Tom Ziglar shares best practices for motivation and goal-setting (AKA problem-solving).
- Why and how to articulate your “why”
- The seven-step Ziglar goal-setting/problem-solving system
- How to transform a bad habit into a good one
Tom Ziglar is the proud son of Zig Ziglar and the CEO of Ziglar, Inc. He joined the Zig Ziglar corporation in 1987 and climbed from working in the warehouse to sales, to management, and then on to leadership. Today, he speaks around the world; hosts The Ziglar Show, one of the top-ranked business podcasts; and carries on the Ziglar philosophy, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” He and his wife, have one daughter and reside in Plano, Texas.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
- Sponsored Message: ZipRecruiter is the smartest way to hire
- Tom’s book: Choose to Win
- Tom’s website: ziglar.com
- Podcast: The Ziglar Show
- Author: Zig Ziglar
- Book: Goals
- Book: Thou Shall Prosper
- Book: Business Secrets of the Bible
- Book: The Power of Who
- Book: Two Chairs
- Book: Extraordinary Influence
- Previous episode: David Mead
- Previous episode: BJ Fogg
- Previous episode: David Allen
Tom, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
What a blessing to be on, Pete. Thanks for having me.
Oh, thank you. Well, I am excited to dig into this goodness. I have seen your podcast many, many times, dancing around in the rankings. And so I felt honored to be in such good company as Ziglar. Because my dad and I — I remember one of my fond memories — we listened to an audio cassette tape called Goals, starring Zig Ziglar when I was growing up, and I thought, “This is pretty cool.” And I got into all this stuff. That was one of the very first things I could point to, was that audio tape playing in the car with my dad.
That is awesome. And you know, that’s a story I hear wherever I travel. Somebody will come up, and they’ll be like, “I grew up listening to your dad in the car,” and I’m like, “Me, too!” It’s just good. It’s good.
Well, I wanted to ask if you could maybe give us a bit of a picture and a story for what it was like growing up with Zig Ziglar himself, the legend, as your father.
Well, I’ll tell you this, he was better off the stage than he was on stage. And of course, everybody who saw him thought he was maybe as good as he ever was on stage. And what I mean by that is, he really walked his talk. And one of my good friends said, “You know, your dad walks his talk, and he’s a pretty good talker.”
But at the same time, dad was an introvert. So when he was at the house, he was kind of quiet. He was always reading. Whenever we had family time together, he was always engaged. And it was just a blessing to know that he was there for us. And then when he had a teaching moment, he didn’t tell us what to do. Instead, he just asked us questions. So that was pretty clever.
I mean, here’s a world class expert. You know, millions of people, you know, read his books and followed him. And then we would come up with, “Hey, I want to do this,” or “What do you think about that?” Instead of just giving us the answer, because he obviously had it, he would turn around and then ask us the question that made us think through it. So that was something that I’m trying to emulate as I grow.
That is a nice encapsulation there of the power of questions. Because, indeed, you know, here’s someone who’s got a lot of answers and shared a lot of answers to a lot of people, and this is the approach he takes for teaching. So well, that’s beautiful. A beautiful memory. Thank you.
You’ve got a recent book called Choose to Win out. what was maybe the most surprising or fascinating discovery you made while you were putting this together?
Probably, this is a discovery out the book that kind of got it started. I was speaking in Australia. And right before the first break, a guy raises his hand — I love questions. And he says, “Tom, what is the fastest way to success?” And I’ve never been asked that question. I’m 54, at that time, I was 50. So I’d been in the business for 50 years, raised in it.
And I never heard that question posed. It was always, you know, “What do successful people do?” or “What are the three keys to being successful?” But this guy wanted to know what is the fastest way? And so I, in that split moment, had to make up an answer. And so just out of my mouth, I said, “Well, the fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.” And then we went to break. I didn’t think anything of it.
When we came back from break, and the host there, his name is Steve McKnight. He said, “Hey, before I bring Tom on, get out your pens. Did you hear what he said right before break? He said ‘The fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits.’”
