Part I: The Passion of the “Better Than Good” Life
1. A Passionate Journey
2. Inspiration: The Fuel of Passion
3. The Enemy of Passion
4. Watch What You Think
5. Perception and Attitude
Part II: The Peak Performance of the “Better Than Good” Life
6. Develop a Passionate Plan
7. Setting Goals
8. Failure: Life’s Refining Process
9. “Better Than Good” Habits
10. The Power of Grit
11. Redefining Success
Part III: The Purpose of the “Better Than Good” Life
13. Discovering Your Calling
14. Create Caring and Trusting Relationships
15. Change Somebody’s World One Act at a Time
16. Let Love Be Your Guide
Epilogue: The Promise of a “Better Than Good” Life
About the Author
Not being one to shy away from introductions, let me tell you who I am and what you’re going to discover in Better Than Good.
My parents named me Hilary Ziglar back in 1926 when I was born in Alabama, but ever since grade school my friends—and I hope that includes you—have called me Zig. For decades I’ve been traveling around the world speaking to audiences about getting the best out of life by putting your best into life. Whether in business, personal, family, or community settings, I’ve told millions of people that they can have everything in life they want if they will just help enough other people get what they want out of life.
After seventy-nine years of living, twenty-plus books on motivational subjects, and countless speeches and seminars on living the abundant and fruitful life, I have more than ever to say. I feel like I’m just getting started! And that’s why I’ve written Better Than Good—I’ve got some things to share with you that I believe will motivate you the same way they have motivated me. I’ve connected some dots between subjects I’ve addressed over the years that are creating new levels of motivation for me. And I want you to connect those same dots in your life.
I can’t exactly remember when I said, “Better’n good!” the first time, but it was a long time ago. Being raised in the south and then living in Texas, I’d participated in exchanges like this thousands of times:
“Hey, Zig! How ya doing?”
“Good, good. How ’bout you?”
Recognize those words? Nothing wrong with them, of course. They’re just the colloquial way friends greet each other everywhere.
But at some point it dawned on me that “good” was not an apt description of how I was doing—or how any of us ought to be doing. If we’re going to live life to the fullest we ought to be doing “better than good.” So that’s why when people say to me, “Hey, Zig! How ya doing?” I respond: “Better’n good!”
The response has been amazing. People literally stop in their tracks to remark on my greeting. Some thank me for giving them a needed lift, others take my greeting and make it their own. The power of words should never be underestimated. Just saying you are “better than good” won’t make it so. But when you understand what it takes to live the “better than good” life, and apply yourself, your life will truly be better than good.
Life wasn’t always “better than good” for me—but it has been since July 4, 1972. Let me explain why.
There are three pillars to the “better than good” life: passion, peak performance, and purpose. I don’t think anyone can stay motivated for very long in life without understanding all three of these concepts. And I don’t think anyone will live a ”better than good” life if he or she is not motivated to do so.
In essence, that brings me to the thesis of this book: the “better than good” life is experienced by living with genuine passion, striving for peak performance, and fulfilling one’s God-given purpose. And I don’t mind telling you up front: my goal is to motivate you to want to live that kind of life!
Here’s how we’re going to connect the dots between passion, peak performance, and purpose. I don’t care what the field of endeavor is—sports, business, science, medicine, education, ministry, public service—I don’t believe anyone will perform at his or her peak without passion. Life’s too tough to get to the top without passion. You’re going to fail, be taken advantage of, be disappointed by people you trust, disappoint yourself, run out of resources—almost every day you’re going to encounter a good, solid, logical reason why you ought to give up. And without passion, you just might. That’s why passion is the prerequisite for peak performance.
Peak performance is dependent on passion, grit, determination, and a willingness to do something poorly until you can do it well. True peak performance is influenced by the condition of your physical, spiritual, business, and family life. I address each of these areas in depth.
The third part of the equation—purpose—is something I have come to believe is a key to the whole dynamic of motivation and the “better than good” life. For years I’ve recognized that it’s hard for a lot of people to be passionate about what they’re doing because they don’t like what they’re doing! And it’s hard to argue with that reality. There are lots of people who would rather be doing something different with their lives. When asked this question—“If obstacles were not an issue, what would you like to be doing with your life?”—many people (most people?) don’t say, “I’m doing what I know I was put on this earth to do. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
I admit that’s a problem not easily solved. Because of family and financial obligations, it can be difficult to change course and start doing what you would rather do. Difficult . . . but not impossible. I believe if you truly have a passion for something—and if you believe it’s your God-given purpose in life—you can do it.
