12/05/2012 11:44 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Entering the Zig Ziglar Zone: Remembering

Energy and optimism -- you'd think that we'd all have a natural supply of it. But you'd be wrong: Many people needed Zig Ziglar to remind them of what was important.

Zig Ziglar, who died of pneumonia last week at the age of 86, was a motivational speaker -- before the term became corrupted by the charlatans who turn speaking engagements into opportunities to hustle money from the hopeful and unsuspecting.

He encouraged people not to take but to give. "You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want," as his New York Times obituary quoted.

That kind of thinking, that message, can still sound a bit foreign to some people who feel they can ask for and have it all -- without considering others. But it's definitely in line with what I believe is our attitude in today's society: that people on the whole cherish a sense of community, and of working together for the common good.

I do quite a lot of public speaking myself, and although I'm far from being as popular as Zig Ziglar, I find that most people respond to me when I'm in the Ziglar Zone -- that is, when I'm talking about what people really want and need to hear.

And you know what most people really want? They want to be better, to make a difference.

Funny -- it's not necessarily money that drives them (though money's important), or career breakthroughs per se (though most of us want to do work that's rewarding), or the pursuit of happiness (though happiness is a result of satisfaction in many aspects of life and of giving back to the community). It's not just a career or 10 steps to building your business that matter. What matters is someone else.

What people wanted from listening to Zig Ziglar was the encouragement of someone who was present for them, and who didn't try to sell them on anything other than the realization that's been eluding them: Be kind to others, and think of them first.

A small change in attitude can have an enormous effect on our life.

Then happiness, success, contentment and much else will follow if you realize that you're not alone in the world.

Here's one of his quotes: "You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want."

It's not craziness -- it's compassion. Funny how people needed to be told about that. And how they responded to Zig Ziglar's gently reminding them of it, with humor and sincerity. He will be missed.