Well, Pete, I didn’t realize I’d said that. So I literally got my pen out, and I wrote it down. And I’m kind of like, in the back of my brain, because I’ve grown up, I’m like, “You know, who did I just quote?” That night, I thought about it the whole time. That night, I went back to my room and looked it up on the internet. Nobody had said it that way, so I claimed it.
That kind of became the anchor quote of the book. And so then I started a program, a webinar series that I teach. And I started teaching what I wanted to put in the book. And I did that for two years. So pretty much about 45 weeks. For two years in a row, I taught sections of what I thought should go into the book. And that was the discovery, is putting information out there. And then getting all the feedback from all the people on all these webinars, where their questions were. And that’s kind of how it all came together.
So the discovery was that the simple things that I grew up with and took for granted. That’s not common knowledge or common practice. And there’s so much information out there that overcomplicates things. And so that’s why I tried to put the book the way I did. The byline is ‘transform your life, one simple choice at a time.’ And all I have is a good choice made over and over again.
And so, that’s kind of how we started off. Dad said it’s “Putting the cookies on the lower shelf.” And so every week, I would try to put the cookies on the lowest shelf possible. And that’s kind of how the book got honed.
Yeah, intriguing. Well, so then, is that then the big idea underneath all of us? To win is going about replacing bad habits with good habits?
That is the big idea. If you’re reading and writing and speaking and doing things, you’re always trying to find the next new thing — or not necessarily a new thing, but a new way to say it. And I’ve come across this quote that I love, and I’m trying to track down who said it first. But the quote is, “A tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness.” And so the idea is real simple.
As you listen to this, what fruit do you want on your tree? What’s the fruit you want? Well, most people, they want to sleep good. They want good physical health, they want money, they want good relationships. So you just kind of fill in your tree with the fruit that you want. What are the things in life that we want? So what are the roots that nourish the fruit?
Well, there are seven roots: mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal and career. And then here’s the essence of the quote: the fastest way to success is replace bad habits with good habits. Habits are what nourish the roots. And so what fruit do you want? What root feeds the fruit? And what habits do you have that nourish the root? And that’s really the book in a nutshell, and it’s in its design, where on a weekly basis, I can make progress to whatever goal, aspiration or dream I have.
Oh, that’s cool. And that’s a good feeling, to be in that zone of regular recurring weekly progress. Could you whet our appetite, if you will, by sharing an inspiring story of someone who really read the book, took these concepts, and ran with it in terms of, “Hey, this is the fruit I want. This is the root I’m nourishing, and these are the habits I’m adopting,” and how they went after it with gusto.
I’ll give you two. The book has been out now just a little more than a month. So you know, I’m getting notes all the time. But we’ve got about a month’s worth of results. Somebody who I’ve known forever, a good friend of mine, his name is Michael Norton. He got the book right away right when it was published. And then I was with him a couple of weeks later, and he gave me back the book that he’d bought. And underneath it, in the book, he had underlined and marked almost every page in the book.
And he wrote me this long inscription. And he said, “One year from today, you and I are going to meet, and we’re going to go through this book again.” And this is a guy who I think knows everything, right? He knows my stuff. He knows what we’ve been doing in Ziglar for years. And then I’m talking to him a couple of weeks later, and he’s read the book two more times since then!
And it’s not like he’s a slow learner or anything, okay? What he’s doing is he’s going back to the foundation. And he’s getting real clarity on the specific goals that he wants to achieve. And the book talks about legacy, and the difference between success, significance and legacy. And so what he’s doing right now is he is intentionally creating habits that will leave a legacy. And so that’s the path that he’s on.
I did a workshop for a group, and there was a family there. And they put in practice one of the things that I teach in the book, and that is, they took words that they wanted their family to be known for. And they had a bunch of kids, young kids all the way from three until, I believe, 11. Hollis family.
And they got ahead of family meaning, and they say, “What do we want to be known for?” And the whole family started putting in words, and they made an acronym around the word HOUSE. And so now, you can walk up to any of their kids, and you can you can ask them, “What’s a house?” and they will tell you. And it’s the reputation they want to have. And so they’re doing things every single day with their family to instill those principles and values, those words that make a difference.