And that’s where we get to the discussion of purpose—what it is, how we find it, and the difference knowing one’s purpose can make.
So when you arrive at Part III of this book—Purpose and the “Better Than Good” Life—we’re going to talk about something that not a lot of motivational speakers talk about. And I include myself in that list—for the early part of my career, but no longer. I know what affirming my own purpose in life has done for me in recent years. It’s why I said earlier that I feel like I’m just getting started! There are large parts of my life’s purpose yet to be achieved. As a result, I’ve never been more motivated! And I want you to be motivated as well—to live with passion and achieve true peak performance in that which you are convinced is your purpose in life.
I’ve met people all through my life who had passion of a sort. But because their passion wasn’t fueled by purpose, it would come and go in bits and pieces. They were trying to generate their passion out of their own energy day after day, something that’s ultimately unsustainable. Scientists have yet to invent the world’s first perpetual-motion machine—everything runs down or runs out of gas eventually, including human beings trying to maximize their peak performance day after day.
If you had asked me in 1971 what my purpose was in life, I would probably have tried to say something impressive. But you couldn’t have looked at my life and seen a lot of purpose—or at least not the kind of purpose I talk about in this book. Truth be told, my career was going nowhere, my finances were a mess (translation: I was broke!).
But all that changed beginning in 1972. That’s when I discovered what it means to grasp true purpose in life—purpose that fuels passion and leads to peak performance for a lifetime.
What happened? Simply, yet profoundly, this: I had an experience that convinced me I was uniquely created for a special purpose. (If we were talking together personally, you’d probably say at this point, “Tell me what happened, Zig!” You can read more about my experience in the “bonus section” to this book.)Suffice it to say that Better Than Good is my best effort at bringing together who I am and what I’ve learned over the last thirty-plus years about living a life that is “better than good.”
I’ve made this book as practical as I can. I’m going to give you ideas along the way that have worked for me (and for thousands of other people) through the years. Things like this: use an electronic note pad or buy yourself a pack of 3 x 5 cards and keep them handy while you’re reading this book. When you read something that speaks to you—an idea, a thought, a plan, a value, a reason, a correction—jot it down. Then carry those cards with you wherever you go. When you have the opportunity—stuck in traffic, on hold on the phone, waiting in a doctor’s office, before going to sleep at night—review your notes. Try this for the next thirty days. Change takes time and constant repetition. Feeding your mind new ideas for at least a month is like practicing scales on the piano—you’re teaching your mind and body how to do things it’s never done before. In time, you’ll do them naturally. But until then, stay motivated with your 3 x 5 cards or electronic note pad.
I’m convinced that Better Than Good can help motivate you to connect the dots in life, little by little. The end result will be a picture of beauty, purpose, and fulfillment.
My prayer is that you will discover God’s true purpose for your life—a purpose that ignites passion and peak performance. Whether you discover that for the first time through this book, or have that sense of purpose renewed, I believe this book will help you create a life you can’t wait to live—a life that is “better than good!”
Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work body and soul. —Charles Buxton
Blind zeal is soon put to a shameful retreat, while holy resolution, built on fast principles, lifts up its head like a rock in the midst of the waves. —William Gurnall
The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things. —Larry Crabb
Passion, for all its dangers, needs uncaging if we are to move towards completeness as human beings. . . .—Philip Sheldrake
Men spend their lives in the service of their passions instead of employing their passions in the service of their life. —Sir Richard Steele
Passion is underrated and under rewarded. When a student with an average IQ performs magnificent feats in the academic world, give passion the credit. When you see an athlete with only average ability accomplish herculean tasks, give passion the credit. When you see a parent provide for his or her children despite physical or educational handicaps and roadblocks—obstacles that would stop an ordinary person in his or her tracks—give passion the credit.
American independence was won because of the passion of our founding fathers. Every religious revival has had passion as its source. The American civil rights movement was fueled by the passion of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Passion deserves far more credit than the records of history provide.
I believe passion plays a significant part in all great accomplishments. Who—and Whose—you are will determine whether your passion is noble and generous or selfish and self-serving. Finding and developing passion is a journey, not an event. There is a process you must follow; some find it early while some discover it much later. A noble passion, when found and developed, produces great joy and personal rewards and offers huge benefits to society as well.
