Two great men who were mentors and friends to me passed away this year—Stephen R. Covey in July and Zig Ziglar just this past week. I’d like to share a few thoughts about these wonderful guys.
Stephen Covey was a devoted husband to his wife, Sandra, and dedicated father of nine, grandfather of fifty-two, and great-grandfather of six. He was also a great friend and colleague to many, including me.
A great memory I have of Steve was when we did a session together in Salt Lake City. During my presentation, I talked about how the most popular management philosophy was “Seagull Management,” where managers don’t come around until something goes wrong—and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out. That line normally got a good laugh from audiences, but not this time. Then Steve whispered to me, “Ken, the seagull is the state bird of Utah.” Oops! He later told me about the role the seagull played in Mormon history. When the early Mormons were settling in Utah and planting their fields, they were plagued by swarms of locusts that began eating all of their crops. The people thought they were going to starve to death. At one point they looked up and saw a huge cloud of seagulls flying toward them. They thought the seagulls were coming to finish off what the locusts hadn’t eaten. Instead, the seagulls ended up eating all of the locusts, saving the settlers’ harvest and their very lives. Steve even took me to the place in downtown Salt Lake City where they have a statue of a seagull.
Steve was such an inspiration and a teacher to so many. He was a giant in our field and a very special human being. His legacy here on earth will go on for years to come.
Zig Ziglar had a big impact on me. During the times we were on the platform together, he modeled for me that it was okay to share my faith as long as I wasn’t trying to convert folks. He told me, “Your faith is part of who you are, and people want to know what makes you tick and what is important in your life.”
When I was 65, I called Zig because Margie and I had been invited to the 59th Anniversary of his 21st birthday. I asked him, “Zig, are you going to retire?” I will never forget his reply: “There’s no mention of retirement in the Bible! Except for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and David, nobody in the Bible under 80 years of age made much of an impact. I’m not retiring—I’m re-firing!” What a difference his phrase of “re-firing” has made in my life the last eight years. I quote him all the time. In fact, I’m working on a book on “re-firement” and my coauthor and I are going to dedicate the book to Zig.
One last thing I learned from Zig. He once told me, “I never met a golf game I didn’t like.” Ever since, I play a lot of N.A.T.O. golf—Not Attached To Outcome—and I enjoy the game so much more. He was an inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to meet him.
It’s always tough to lose important people in our lives. I think the best way to honor them is to make sure you reach out—today—to the people you love, and tell them how important they are. As Margie says: “Keep your I-love-yous up to date.” You’ll never regret it.