That’s cool. That’s cool. And so in the case of Michael, I guess, for example, what are the particular fruits he’s after? And the habits he’s implementing?
While we’re talking, I’m opening up a text from him.
Real time, baby. Yeah, real time.
Yeah. So this is what he wrote. So in chapter one, I talked about what is a goal or a dream that you have. So here’s what he wrote me: “Chapter one, homework. The Dream House. It’s a house on the beach with a big front porch. I can hear the crashing of the waves and the general laughing of the waves against the shoreline. The salt air fills the home to the point where everything smells like the beach.
“There are enough bedrooms and sofas and space for air mattresses where the whole family can gather and friends can stay. It’s a home where I have a large enough area to host business associates and clients. The annoyance of having to sweep or vacuum the sand every day is swept away by the magnificent view, the salty air, and the sounds of the ocean. It is filled with the smell of suntan lotion and squeals of joy, laughter, children playing in the sand or in the water.
“There are waves just the right size to body surf. And I teach my children and grandchildren how to body surf. There is an ice cream shop just blocks away — and I might even own it — that I take the family to at the end of the day or after dinner. We are close enough to the boardwalk with rides, arcades, and miniature golf and boardwalk through the house that’s close enough to a real golf course, where we can play and enjoy time together.
“There is a library in the house where I can sit and read and do my devotions and spend time in prayer. The front porch can serve the same purpose on those beautiful mornings where the weather cooperates. The house faces the sun. So we wake to God’s sunrise and beauty. The house is a home built on love and forgiveness, kindness, generosity, togetherness, faith and joy.”
So in that chapter, I basically say, you know, we’ve got to create our “why”, the future that we want, what is it that we aspire to? And I just gave an example of my dream home, what I want in the book. And so he sent me his. And that’s cool, because whenever we speak words, and we put a definition around in it, our mind goes to work immediately to fulfill it. And so it’s one of the things that happens.
It’s a habit that you see with anybody who’s achieved a certain level of success anywhere, is they have a way of looking into the future, and creating it, and speaking it out and casting the vision. And so he’s put it in writing, and he sent it to me, and I’m sure he shared it with his wife. And, you know, they’re thinking about what it is that they want to have.
And it’s very vivid, you know, there’s a lot of great imagery there with regard to the smells.
Yeah, and I talked about that in the book, because you want to get all your senses involved: your touch, your smell, your taste, the feel, what you hear, what you see. When you do those things, that makes it more real in our brain.
You know, it’s one of the things about TV, and why it’s so damaging, is it puts our brain to sleep because the imagination doesn’t have to do anything. But when we read or listen, our imagination has to fill in the gaps. So that’s why a book or a podcast or something where there is no visual, our brain has to fill in the gaps. We can put ourselves in that place, or we can create our own while we’re listening or reading.
Yeah, that’s cool. So we had a real clear picture of the fruits that we’re after with regard to that home. And so then, can you walk us through the process? So where do we go from there?
Yeah, so the “why”. People come to me all the time, and they will say things like, “Tom, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is the right thing.”
And so we have a conversation around the “what”, and I’ll go back and I’ll say, “You know, the “what” is important, but it’s not as important as the “why”.” And so before we even get to the “what”, I like to know why they want to do something. And when we get to the “why”, and somebody buys into the “why”, like they’ve identified their purpose, their calling, what it is that they’re meant to do, and they hone in on that, then what happens is that that transforms into the “how”.
When your “how” is inspired by “why”, people take notice of the “how”. And so you can see this, and people who are, you know, you think they’re passionate about what they do, but underneath it is why they’re doing it, and when their “why” forms their “how”, everybody says, “Can you come help me over here?” “Can you do this?”
Well, let’s suppose that you’ve got your “why”, and it’s driving you. Well, now you need a game plan for the “how”. And that’s one of the things that we talked about in the book, in accomplishing anything in life.