I am going to tell you the stories of two passionate people who came from very limiting backgrounds—people who, had you and I looked at their circumstances, we might have passed over as incapable of peak performance and success. But we would have been wrong. The passion they developed in their particular fields of expertise illustrates the point that passion is cultivated and developed over time for most people. Reading their stories will encourage you to believe that passion is lurking in you just waiting to be released. And give you examples of how to set it free.
Different things motivate different people, but inspiration is critical if we are going to discover what we are passionate about. Author Debbie Macomber’s inspiration came from an unusual source: the death of a much-loved cousin who succumbed to leukemia. They had been especially close for many years and David’s death had a profound impact on Debbie. After the funeral she said, “It seemed as if God was saying to me that I could no longer push my dreams into the future, which I had done for years with a long list of excuses and justifications. I was one of those people who was going to do it when . . .” David’s death showed her that later doesn’t always come, that today is the time to pursue one’s dreams.
Though she didn’t realize it at the time, a defining moment had occurred before David’s death when she went to see him at the cancer center where he was receiving treatment. As a dyslexic, she had difficulty reading the directional signs and finding her way into the hospital. After wandering around in frustration for a while she stopped a doctor and asked him for directions. His answer changed her life. He said, “Go all the way down this corridor and take the first right. Then walk through the doors marked ‘Absolutely No Admittance.’”
Debbie says now that she has spent the rest of her life walking through closed doors—because she discovered that day that she could.
High school had not been easy for Debbie and she was unable to secure a scholarship for college. So she did what many young women did in the mid-sixties—she married and had four children in the next five years. As a stay-at-home mom she dreamed of one day writing books but never thought it would be possible. Today she is convinced she would have continued to do nothing more than dream had it not been for the death of her cousin. She talked it over with her husband and he agreed she should give writing a shot. So she rented a typewriter and put it on the kitchen table, moving it at mealtimes.
In telling her story today, Debbie emphasizes the fact that she has no background that qualifies her as a writer. Her parents were children of immigrants; her father never finished high school and was a POW during World War II. To this day she identifies herself as a “creative speller” and affirms she has no credentials as a writer other than the dream she believes God planted in her heart. She believes dreams come from Him and that the only way we have a prayer of them ever being fulfilled is if we turn to Him in faith and belief.
While the kids were off at school during the day, Supermom turned into a struggling young writer. “Rejections came so fast,” she said, “I [felt] that sometimes they’d hit me in the back of the head on the way back from mailing off another proposal at the post office.” Her list of rejections was impressive but after five long years she finally got her first book published.
Debbie heard me speak at the Tacoma Dome in 1990. She said my talk blew her away and had a significant impact on her. She realized she had only reached the tip of the iceberg when it came to becoming a successful author. At that time, her books were in the stores for a few short weeks after releasing, and she would joke that they had the shelf life of cottage cheese. Print runs were limited and there was no possibility she would make any of the recognized bestseller lists.
Debbie Macomber refused to follow the popular trend of writing about immorality and sex in her novels, saying she didn’t want her books to dishonor the standards of the Bible. “Each of my stories was what was characterized as a traditional or sweet romance,” she said. “After hearing you, Zig, I realized that all things are possible. You made a believer out of me.”
At that seminar Debbie bought nearly all of the books and tapes I had for sale—about eight hundred dollars worth. She and her husband listened to all the tapes and studied the books. She has told me that she thinks God guided her to the seminar that day to give her the inspiration and encouragement to believe she could pursue her passion of writing—and be successful.
Are you ready for this? Today Debbie has seventy million books in print worldwide and her royalties have risen many times over since she first started listening to those tapes. Her books have been on every major bestseller list, including the New York Times hardcover and mass-market paperback lists. “People often comment that they appreciate my clean style—they aren’t afraid to pass my books along to their grandmother or their children,” she says.
Debbie still listens to the tapes she bought in 1990, and when I’m in town she comes to hear me. Not long ago she took The Redhead (that’s what I affectionately call my wife, Jean, when I’m talking about her—I call her Sugar Baby when I’m talking to her) and me to dinner. She says God has given her a means of imparting positive words and messages to her readers through the power of stories. I believe her assessment: “God has given” is the foundation of the passion for what she does. Once she took her eyes off making those all-important sales figures and focused on her message, the one she believed God gave her, she started achieving the success she had been seeking.
