Choose To Win | An Interview With Tom Ziglar


Tom Ziglar Choose To WinTom Ziglar is the proud son of Zig Ziglar and the CEO of Ziglar, Inc. He lectures around the world and hosts The Ziglar Show spreading the message, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

I interviewed Tom for The LEADx Leadership Podcast. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Kevin Kruse: Tom, welcome to the LEADx Leadership Show.

Tom Ziglar: Well, Kevin, I tell you what. It is great to be here.

KK: Your book is Choose to Win: Transform Your Life, One Simple Choice at a Time. What a great title. “Transform” is such a loaded, positive word. You've described this as how to achieve massive change without massive upset. You say that we can implement positive habits through the trinity of transformation, which is desire, hope, and grit. I thought that was fascinating, the trinity of transformation. Tell me more about that.

TZ: What is that catalyst for change? What is it that kind of gets us to stand up and charge? And I came up with these three words, desire, hope, and grit. And there's a little metaphor that I use. And I'll just paint it real quick. Imagine a hot air balloon. And the basket of the balloon, that's where we are. What I want you to do is, in this balloon, this is your transportation device. It's going to take you from where you are to where you want to go. In this balloon, in the basket, you put your why, you put your dreams. You put your aspirations, your goals, your objectives. Everything you've ever wanted to be, do, or have, just load it into that basket.

And then the second thing that you do is you identify and put all your skills, gifts, and talents in there as well. American Idol is on for a new season, and you always hear the singer who can't sing. And they're shocked when they can't sing. And so I think it's important that we identify things that come easy to us, that we're natural at, that we're kind of gifted. It's the way God created us. And when what we're good at rubs up against what we want to accomplish, who we want to become, it kind of ignites a fire. And that fire fills the balloon of hope. If desire's the basket, then hope is the balloon itself.

And so as we start to pair what we're good at, what we have experience with, where our gifts and talents are, with who we want to become and what we want to accomplish, this balloon of hope starts to rise. And we can get a vision of where we want to go. We can also get a vision of our past. This balloon is magical because we can make friends with our past when we look that way, and realize that it's prepared us perfectly for where we are today. And all the failures, all the mistakes, all the things that we need to let go of or learn from have really positioned us to be successful if we allow it to be our launching pad and not our anchor. Then we look to the future, and we look at the future and we go, “Oh my goodness.” And that's a tall mountain we've got to get over. That's a wide ocean we've got to cross. And this balloon of hope starts to rise, and then it stalls.

And this is why it stalls. It takes more than gifts and talents to get over the mountain. And that's when we notice on the furnace of the balloon, this is the third part, the furnace of the balloon has a knob. And that knob is grit. And grit is that hard work, that discipline, that I get knocked down 100 times, I get 101. And I'm sure Angela Duckworth, and her book, Grit, that's really the epitome of it. What we do then is we turn the knob of grit and apply that grit to our gifts and talents. And it's like rocket fuel that takes our balloon high enough to get over the mountains and across the ocean. And so it really takes those three things.

We've got to have hope and a vision for where we're going. We've got to connect what we're good at with our skills and talents. And then we've got to work like crazy. When we do those three things, then we have a chance. Now it's just a matter of: How do I maximize the grit? And that's really what the whole book is about, are the habits that we can choose that will give our balloon rocket fuel to take us to where we want to go.

KK: I love that, the trinity of transformation.

TZ: We had Simon Sinek on our podcast. And our host asked, “Man, you're a great presenter. How did that happen?” And you could hear this long pause as Simon said that he spent literally thousands of hours perfecting his presentation.

KK: Wow.

TZ: Here's one of the greatest thinkers in my mind, just kind of unpacks things in a way that we can understand it. But he had the grit to work on his communication so that more people would have an opportunity to benefit. That's what we're really talking about, is he had natural talent as a presenter. He was probably a six or a seven already. But that grit took it to the level, to now. How many millions of views has he had on YouTube and the different things?

KK: The book is about transforming your life one simple choice at a time. Second two of your book, The Seven Choices Plan, you talk about mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal, career. What are some of these areas that we can start to choose to get better in?

TZ: Well, first off, let's talk about the sequence. They're in a sequence for a reason. I go mental, spiritual, physical, and then family. Family's fourth. Family happens to be right in the middle. There's seven of these. Family is number four. After family is financial, personal, and career. The idea in family is we've got to be the right influence and the right example first before we can really have an impact in our family, which means that we've got to get our mental thought life right, the story we tell ourselves, our beliefs, our self-image. Then we've got to get our spiritual life right, which for me is all of our character qualities, all the intangibles, all the things that are not physical, including faith, so character, integrity, love, honesty, loyalty, compassion.