There are three things that have to happen. We have to have the right mindset. And in other words, mindset is simply the habit of right thinking. So we’ve got to get our thinking right. The second, we’ve got to have the habit of right implementing. We got to do the right things, right? We’ve got to make sure that we’re on track, implementing the right things. And then we got to have the habit of right planning.
So if we implement the wrong things, that’s no good. So we get the right mindset, we plan it out, and then we take action on it. And so the book really goes through the process of, “How do I take a thought, a dream, a goal, and aspiration, and make it tangible into a plan of action?” And then, “How do I take action on that plan of action?” And the action is really, it boils down to simple choices made over and over again.
Okay, so those are the things associated with getting what you want and what you’re after. I’d like to talk about establishing that “why”. We had David Meade, who worked with Simon Sinek on some of this stuff earlier. But I’d love to get your take on how you go about articulating a “why”, or discovering the “why” and really bringing it right to the surface.
I think the thing that I use as an illustration, it’s three circles that overlap in the middle. So imagine three separate circles. And they kind of overlap in the middle, and where all three overlap. That’s what I call your sweet spot. That’s where you go hunting. And of course, in our business, we work with business owners and executives and people from all walks of life. But we also work with a lot of people who are faith-based.
And one of the things that’s interesting to me about faith-based people is a lot of times, they will hesitate. They won’t claim their “why”, because they don’t want to be wrong, you know, like, “What if I put a stake in the ground, and I’m wrong? That’s not my calling.” And so what they do is they get trapped in this Neverland, right? They get trapped of never fully 100% going all in. And that’s always a mistake. Because when you go all in for something, at least you’re going to find out faster, if it’s in the right direction. If you go halfway, you’re going to waste a lot of time.
So let’s look at those three circles. The first circle is, you can call it the “passion circle”. You could call it “What makes my heart saying ‘It’s the thing that you do’”, that time flies, it’s easy for you. It’s something that, you know, you anticipate, you don’t have to wake up for, the alarm doesn’t have to go off. You know, it’s kind of that thing that that makes your heart sing. That’s the first circle.
The second circle is, what problem do you solve? And this one is, you’ve got to do some searching on this. And you look back in your history, and, what kind of problems do people bring you? You know, are they people problems? Are they business problems? Are they math problems? Are they relationship problems? And what is that telling you? That’s a clue. That’s something that you’re good at. And so what problem do you solve is another way of saying “What are my natural gifts and talents? What am I good at?”
And the third one is, what’s the obstacle you’ve overcome? The scar that you have? The mountain that you’ve climbed? In other words, in your life, in all of us, if you live long enough, you’ve got a trial, a tribulation, a problem, something that happened. It could be something beyond your control, you know? You could come from a broken home or have a disease or be in an accident, or it could be a bad decision that you make that you wish you could take back. And if that’s the case, you know, now you’re living with the consequences.
And so if you’ve overcome that, if you’ve gone through time, and you’ve kind of you’ve worked your way through it, and you’ve learned, boy, that is a that’s a powerful thing. When you talk about the people who have the greatest impact on others, almost always, they’ve overcome some huge challenge in their life, some pit that they had to crawl out of.
And so look at these three circles: the thing that makes your heart sing, your gifts and talents, what you’re naturally good at, and the obstacle that you’ve overcome.
And where those three circles kind of overlap, that might be your sweet spot. Because that’s where you’ve got a real-world experience where you have literally compassion and empathy for other people going through the same thing. Because you’ve had a burden there. You’ve got gifts and talents, and you’ve got a passion to help.
And so that’s how I help people in one area find their way. The other is, you know, just ask yourself the question, “What is it in your life that’s most important?” Like at the end of your life? What do you want to be known for? And so when you start to pull all these things together, it will start to tell you a direction to go in.
When my daughter was young — she was a junior in high school, we actually took her up to Chicago, and we went to see a psychologist. It was like a two-and-a-half day testing of her aptitude and her natural abilities. And at the end — it was a two-and-a-half hour interview with the psychologist on the feedback — and what we were trying to do was to figure out, you know, what should we study in school? What direction should I point my life, right? Because I’m going to be applying to colleges; I’m not sure what I want, which direction should I go.