Debbie considers the most important thing she did along her journey to success was attend our Advanced Training Program. She knew the course was demanding, fun, and thought provoking and offered twenty-four weeks of follow-up. However, as much as it appealed to her, her life was too busy. She fought the battle of balance as many people do and trying to fit in one more thing seemed counterproductive. But she did it anyway and found a means for creating the balance that had eluded her.
Today she has precious grandchildren and structures her time to be with them. Her entire family traditionally spends the Fourth of July together. They’ve even taken an Alaskan cruise to celebrate the July holiday in honor of her deceased father who so loved America. She and her daughters hold a Gratitude Tea every year for the people who have blessed their lives as a way to thank them and let each one know how special they are.
A well-known verse from the Bible has become Debbie Macomber’s life verse: 2 Timothy 1:7, which says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” When I think of her, I think of another passage of Scripture that, rendered in the modern vernacular of The Message translation, describes Debbie to a T: “Live creatively, friends. . . . Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others” (Galatians 6:1a, 4).
While she is one of the most passionate people I know, Debbie has not become “impressed with herself,” which is what makes her passion so attractive and infectious. She is a down-to-earth mother (now grandmother) who had a dream and decided to go for it, struggling for years to create a niche for herself in the market, all the while balancing her passion for her dream with her commitment to her children and husband. She is living proof that dreams do come true when they are fueled by a passion that serves others, honors God, and satisfies self.1
The passionate people who make the greatest contributions to society are not only highly motivated—they have proper motives. And, in the final analysis, proper motives always seek to accomplish goals that contribute to the common good . . . that serve others . . . that make the world a better place. The only way to move up from a place of mere survival to stability, and from stability to success, and from success to significance, is to engage in a God-inspired field of endeavor that will enable you to bring significant benefits to others. George Washington Carver did just that—and he did it against great odds.
If George Washington Carver had done nothing more than survive his own childhood he would have qualified for honorable mention on the list of the world’s great achievers. He was born in January in the early 1860s on a farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri. The Carvers (from whom George derived his surname) were German immigrants who had come to America and settled in Missouri. They were not fond of slavery, but it seemed the best way to secure help and companionship for Susan Carver, who was unable to have children.
The Carvers had a slave named Mary who gave birth to two sons, the second of whom was named George Washington. (The father was a slave from a neighboring farm.) While just a baby, he and his mother were kidnapped and taken to Arkansas by bushwhackers, who often stole and resold livestock and slaves from the isolated farms of the Ozarks. Mr. Carver pursued the thieves with no success, but upon his return offered a big reward for the mother and her child. Within days the exhausted and weakened baby George was retuned for the reward, but his mother, Mary, was never heard of again. The boy’s father was permitted regular visits but tragically died in a farm accident a few years later.
Without the loving care of Susan Carver it is believed that baby George would have died when he developed a severe cough and was barely able to breathe. Although he survived, his health was never strong, and the residual scars of his early illness gave his voice an awkward quality that many found difficult to understand.
Here was a youngster who had all the odds stacked against him: Born into slavery, orphaned, suffering from ill health and childhood difficulties. But he was undaunted by obstacles.
Carver’s natural, God-given fascination with the whys and wherefores of life started him on a lifelong quest for knowledge. At age ten he left the security of the Carver farm to attend a Negro school being taught in a nearby community. Not knowing where he would stay or how he would live, he just knew he had to go, and so he did. This started the passionate journey that would take him from town to town and state to state, until he was able to study and teach at the highest levels.
To his great credit, George Washington Carver never lost his innate fascination with the mysteries of life. With a humble faith, early in his career he asked God to reveal to him the secrets of the universe. In his own humorous way, he noted that God told him the secrets of the universe would be beyond his range of expertise. However, God said, He would reveal to the young scientist the secrets of the peanut. That sense of humor carried Carver through many years of painstaking research into the lowly tuber.
Carver made his way to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington. Carver was hired to head up the department of agriculture, his responsibilities being to teach, lead, and inspire the students and the departmental faculty. But his love of research—his passion for investigating the secrets of the universe—kept him in the lab instead of the classroom. Washington finally gave in to Carver’s passion for exploration and created a department of agricultural research over which Carver would have complete control.