And then physical, which is, that's our health. I mean, that's how well we sleep and the food that we eat and the movement that we get in our lives. In order to have the right impact, influence, and example in our family, we've got to get those three things. If we're not right personally, then our family's not going to be right. Career comes all the way at the end. And career is an economic engine. We'll use the word career, but you could be a business owner. You could be an investor. You could work for the government. You could be a sales guy. Doesn't matter what your career is. It's that. And there's a line that says, that I talk about, “When your image improves, your performance improves.” And so once again, mental, spiritual, physical sets up our career as well because if we don't have the right image of ourselves, that confidence and that clarity of why we're here and what it is that we're about, and who we want to become, and the things we want to accomplish, then our career kind of has a cap on it.

We limit ourselves into what we can accomplish. But those are big and theoretical and hard to put our hands on. But every chapter also gets extremely tactical and practical. I'll talk about career. In career, we actually have identified 50 habits that you can work on that will improve your performance, 11 attitude habits, 19 effort habits, and 20 skill habits. And the assessment is really simple. It takes about 10 minutes to do. But here's the context. I love this quote. And it's not mine. Gosh, I wish I knew who said this. If you know, man, tell me, so I can give them credit. Maybe you'll take credit for it. A tree's fruitfulness depends on its root-fulness. So as a leader, whether it's at your business, or in your home, or in the community, doesn't matter, what's the fruit that you want to see in your life?

What's the word you want to be spoken about you behind your back? In your career, hopefully, some of the fruit has dollar signs on it because we want our career to bless us financially. I mean, the more problems we solve, the more money we should receive. But what are the fruits that you would like to see in your career? And then what are the roots that feed that? Well, the tree has seven roots. We already talked about them, the seven choices, mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal, and career. What nourishes a root? Habits. What are the habits in my career that I need to nourish, the root of career, to get the fruit that I want?

And so we get really specific in there. Kind of the anchor quote of the book is the fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good habits. So in our career, we give you a simple assessment where you can identify habits that are … We show you the good habits you should have. And then you get to rank them, unrecognized, or undeveloped, that's a one. You rank it as a two if you do the minimum, or as a three if you own it. Right?

My friends and professional associates recognize this habit in me, so it makes it easy. But the reality is that it's a choice. The book is called Choose to Win because when we own our performance, we then own the habits that create our performance.

KK: I think any time we see a book with Ziglar on the front cover, we think motivation as part of that. But this isn’t just a feel-good motivation book. There are specific things to do, including the assessment to begin to get better. On a personal note, out of those seven, is there one that you personally struggle with or struggled with in the past more than others?

TZ: Yeah. And you see it in the book and how it's constructed. The number one lesson that I learned from my father was to choose my input. That's choice number one. And input comes in a lot of ways. What am I going to listen to? Who am I going to read? Who am I going to associate with? When I'm in my downtime, what am I allowing to flood my brain? Because our input is where our beliefs and thoughts and actions all originate because what we take in, choose to believe, that ends up being our output. Then I thought, “Okay. Well, if mental, if input's my number one choice, then what's the thing that I should choose?” And so I should choose what I call spiritual input. So that's why spiritual comes after mental in my model, because I have to make a conscious choice to put the right input in, and then I'm going to choose spiritual input. Once again, it's not physical. It's all the character qualities that we have.

My biggest challenge is self-discipline. I think Dad, that was his natural makeup. He was just a disciplined human being. Man, I'm kind of the opposite. I can go with the flow. And I like the comfortable chair. And so what I talk about is, so the two habits that I created for myself was, the first habit was choosing the right input. But then I realized I needed more discipline, so I chose the habit of the perfect start. That's a whole section in the book of how you start your day. And so my discipline habit is the perfect start.

If I start my day off right by putting the right input in, by prioritizing my day, by reviewing my goals, by doing a mental model, by filling up my spirit with a devotion and quality input that I then think about, when I do that before the rest of the world wakes up, it's just not fair for everybody else. But when I don't, then I don't have the capacity, the energy, and whatever you want to call it, to go through the day and make a difference wherever I go. My hang-up is discipline. My habit is the perfect start, and it starts with the input.

KK: That just jogged my memory that you're in my book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management. There’s a quote that you had given me for the book that I sometimes share about starting in the way you just described. And at work, for business people, to focus on the thing that's going to grow your business, do that first before everything else takes over the day.