And instead of having a 360-degree opportunity of “I could go any direction,” they kind of gave her some pies to go after. And they said it could be anything in this area. But that’s the direction. Here’s the one line that I took away from that. The psychologist said, “Pay attention to the things you don’t like.”
Because a lot of times, the sweet job, the great opportunity has all the bells and whistles that you’re excited about it. One or two layers down, it might have a whole list of things that you just don’t like, you can’t stand. And that’s as important to you as you discover your gifts and talents, and your “whys”, what do you want most? And what are the things that drive you nuts? Because they shouldn’t be in the same place.
Now, all of us have to do things along the way, that isn’t our favorite thing to do. But we need to make sure that we understand what those are, so that we can be competent enough to excel in our gifts and talents.
Mm-hmm. Okay, very cool. So in this world, we got the passion, the problem, the obstacle, we’re sort of in that zone, we’ve got a real nice image associated with what you’re going after. Can you now share a little bit of some of the tactical process, step-by-step stuff when it comes to goal setting, in particular. I love some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to goal setting.
About a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago, I was talking with a friend who’s a consultant.
And he said to me, “You know that in the world, about 20% of the people are naturally goal setters. They like setting goals. 80% are actually problem solvers.” They like the checklist, right? “They’d like to wake up in the morning, solve a bunch of problems, and then do it again the next day.” And that was a new thing for me. And then I realized, “Wait a second, only 3% of the population takes the time to have a written down goals plan. It’s actually less than 3%!” So now it makes sense.
So the first do or don’t is this: when we talk about goal setting, we have a very specific seven-step process that we outlined in the book of how to set a goal. If you raise your hand and you say, “But Tom, I’m more of a problem solver.” Then I say fantastic! And I’ll give you a high five. And all I want you to do is change the word, from “Ziglar goal setting system” to “Ziglar problem solving system”.
Okay. That’s pretty easy.
Yeah, because it’s the same system either way. And so I’ll just give you an example. Step one is to identify the goal that you want to achieve. And so, gosh, you know, Michael identified that goal of he wanted his dream house, okay? Well, for a problem solver, it could be the same thing.
Well, what’s the problem? The problem is, I don’t like where I’m living. I’d really rather live somewhere else. So the problem I want to solve is I want to move from this to this. But for whatever reason, it’s more of a psychological hack, I guess it’s easier for a problem solver to say, “Okay, now I can set up a sequence of problems to solve,” whereas a goal achiever is thinking, “Okay, these are habits that I’ve got to implement.”
But the reality is they’re the same: the habits and the problems that I solved are the same when working with young people. Gosh, you know, let’s say you have a kid, 8 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old, and they want to be a college athlete. They want to play basketball or golf at the university. And you say, “Fantastic, I’m all for you.” And they go out, and they practice real hard. And the next day, they’re not practicing at all. What do you do when you come back?
And you say, “Hey, I thought you wanted to be a college basketball player?” “Well, I do.” “Well, let me ask you a question: What’s the benefit to them being a college basketball player? And so you let the person, whether they’re your child, or whether they’re an adult in the workplace, you let them tell you what the benefits are. So that’s step two. Step one is, “This is what I want to be,” step two is what are the benefits.
This is overlooked all the time, it’s usually very passing. You know, my goal is to weigh 185. That means I got to lose 20 pounds. So my goal was to weigh 185.
If I’m a problem solver, my problem is as I weigh 205, what are the benefits to solving this problem? What are the benefits to achieving this goal? The more benefits that we list — and the list should be long — the more likely it is that we’re going to follow through. It’s not just look better and feel better. It’s reduced medical expense, it’s better clarity of mind, it’s better relationships, it’s more confidence when I go out in the business world.
It’s all the things, that it’s being able to chase my grandkids someday, because I have good health. So the more benefits that we write in, the better. And so we go through the seven-step process. Number three is what are the major obstacles and mountains to climb that I’ve got to solve? That will keep me from getting there. If I’m trying to lose weight — man, I’m lazy.
