A story from Attitude is Everything
Years ago, I was the public relations director for motivational guru, Zig Ziglar. At the time, he was arguably the best-known, most loved speaker in the world. When audience members heard Zig, they witnessed a man chockfull of energy, vitality and joy. Having worked closely with him and known him well, I can tell you that the Zig you saw on stage was the real Zig Ziglar. In fact, I can't remember ever seeing him when he was not happy and upbeat.
The Zig I knew was one carbonated guy
Every time Zig answered his home phone, he picked up the receiver and said with gusto, "This is Jean Ziglar's happy husband!" And he meant it!
Awhile back one of Zig's closest friends and I were discussing Zig's aura of happiness. "Completely genuine," his friend said. "I have never seen him down." Then he added thoughtfully, but with love, "Hardly what you'd call normal."
"What's Zig's secret?" I asked.
"I think," he said, "it comes down to feeling grateful. Never met a guy more grateful than Zig. Period."
You'd think anyone that grateful must have had an easy life. But that's not so.
Zig started out poor. Dirt poor. His father died when he was six, leaving his mother to raise eleven children alone. The family was virtually penniless. Yet despite their poverty, Mrs. Ziglar instilled a strong work ethic in her children and raised them to believe that both she and God loved them. She also instructed her children to practice saying "please" and "thank you." Those lessons stuck. Her formula of work, love and faith made their difficult lives easier. Gratitude made their lives enjoyable.
Zig once told me, "When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you' when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically."
Zig and his wife Jean, "the Redhead" (was the pet name he gave her), had four children - Suzan, Cindy, Julie and Tom. Suzan, the oldest, not only inherited her mother's looks and vivacious smile, she also inherited a passion from both her parents to encourage others.
One day Suzan fell ill. Within a short time, she was fighting for her life. The doctors prescribed steroids that made her bloated, large and uncomfortable. In a matter of just a few months, the unthinkable happened -- Suzan died. Jean and Zig were heartbroken.
At the viewing at the funeral home, I was struck by how upbeat Zig appeared. Despite his grief, he was his usual self: He smiled and shook hands with friends and offered comfort to others who grieved. His strong Christian faith gave him hope that he'd see Suzan again. But there was something else: "We have no regrets," Zig told several well-wishers. "She knew we loved her. We feel no regret." Even in his deepest sorrow, Zig counted his blessings and that buoyed his sagging spirits.
Years ago, Zig created the popular phrase, "Have an attitude of gratitude." According to Zig, "The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for."
I know firsthand that giving thanks brings joy. Awhile back, I heard Oprah Winfrey urge viewers to keep a Gratitude Journal. It seemed pretty schmaltzy to me, so I didn't do it. But Oprah was a jackhammer. Day after day, week after week, she kept pounding on that idea. I'd catch her show here and there. Same thing: Keep a Gratitude Journal. A few months later, I was speaking to a government group and staying in a cruddy hotel. (The government may blow your money by bombing the moon and taking expensive pictures of you naked as you walk through airport security scanners, but rest assured they are not wasting dollars putting motivational speakers in fancy hotels.) I was seated at the hotel's indoor restaurant by a swimming pool reeking with enough chlorine to purify the Love Canal. As I waited impatiently for my meal to arrive, I suddenly remembered Oprah's directive. What the heck? I had a pen and some scrap paper.
I listed my mother who spent time each day praying for me. I wrote down my father who deeply loves me. My kind, funny brother and his family. My job and the opportunity to travel and encourage people. Friends. Laughter. For the fact that I had a place to sleep that was safe. For a private bathroom. (You start listing - you begin to get thankful!) I quickly listed about 30 things and noticed that not only did I have a lot to be thankful for, but suddenly I was in a terrific mood!
Publisher Malcolm Margolin was grateful for something that's right outside our doors, but most of us have never taken the time to experience it. He wrote, "The next time it begins to rain... lie down on your belly, nestle your chin into the grass, and get a frog's-eye view of how raindrops fall... The sight of hundreds of blades of grass bowing down and popping back up like piano keys strikes me as one of the merriest sights in the world."
That might strike you as advice from a person with not nearly enough to do, but personally, I like it. If Margolin can feel joy in soggy clothes looking at wet grass, you and I can find all kinds of things for which we can give thanks!
Try it! Count your blessings. Jot them down. At least stop and think of as many things as you can that you're thankful for right now. It worked for Oprah, Zig, Margolin and me. Give it a shot. If you want to feel happy, try on an attitude of gratitude for a change in your mood, your outlook and you.
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday morning. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.
"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital." He continued, "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."
"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.
Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part.
It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.
Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.
There's nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.
Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.
It was nice to meet you, Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"
You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.
Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."
"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.
"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out?
I need to buy some marbles."