BOWEN COLUMN: Greatest motivator of modern times

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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It wasn’t our modern-day hero’s own faith that saw him through his very first crisis. It was his grandmother’s. It is quite a story. Nine days after he was born, he stopped breathing, and the doctor laid the lifeless body on the bed. But his grandmother was standing there with the family, and she — as only a grandmama probably could do — picked up the boy and held his body close to hers and began whispering into his ear. In a moment, the little nine-day year-old boy revived in her arms.

When he was five, he lost his father — and two days later his baby sister died, too. Many years after these tragic events, he would look back, and write, “It’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.”

The tenth of twelve children, he was raised in a poor family by his widowed mother during the Great Depression. At 7, he was already helping to support his family by selling vegetables they had raised and milk from their cow. His hope of being a Navy pilot was a faraway dream, for sure. When he was only 20, he fell in love with a beautiful redhead named Jean, and they married. In his later work, he would always refer to her simply as, “the redhead.” It seemed to work.

But these new responsibilities made his life even more difficult. He had to quit school to help support them. He had to “jump ship,” as he would say, to sell pots and pans. He learned quickly that making it in any endeavor would be a day-by-day enterprise. Many years after those early years of marriage he would write,

He turned to motivational speaking – “You’ve got to be before you can do, and do before you can have,” he said.

He built a library of inspirational materials from stories in newspapers he would collect. By 1975, he had written his book, See you at the Top, a book of his most inspirational stories and quotations. Thirty publishers rejected the book before one accepted it. It would go on to sell more than two-million copies worldwide.

For forty years he traveled more than five million miles with his message of faith and optimism. He advised the most successful men in the world — from Fortune 5 CEOs to Presidents of the U.S. Overall, he wrote thirty books that are published in thirty-six languages, motivating 250 million people. His perseverance, faith, and positive thinking enabled him and that redhead to stay married for 66 years — 66 years, and two days, exactly — before he left that lovely redhead in 2012. You’ll remember the man who enjoyed all those years with his ‘redhead’ as the famous and — in the world of motivation — the incomparable Zig Ziglar.

To quote another great American icon, now you know … the rest of the story.