My obstacle is, I’ve got to create a habit right out of the gate. If I’m working out at a certain time, every day before I get tired, you know, then I’ve got to figure out the skills and knowledge I need to get there. What don’t I know that I need to know in order to make that happen? And then the people to work with, and then finally the plan of action to get there and a date.
But it starts with the mindset. “Hey, this is what I want. This is why it’s a benefit.” And then we do the plan. And we detail out the plan, identifying the obstacles and barriers before we get started. Because they shouldn’t be a surprise when they come. We should relish them when we come, because now we’re prepared in advance to handle them.
Okay, that’s awesome. So all right, step one, identify the goal. Step two, identify the benefits with a long list. Step three, zero in on the major mountains and obstacles that are going to get your way. Step four, zero in on the missing knowledge, what you don’t yet know that you need to know. And step five, the people you’ve got collaborate with to get there. Step six, the plan of action. Step seven, the date. Is that right?
Cool. And so when we talk about a couple things, what’s your take on smart goals? Because I see some of those things here with regard to — aren’t we out of date? So it’s timed, we identify the goal. So it’s specific. What do you think about the other elements there?
You know, let’s talk about reasonable, realistic. People ask all the time, “Well, what’s a realistic goal?” and I tell them, “A goal needs to be realistic in two senses: one is that, first off, it’s realistic in the sense that if you start tomorrow, you’ll get there in the timeframe with a reasonable likelihood of achieving it.”
Because if my goal is to lose 100 pounds in 30 days, that’s not realistic.
But if my goal is to lose five pounds in two years, that’s not a good goal either, right? Because I can gain 50 pounds, and then only have to lose 55 in the next year. So so the deadline that we put on, it needs to be something where I need to take action right away. If you’re not willing to take action on it right away— I know that it’s hard for people to really work on more than four goals at a time. It’s just our capacity and what we’re trying to do. So I would rather somebody pick four goals that they will take action on right away.
And if you’re new to goal setting, here’s something else. Just have one. Get really good at one, you know, work the plan for one and then add one and then add one. So that’s a great way to get started. And then there’s goals that give leverage to everything else, the way you start your day. I call it the perfect start. If you have that goal right, then it enhances everything else you do.
Physical, anything physical is going to be a multiplier for everything else you do. When we’re in good physical shape, we have more clarity, we have more energy, there’s a lot of things that happen with that. So realistic, is really around the timeframe and the priority. One of the other things that we do in the book is we create a filter. And the filter is a series of questions to make sure that it’s the right goal for you.
And we can look around how many people do you know who are accountants or engineers or doctors who are no longer practicing right now? Yeah, they went to school because somebody along the way said, “Hey, you’re good at math, or you’re good at biology.” And so they just assumed, “Hey, that’s who I’m supposed to be.” And then they go through all that work. And they realize, “Wait a second, this doesn’t fit my “why”. This doesn’t give me satisfaction. This isn’t what I was put here on earth to do. This isn’t my calling.”
And so what we say is this: there’s only one thing worse than not setting a goal. And that’s setting the wrong goal and achieving it. And so we want to be real clear on what it is that we want. And we do that through a series of filtering questions.
And what are the questions?
There’s a couple of them. Is it morally right and fair to everyone concerned? I’ll give you an example. When my daughter was a senior in high school, I knew it was going to be her last year at home. Because she was going to go off to college, and then knowing her, she’s going to get an apartment when she gets back as soon as she can. She’s very independent. And so in her senior year of high school, if I’d set a goal to be a competitive triathlete, then that would have been a commitment of four to six hours of training a day, on top of my workload.
And what that would mean is I wouldn’t have any time to be with my daughter in her last year in the house.
So that would be a goal that wasn’t morally fair to her, right? Because she’s more important than that. So that’s one question you can ask, then you’ve got to ask questions like, “Will it make me happier, healthier? Will it make me prosperous? Will it give me peace of mind? Will it have better relationships? Help in the future?” All these things? If I can’t answer yes to any of those things, then why do I want it?
