever you’re planning on doing: getting a new job, giving a speech, going on vacation, the more prepared you are the higher your chance of success.

You Can Do More Than You Think

Ziglar believes most people don’t think big enough; they have limiting beliefs. To illustrate this concept he uses the flea story.

If you put a bunch of fleas in a jar and screw on the cap they will jump and jump, trying to get past the lid. The fleas quickly learn that they can only jump as high as the jar is tall. When you remove the lid what do you think the fleas do? They continue to jump only as high as the top of the jar, even though they’re now free to jump higher and escape!

I like this story and think it’s a great parable to most humans. You can’t jump higher than you can imagine. In order to accomplish this open your horizons with books, podcasts and meeting new people who are doing big things.

Take off the blinders that you small world has placed on your vision and look around at the possibilities that exist.

Knowledge Gives You Power

Getting knocked down in life is guaranteed. Getting up and moving forward is the hard part. Knowledge will help you in this endeavor.

Continual education throughout life fundamentally changes your life. If you don’t know much about a topic you won’t be interested in it. You also won’t see the possibilities and opportunities that lie beneath the surface.

Ziglar quotes a famous economist on this topic,

“Prosperity comes to those who learn new things the fastest” Paul Zane Pilzer.

Ziglar was an avid reader of books, magazines and the bible. This is a common thread to many successful people. Warren Buffet, the famous billionaire reads for several hours every single day. 

Practice Prepares You for Victory 

It’s easy to use a sports analogy to highlight the “practice makes perfect” adage. However, it holds true in every area of life. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 

Zig agrees.

Doing new things means change. It involves getting out of your comfort zone. Most people are not willing to do this. They might think about it. But it’s so much easier to stay comfortable and do what we know, even if it’s not what we want.

Our bodies are hardwired to take the easy, lazy route. It’s in our DNA to come home from work and watch Netflix for hours. This served us well thousands of years ago, when we did not know when our next meal was coming. Resting was survival.

That’s why it’s so hard to push ourselves to constantly learn and try new things. But if you want something different you have to do something different. And do it over and over again.

Get the Right Advice

Practice and experience are key components to excelling in any area. You have to make mistakes to learn and grow. But, you can shortcut this route somewhat by learning from others’ mistakes.

Seeking out people who have succeeded at what you want in order to learn from and emulate them is super helpful. This can take many forms: books, courses, mentors, coaches and podcasts to name a few.

Ziglar cautions that not all mentors or coaches are of the same value; some will steer you down the wrong path. He enumerates to characteristics to look for in a good coach.


The Power of Encouragement and Hope

As ou can infer from this portion of the book, “expecting to win” there is a lot of mindset at work here. 

“Your attitude will determine your altitude”

Zig Ziglar

You must hope and believe that you will win. But it is a belief that is earned. You have planned for success. You are taking action every day to ensure that success. A natural outcome of these actions is success.

In order to expect to win there are 3 dimensions to your life that need to be up to nurtured. The first is your spiritual life. Ziglar explains several times throughout the book that he did not achieve success until he found Christianity. 

You are a spiritual being at the core of your existence. Humans have a deep need for love and hope. Ziglar posits that the difference between humans and other animals is that we are not just driven by basic needs. We have beliefs. And those beliefs drive our actions.

He believes, and his life confirmed for him, that your spiritual life is extremely important and affects all other parts of yourof your experience on earth.

The second dimension is your mental life. Just as you must exercise your physical body the same is true of your brain. You do this by taking in new knowledge on a daily basis through listening, reading and learning.

There is another component to “growing” your brain. This new knowledge that is attained each day must be incorporated into your life. You have to apply new skills and information to move forward and make progress.

The third dimension is your physical life. Many entrepreneurs neglect embedding healthy habits into their life. Eating healthy and exercising will improve your energy and maximize your output. 

The Power of Encouragement and Hope

Zig Ziglar has accomplished many successes in his life. He made lots of money as a salesman. He achieved his dream of being a world-renown speaker. He has helped thousands of people improve their life.

As he reflects on these accomplishments the common thread among all the people he helped was that he imparted encouragement and hope. 

“Hope is the power that gives a person the confidence to step out and try.” 

Zig Ziglar

People who have hope are more apt to see opportunity because they are looking for it. They go through their day actively evaluating problems and seeing solutions. Being mindful and open to possibilities is an important step to success that hope allows.

Don’t Worry About the Results

To introduce this topic Ziglar uses a bowling analogy. If you watch people bowl you’ll notice a trend. After releasing the bowling ball many people carefully watch the bowl as it travels down the lane. They use their arms and their voices to guide the ball, “Left, go left!” 

Now it doesn’t make one bit of difference whether or not you talk to the bowling ball; it will wind up in the same place. Worrying and stressing about the result has no impact. That is one reason Ziglar counsels us not to worry about the results.

Another point is that worrying causes negative results in our bodies. It leads to anxiety, lost sleep, stomach problems, headaches — a whole lot of ailments. Yet still, the outcome remains the same.

Michael Jordon lost 300 games and thousands of shots. Edison’s light bulb failed the first 999 he tried. Setbacks and failures are an inevitable part of success.

If you have planned for success and taken the necessary actions you will succeed eventually. Worrying does not get you there any faster, it slows you down.

Always Expect the Best – Be a Positive Thinker

This is another mindset activity that has been the message of many books, podcasts, lectures, etc. 

The caveat here is that you can’t just think things are going to work out. You have to put in the training, the practice and the work. Then, and only then, is it possible and advisable to expect the best.

Born to Win For Business Leaders

Most of Born to Win deals with success in all aspects of life, not just the financial portion. Refer back to the “wheel of life” for reference. This chapters covers business more specifically.

Zig identifies 5 major “spokes” to the business wheel:

1. Marketing

2. Sales

3. Operations

4. Administration

He stresses that business is only 1 “spoke” in your life. For real success you must have balance among all 6 areas (see wheel above)

In this chapter he quotes Howard Partridge in all bold letters:

“Your business exists for ONE REASON and ONE reason ONLY as a VEHICLE to help you achieve your life goals.

Zig Ziglar

About the Authors

Zig Ziglar: His real name is Hilary Hinton Ziglar. His nickname was born in elementary school in Mississippi. He was born in 1926 and died of pneumonia in 2012.

Ziglar is a world-renowned motivational speaker. He has been called the “salesman’s salesman”. He began his career selling cooking ware and credits his success to a manager, P.C. Merrell, for believing that he could be a great salesman.

His sales success led him to train other salesmen. Here he found a passion for motivational speaking. After years of practicing and striving to make it his life’s work, Ziglar was able to realize his dream in his forties.

Throughout the years he has been promoted on 20/20, 60 Minutes, Phil Donahue and the Today Show (to name a few). He produced audiotapes and books. He has written more than 30 books which have been translated into 26 languages. 

Some of his other books:

Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale: For Anyone Who Must Get Others to Say Yes!

See You at the Top: 25th Anniversary Edition

Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life’s Terms

Tom Ziglar: When Zig retired in 2010 he turned over his business, Ziglar, Inc., to his son. Tom has followed in his father. Before becoming CEO of his father’s company he started out in direct sales. During his tenure he was promoted to sales manager and then leadership.

Tom Ziglar has been actively taking Ziglar, Inc. into the 21st century by building social communities on Twitter, with a blog and live video webcasts.

By Joan Medori


The Common Path to Uncommon Success