Though he no longer had primary teaching responsibilities, the students at the Institute would not be denied his influence. They begged to have classes with him, so contagious had his passion become. One summer, while he served on the staff of a youth conference, a large group of boys would got up before five in the morning every day to accompany him on his early-morning walks. Like a benevolent Pied Piper, Carver led them on walks that revealed to them the beauties and intricacies of nature. Every created thing was a source of wonder to him. Things the average person would walk by or step on or over, Carver would pick up and explain in fascinating detail. One young member of that conference recalled Carver stopping and picking up a common weed, explaining how its antiseptic juice could be used to seal up wounds incurred while shaving.
The inspiration he provided awakened a thirst in his students for even greater knowledge—the mark of a true leader. Many applied to study under him. If they were white students, it was impossible, since Alabama law made it illegal for whites and Negroes to study together. But they could write to him—and they did. And he answered, busy though he was. After one youth conference seven boys wrote him 904 letters.
Of course, it was not just curiosity that attracted people to Carver. His discoveries of nature’s mysteries also proved useful. He taught southern farmers, black and white alike, to rotate their crops instead of planting only cotton year after year. When his advice made peanuts so plentiful that the bottom fell out of the market, he went to work to discover new uses for this otherwise novelty plant. He developed more than three hundred synthetic products from peanuts, including milk, butter, cheese, coffee, flour, breakfast food, ink, dye, soap, wood stains, and insulating board.
To demonstrate the peanut’s versatility, he had his class serve Dr. Washington and other staff members a five-course meal made entirely of peanuts. The menu was soup, mock chicken, peanuts creamed as a vegetable, bread, ice cream, cookies, coffee, and candy. The only item that did not contain peanuts was a salad of peppergrass, sheep sorrel, and chicory.
His research led to so many discoveries that entire industries were changed forever. Consequently, he was offered thousands of dollars for his discoveries, but refused to profit financially from his laboratory work. He turned down Henry Ford’s offer of a six-figure salary, as well as the offer of a $175,000 salary from another company.
As a result of all of his accomplishments, Dr. George Washington Carver was arguably the greatest scientist of the nineteenth century. His strong faith in God was his guiding light throughout all of his full life. His passion to discover everything he could about everything God had made, including the peanut, made his life a non-stop source of excitement, not only to himself but to countless others. George Washington Carver never grew bored with life because he saw it as an infinite object of investigation and an endless source of discovery. He was the kind of person for whom passion was a given and service was a constant. He lived to make the lives of others better.
I close by pointing out that there is passion and then there is passion. Some people have passion that rarely is exercised beyond the bounds of their own experience. They get great satisfaction and enjoyment from that which is their pursuit. But it remains a self-indulgent passion, if you will.
There are others whose passion is to change the world with that which they dream about. Debbie Macomber didn’t just want to write. She wanted to write stories that were wholesome and edifying; stories parents could give their children to read and feel good about; stories that would remind older readers of the classic fiction of past generations. In other words, she wanted to use her passion to write to make a contribution to families just like her own. So that’s what she did. She wrote and wrote, mailed off proposal after proposal, weathered rejection after rejection . . . until finally she got published. And tens of millions of books later, she’s still at it—fulfilling her passion by making other peoples’ lives more fulfilling at the same time.
George Washington Carver did the same. He believed that since God created the world on purpose, there was no part of His creation that was without a reason for its existence. He believed everything in nature had a benefit and it was his passion to discover as many of those infinite benefits as one lifetime would allow. He saw his passion and abilities as gifts from God, not for sale to the highest corporate bidder. He saw himself as a steward—a manager of the abilities he had received from on high. It was his responsibility to use those abilities—to exercise his passion for research into nature—to benefit the widest audience possible. And that’s what he did, humbly and joyfully, his whole life.
That’s why I say there is passion and then there is passion. I believe the highest form of passion is that which sees the greater good as its object. The “better than good” life is lived by those who have passion for changing the world they live in. It might be just their own family, their neighborhood, their church, their company, their community, or their nation they touch. But ultimately, to impact just one person with our passion is to change the world. To encourage, inspire, and motivate one person with our passion is to move beyond ourselves and take others with us. That is the essence of the “better than good” life.
If you have a passion (there is no one who doesn’t, even if they haven’t yet discovered it), don’t give up on it. Find a way—ask God to show you the way—to turn your dreams into reality. When you do, you’ll be living the “better than good” life.