And then another one is, it can’t contradict one of my other goals. For example, say your goal is to have great health. And then your other goal is to win the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating contest. You can’t do those simultaneously and be on track. So those are some of the type questions that we put through the filter. Also, probably the easiest one, you know, what’s your goal? What is your dream? You write it down and then you ask yourself the “why” question: “Why do I want that?” And if you can’t, in one sentence, clearly identify why you want it, take it off the list.
That’s good. That’s good. Well, finally here, I’d like to zero in on when it comes to the habits. You know, it may be that the fastest way to reach success is to replace bad habits with good habits, but it’s perhaps not the most immediately easy and painless way to get to success. So what are some of your tactical tips for the actual elimination of the bad habits and the development of a good habit?
You know, I’ll just cite a study that I read, because it kind of validates the whole thing. They took two groups of people who needed to lose a good amount of weight. And they said, “How many of you would like to lose weight?” They volunteered for this because they all wanted to run a 5k, and they all needed to lose like 20 pounds or more. And so they knew that getting in shape to run a 5k would help them lose the weight.
So one group, they said, “Okay, we’re going to run that 5k in 90 days. Go figure it out, just start jogging four or five times a week. You know what to do, right? It’s common sense.” The other group, they said to them, “How many of you watch TV every day?” And so, of course, they all raised their hand. And they said, “Well, for this first week, could you commit to watching TV 30 minutes a day and standing up while you do it?”
So they all said yes. And they all said, “Wait a second, we’re supposed to be getting in shape.” And they said, “It’s okay, we got a plan.” So these people who were watching TV anyway, the first week, what they did is they watch TV standing up. Right? Then the second week, they came back to them. And they said, “Hey, when the commercials come on, and you’re standing up during that thirty-minute section, could you walk in place during the commercials?”
So they all said, “Yeah, we can do that.” Well, then the next week, they said, “Hey, when the commercials Come on, can you walk outside to your mailbox and come back in?” Well, eventually they had them walking to the end of the block and coming back and then jogging out to the end of the block and coming back long.
And the short of it is that of the first group who they said “Just go exercise, you know what to do.” I think only about 30% of them completed the 5k. Almost 90% of the people who incrementally changed a bad habit for a good habit finished the 5k.
And so what we’re talking about, we call it the “persistent consistency” or “the block and a mailbox” plan. My father is famous for his weight loss journey. He said he got checked out by the doctor, they cleared him to jog, and the first time he jogged, he jogged to jog the block.
The second day, he jogged a block and a mailbox. The third day, he jogged a block and two mailboxes. And so what he did is he kept adding a mailbox until he did a whole block, and then two blocks, and then a half a mile, and then a mile.
That is, I think, the key of habits, is we take a bad habit, a little tiny, termite-sized, bad habit. And we replace it with a little bitty termite-sized good habit. And then we build. And so every day, every week, we do just a little bit more. And that’s the way careers are made, and reputations are built, and businesses are created.
It’s that long-term goal of, “Hey, I’m just going to get a little bit better every single day. And how am I going to do that? I’m going to take the things that are keeping me from achieving what I want out of my life and replace them with things that are going to take me closer to what I want and put them in my life.”
Yeah, I really love that. Because we just get so darn simple, like, “Well, I could stand up, and I’m watching TV. Sure.” You make that easy. Then if you almost feel like… I don’t know what the word is, like you would feel foolish to not do that. You’re like, “Come on, I can do that.” And it’s because of that, there’s very little resistance, mentally or internally, with regard to like, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”
It’s just like, “Of course, yeah, I can. And in fact, if I didn’t, I would feel silly, not doing this tiny thing.” That is the challenge before me. And I really dig that with regard to, in this specific context of habits. That’s cool. We had BJ Fogg talking about tiny habits. Earlier, we had David Allen talking about making your list just so crystal clear.
Like, what is just the next action, right? I’m going to look up a phone number, I could look up a phone number. That’s, you know, as opposed to, you know, figure out that the next car I’m going to buy. Well, that’s a lot more complex and intimidating. But that’s really fun. And the results prove it out, like, they got the job done with regard to finishing the 5k at a way higher rate. That’s awesome.
