ZIG ZIGLAR, AMERICA’S MERCHANT OF HOPE, still wakes up every day before dawn, almost always before his “opportunity clock,” as he refers to his alarm clock, starts to ring. He leans over and kisses his wife, Jean, and makes sure to tell her the very same thing he has told her every morning of their 52-year marriage. “Hey, Sugar Baby,” he says in his molasses-sweet drawl. “I sure do love you.” He rises. He studies his Bible. He then opens a datebook that he calls his “personal performance planner,” where he jots down all the positive things he hopes to accomplish that day. “Associate with uplifting people,” he’ll write in a section titled “My Daily Priority List.” “Spend time with family.” “Let’s make this a day worth remembering!”
At 72, he simply refuses to think negative thoughts. He will not allow himself even to consider failure or uncertainty. When he picks up the Dallas Morning News at the breakfast table of his sprawling home in the North Dallas suburb of Plano, he does not dwell on any article that details human depravity, and he never looks at the celebrity gossip on page two. Instead he reads his favorite comic strips out loud to Sugar Baby and turns to the sports section. (Of course, he reads only about teams that win.) Then he searches for human interest stories about people who have done good things with their lives. He likes reading about the paralyzed high school football coach who could only move his mouth and blink his eyes but who coached his team to a state championship; the man born without arms who was named one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young Americans; the 37-year-old taxi driver with a fifth-grade education who decided to memorize the dictionary while waiting for customers and ended up owning the taxi company.
“Boy, oh, boy,” he says to Sugar Baby when he comes across such stories. “Isn’t it just amazing that we can go where we want to go, do what we want to do, and be who we want to be?”
When he sees a story that he likes, he clips it out with a pair of scissors. Then he takes it upstairs to his office, where he places it in one of his many files. He has an “Inspirational Story” file that holds articles about people who credit God for their