Lessons from Zig – The Badge of Gratitude

Lessons from Zig – The Badge of Gratitude

I had the priceless opportunity to travel with Zig Ziglar are all over the nation. I learned many things from my relationship with this great man but one of the most prolific and valuable life lessons he taught me was to have a heart of gratitude.

If you’re a fan of Zig Ziglar’s, you know he often boasted of his “Wall of Gratitude.” The first prominent wall when you enter the corporate office, it is filled with beautifully framed pictures of twenty-seven women and men that influenced his life substantially. At the top of the wall are his mother, his wife (“The Redhead”) and one of his daughters that passed away at the age of just forty-two. Also included are the dear Christian sister who led him to Christ, his first grade teacher (who brought his lessons to his home when he was extremely ill), his first employer and several mentors and friends, including Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Mary Kay Ash, Mary Crowley, Bernie Lofchik, Dr. W.A. Criswell, and others. Mr. Ziglar would often say that without these people in his life he would not be Zig Ziglar. His heart of appreciation for others and the sacrifices they made to help him impacted his life and mine! One way that gratitude was demonstrated in Zig’s life occurred when he saw military personnel. Every time we would see a service person in uniform he would stop, shake their hand, and say his booming southern drawl, “Thank you for your service.” It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, he would always take the time to thank them. This practice was especially evident in airports. As a busy hub for both Mr. Ziglar and soldiers to get to their many destinations, their destinies would often cross paths in the congested concourses, terminal isles and crowded gates. As we walked through security, waited in restaurant lines, even walked close to the restroom – no matter where, or when – Mr. Ziglar would stop and stick out that faithful hand and thank those who served our great nation. Even if we were close to being late for a flight (which was rare – he was a punctual man), he stopped, looked countless men and women in their eyes and thanked them for protecting our freedom!

After watching Mr. Ziglar do this dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of times, I began implementing it into my own life. He was so genuine as he spoke to them. He didn’t reach out because he had to, but because gratitude was in his heart. It was who he was. Serving as Mr. Ziglar’s personal assistant was a great honor and it was almost impossible to be around him and not be changed. I watched his sincere approach to gratitude and saw how it made him even greater. I decided I would work on the gratitude in my heart. I started by thanking soldiers every time I saw them.

A time soon came when I was taking my son to see my family in Georgia on a special trip for his third birthday. It was a great day, and he was quite excited as this was the first time we had flown together without his mama – just Dad and son. As we maneuvered through the airport, holding hands, I went about modeling my new Zig-inspired habit of greeting those in uniform, “Thank you for your service.” And so it went – every time we saw one in uniform, my gratitude was released. I thought to myself, “There are a lot of soldiers today at the airport!” My son soon began with a string of endless questions only a three year old can ask: “Why are you talking to so many people? Why are we stopping so much? Why are you thanking all these people?!” Soon I stopped to explain the sacrifice of these heroes and our military families who endure great hardship for the liberty of our nation.

Since I was traveling with a young child, we were able to board the plane first and we had seats fairly close to the front of the plane. I was sitting next to the window and my son was sitting in the aisle seat. Actually, he was standing up in the seat greeting the passengers with a smile as they entered. Soon a gentleman in his uniform walked in. As he passed, my three-year-old with his sweet young voice looked up at him with his thick tongue elocution and declared, “Thank you for your service!” The soldier, gray haired, a bit weathered and sure to have seen several tours of duty – our hero – stopped. He turned around, looked at my son and pointed his finger directly at Evan, “And you’re the reason I do it.”

Then he did what could only be written in the best of hollywood’s movie scripts – he ripped off a badge on his shoulder, that proud Army emblem – and he handed it to my young son. My bright-eyed boy looked up at him and everyone on the plane started clapping. It was a powerful moment that transformed the atmosphere in that plane. As I was seated, watching this exchange occur, I knew it was a moment of greatness. One of those moments we would remember forever. I hugged my boy and told him how proud of him I was for his grateful heart.

Today, as I miss my dear mentor, I’m reminded how his rich lessons, lessons he lived out loud every day, now live on. Because of Mr. Ziglar’s heart of gratitude, I was able to incorporate this practice into my life, impacting my children. I am grateful for Mr. Ziglar and his great love for God, Family, and his country!

Mr. Ziglar, Thank YOU for your Service!!!


Zig Ziglar’s “Wall of Gratitude”


The teacher & his student

Badge The Badge of Gratitude

5 thoughts on “Lessons from Zig – The Badge of Gratitude

  1. Gosh, Jay. I had never heard the story about you and your son on the plane. Made me cry, my little brother. Beautiful blog…I am so very proud of you!!! I love you dearly!

  2. Another great story! Made me tear up and want to meet that specific vet. I too make a habit of thanking veterans and no doubt got the idea from Zig (though I don’t recall the moment I learned it). I’ve read so many of his books and heard so many seminars. What a wonderful man and even more wonderful legacy.

    “Lord, help me to be a Zig Ziglar today. Amen.”


  3. I, too, thank every veteran I see and the impact it has is outstanding – on me. When we show gratitude, it grows more gratitude in us. Wonderful concept. Zig set one of the greatest examples of having a heart of gratitude.

    On this Memorial holiday, may we all stop and express our sincerest gratitude for all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. God bless. Grow On!

  4. WOW! This made my heart cry with GRADITUDE knowing I have been given the mission to carry on and emulate Zig’s powerful message as a Ziglar Legacy Certified trainer. I hope to teach my daughter and many other people how to live life with a thankful heart. Thank you for the inspiring story.

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