Zig Ziglar: A Life Lived at the Top A look back on the life one of the world's most famous salesmen -- a man who inspired millions with his straight-talking, positive words of wisdom.

By Brian Patrick Eha

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many it's hard to believe he's gone. Legendary motivational speaker and business consultant Zig Ziglar died yesterday, after a 40-year speaking career that saw him travel more than five million miles, consult for Fortune 500 companies and consort with American presidents and other world leaders.

What he has left behind -- books and recorded speeches, audio and video lecture series and hundreds of can-do maxims as well as children committed to upholding the principles by which he lived his life -- all but ensures that people will be following the "Ziglar Way" for a long time to come.

Some highlights from Zigler's singular life and career follow.

1926: Ziglar, named Hilary Hinton Ziglar, is born prematurely on November 6th in Coffee County, Alabama, his parents' tenth child. Nine days later, he dies, according to the doctor, but revives in his grandmother's arms.

1931: The five-year-old Ziglar moves with his family to Yazoo City, Miss., where he is raised as one of 12 children by a single mother, after his father dies in 1932. In his autobiography, he praises his mother as "a remarkable woman" who thrived on adversity, and credits her with instilling in him values that would last the rest of his life.

1947: Ziglar drops out of college and moves to Lancaster, S.C. to work full-time as a cookware salesman for the WearEver Aluminum Company.

1949: P. C. Merrell, the WearEver divisional supervisor from Tennessee fires up the struggling Ziglar by telling him that he could be a great salesman and giving him advice for how to succeed. "Mr. Merrell changed the way I saw myself -- a little guy with an inferiority complex from a small Mississippi town," Ziglar later wrote. "The change was dramatic."

1950: As an improving salesman, Ziglar moves up to the larger sales territory of Florence, S.C. He excels and is soon promoted to field manager and then to divisional supervisor.

1970: Ziglar leaves his sales career and devotes himself full-time to speaking. Initially he is introduced at speaking events as H. H. Ziglar, but soon after, he gains the nickname "Zig."

1975: Pelican, a small publishing house, publishes Ziglar's first book, See You at the Top after it had been rejected by 30 other publishers. The book goes on to sell more than 250,000 copies and remains in print to this day.

2001: The National Speakers Association gives Ziglar its prestigious Cavett Award, presented annually to the member whose achievements have brought honor to the profession and who has shown commitment to mentoring other members.

July 2002: Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar, is published, a detailed recounting of the author's life and career.

December 2010: The Zig Ziglar Corporation's founder and namesake retires, three years after a fall down a flight of stairs leaves his short-term memory impaired, and moves to Plano, Texas with his wife, Jean. The corporation has grown from a business of one to a company with 60 employees.

November 2012: Ziglar passes away after what his website describes as a short bout with pneumonia. His death comes two days after his 66th wedding anniversary with Jean. "Though his time on earth has ended, he is speaking with Jesus now in his heavenly home," reads a status on his Facebook page. "The angels in heaven are rejoicing and his family is celebrating a life well lived."

Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.

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