Yeah, I was in Nashville with some friends. I was with Dan Miller, a great guy, and with his grandson, Caleb. So we’re having dinner. And Caleb looks at me, and I’d give them both of them the book and Caleb says, “How do I know if I have a bad habit?” And he’s either 23 or 24? I think. So he’s a young guy. And it seems like on the surface, that seems like, “Why are you asking that question?”
But if you dig in a little bit, it’s a fantastic question. Because here’s the reality: You don’t know if you have a bad habit, unless you have a clearly defined “why”, a goal or aspiration, right? You just don’t know. Because here’s the definition: A bad habit is something that takes you further away from where you want to go. That’s all it is. A good habit is something that takes you closer to where you want to go. If your goal was to get lung cancer, smoking would be a fantastic habit.
So that’s where I think a lot of people, they go, “I gotta get in shape. I need to do this, I need to do that.” But they never take the time to drive it with the “why”. And so they give up because they can’t tell, “Is this taking me closer to or further from my “why”? Because I don’t have one.”
But as soon as you have one, and if you make it vivid, you know, like Michael did in his dream home — he made it vivid — if you make your “why” vivid, and you can smell it, taste it, feel it, and then as you go through the day, and you’re about to do something, you can literally look at the cheesecake card as it goes by and you can say, “Yeah, those won’t take me closer to my goal,” and you just keep walking.
That’s good. That’s good. Tom, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?
No, that’s really the essence of the book. There’s a lot of how-to in there. I have like 50 habits that you can use to achieve top performance in your career, 20 habits or 20 things you can do to create energy in your personal life. And these are all super, super actionable and simple things. And so the book is just filled with this. And we look at every area of life, because success in life is about balance. And so we never want to be so one-sided. It’s never just about that the career or just about one area of life. It’s about everything. And that’s the way we approach it.
All right. Well now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Yeah, my favorite all-time quote is from my father, it’s “You are what you are and where you are, because of what’s gone into your mind. And you can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” So in a nutshell, the number one lesson that I learned was we choose our input. And when we choose our input, that determines everything else.
Thank you. And how about a favorite book?
You know, I’ve got a bunch of them. I love Thou Shall Prosper, and Business Secrets of the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Bob Beaudine wrote The Power of Who and Two Chairs, which is amazing. And I just read Dr. Tim Irwin’s book, Extraordinary Influence, which is fantastic.
Well, thank you. How about a favorite tool, something you use to help you be awesome at your job?
Well, right now, I am on a block and a mailbox, physical, you know, get in shape. And so I have an app on my phone that is measuring my heartbeat and everything on the elliptical that we have. So it’s like every day, I just got to do a little bit better than a day before. And that is powerful.
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your audiences and readers?
There’s a couple. One’s already shared: a tree’s fruitfulness depends on its rootfulness. And here’s a little insight into that, you know, because we already talked about it. But what nourishes roots on a tree are pure water nourishes roots, and so does fertilizer. So, in our life, what nourishes us are words of life, things, knowledge and information, and inspiration that give us the courage do something we haven’t done before, that nourishes us. But you know, what else nourishes us are the trials and tribulations the big truck backing up with the pile of manure that covers us.
If we look at that, the obstacles, the things that happened to us as opportunities, and what’s the nutrition that our roots can get out of, and the rest just becomes a foundation that changes our view of life. And once again, our mindset and how we see things will determine as much as anything as to how successful we’re going to be.
Thank you. And if folks want to learn more and get in touch, where would you point them?
The easiest place to find this is ziglar.com. You can find the book there, and also, Choose to Win.
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Ultimately, everything you do, boils down to this. It’s a choice.
Everything you do… now, not choosing is a choice, too. And so here’s the thing, what is it that you want to become? Who do you want to become? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? And then what are the choices that you can make that will take you closer to who you want to become what you want to do and what you want to have? That’s the key.
Tom, thank you. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you and the book, Choose to Win, all kinds of luck, and keep doing what you’re doing.
Thank you. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much, Pete.