TZ: Yeah. I have a quote. It says, “Legacy is a transference of habit.” And so legacy means that I teach and transfer wisdom, truth, knowledge, all the things that will allow those I love to make good decisions. And so I tell people I learned things from Dad that he never taught me. I caught them. And this early morning routine is something that I caught from him because I watched him practice it his whole life. He was the electronic rooster, the alarm clock. It never went off. He was up before it because he was excited. When he was awake, that's when he was working on his dream. He didn't have to dream to work on his dreams. He worked on his dream while he was awake.

KK: You end the book with something called the perfect start. You say there are three choices to make. And I always like to end our shows by saying, “Give us something actionable that we can do and take away from this conversation.” How can we do the perfect start?

TZ: In the perfect start, the first thing is you set aside some time. You set aside 10 or 15 minutes. Now I spend about two to three hours on mine.

KK: Wow.

TZ: But I didn't start that way. I started off with 10 or 15 minutes, is all that I did. You take that first step. And you make that decision that I'm going to make a difference. Then the second choice here is leave a legacy by design. I'll tell people that we choose to start. We're going to make something happen. We're going to do something big. I like the line, “I'm going to happen to life instead of life happening to me.” That's choice number one.

Choice number two, I'm going to choose to leave a legacy by design. Now here's the reality. Everybody's who's listening, guess what, good news. You're going to leave a legacy. Bad news, is it by design or by chance? When people talk about you behind your back, what do you want them to say? What do you want your kids to carry forward? Be intentional. That's the second choice. Then there's a whole bunch of examples in there of how to pull that out. And then the third choice is actually … I got the third choice confused with the first one. The third choice is to start the day right.

We're going to start. Hey, I'm committed, and I'm going to make something happen. I'm going to leave a legacy by design, and then I'm going to start every day off right. In my legacy by design, there are character qualities that I want my family to be known for. And so every day in my input, I'm reading on different character qualities and how I can integrate them into my life. And that's part of my perfect start every day.

KK: Is it primarily readings to improve character and things like that? Are there other things you're doing with your morning routine?

TZ: I do four or five things. The first thing I do is I have what I call two chairs. Bob Bodine, a good friend of mine, wrote the book Two Chairs. And basically, I start off five minutes where I ask God three questions. Hey God, do you know what's going on? Yeah, he does. He's God. Are you big enough to handle it? Yeah. It's God. He's big enough. And the third one is: What's the plan? So I listen. Five minutes just listening. And then I go to the next one which is, okay, I need to input. Right? So now I'm getting the good stuff in. I'm setting the foundation. Number two is the right input, so that could be reading a good book, scripture, a devotional.

The third one is I go into my planner, my performance planner, my goals, objectives for the day. And I write out what I want to accomplish during the day. And then the next one is I do a mental model. And so a mental model is if I have an appointment where I'm going to give a presentation, talk to somebody on the phone, do a podcast like this, for 60 seconds I just think, “What would be a perfect outcome of that time?” And I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to neuroscience and the way the brain works. When you do a mental model, even if this conversation had veered somewhere completely different, I would've had a better outcome by having this mental model time in advance because it gives my brain slots to put things in, all kinds of research on that.

Anything that's important, just spend 60 seconds on it, how you want it to go. What's the personality of the people in the room? What are the questions they might ask? What are the problems they're facing? What is the audience that they have? How can I serve them? And then the final thing, so that takes like 45 minutes, that section. And then the next section is: What's the one thing? What's the one priority that's not necessarily urgent, but super important, that if I get this done, it raises the water level for everything else? And the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit that you look forward to. It just juices you. But if you've never done it before, don't start with three hours, or even an hour and a half. Start with 15 minutes. Get some good thought in. Plan your day. And then figure out what the one thing is you want to accomplish, and then go for, even just a couple of minutes.

KK: It goes back to creating that habit. And once it's a habit, you can always build on it.

TZ: Right.

KK: Tom, this has been incredible. Thank you again for your time. Tell all of us where we can find out more about the book, and of course, all the good work you're doing.

TZ: Absolutely. Well, for the book, it's easy. Go to And there are a couple of options there. You can get an autographed version by hitting the first link. Or if you prefer Kindle, or Amazon, or Audible, all those links are there, so wherever you like to get books is great. And then for me, I'm at

KK: Tom, thanks again for joining us.

TZ: Thank you so much.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at