A wealthy man stood at the edge of his swimming pool in the backyard of his mansion. He was hosting a party and had invited twenty of the most promising young men from the community to his home for a very special occasion. One of the young men was going to be lucky enough to either marry his daughter, a beautiful and intelligent young woman, or become president of his multi-million dollar business. To determine who was the most courageous and motivated among them, a simple test had been arranged. The man explained that his pool was filled with snakes and baby alligators, and the first man to swim from one side to the other could choose to become the president of his business or ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Before the man could finish explaining the rules, a loud splash was heard at the edge of the pool. One of the young men was swimming with tremendous speed across the pool. He jumped out at the far side and came to stand before his host, soaked and out of breath. The wealthy man was impressed and said he had never seen such courage and initiative. He faced the young man and asked him if he wanted to become the president of his business. The young man shook his head. “No.” The wealthy man smiled and asked, “Then you have chosen to marry my lovely daughter?” Once again, the young man shook his head. “No.” Now the wealthy man looked perplexed. He said, “If you don’t want to be the president and don’t want to marry my daughter, then what do you want?” The young man looked at him and said, “Sir, I would just like to know the name of the guy that pushed me into the pool.”
I was in my early twenties when a man named Hilary told me this story. I’ll never forget that day for two reasons. First, how often do you meet a man named Hilary? Second, after hearing the story, I asked Hilary what it meant. He said the lesson wouldn’t be as valuable if he told me, and suggested I think about it and come up with my own meaning.
Hilary was a unique man in many ways. He was born in a rural part of the country, the tenth of twelve children. When Hilary was only five years old, his father died from a stroke, and just two days later, his younger sister died from an illness. The family was poor and suffering from two devastating losses. Hilary learned to improvise, and from an early age, he sold snacks at school to make a little money for his family. He joined the Navy as a teenager because they offered a steady job and a free college education.
While at college he sold sandwiches to make extra money. After he graduated he tried to turn it into a full time business. He married his school sweetheart, and although they worked side by side the business just didn’t work. Hilary took a job selling cookware. The problem was, he wasn’t a very good salesman. After two years, the owner of the company pulled him aside and told him he had great potential if he could only improve his self-image. Hilary viewed himself as a poor kid with limited opportunities. His boss told him that as long as he saw himself that way, then that’s all he would live to be. He told Hilary he had the potential to become a national champion if he could only change his mindset.
Hilary decided from that day forward to imagine he was a national champion. Within one year, he became the second best salesman out of 7,000. Throughout his life, Hilary remained a top salesman. He was so successful that he started writing books on sales and delivering seminars to teach others. I was fortunate to hear him speak last year, almost twenty years from when we first met. Hilary Ziglar recently passed away at the age of eighty-six. Most people knew him by his nickname, Zig, and he is certainly missed.
One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is, “Where you start is not as important as where you finish.” 2013 is upon us, and The Time is Now to pursue your dreams. Sometimes we all need a little inspirational “push” into the pool to get started, but it’s up to each of us to swim. Happy New Year, and happy swimming!
Live Your Dreams