At one time the Bonsai tree and the General Sherman were the same size. When they were seeds, each weighed less than 1/3000 of an ounce. The size difference at maturity is considerable to say the least, but the story behind that difference in size is a lesson in life.
When the Bonsai tree stuck its head above the earth, the Japanese pulled it from the soil and tied off its tap-root and some of the feeder roots, thus deliberately stunting its growth. The result is a miniature; beautiful, but still a miniature. The seed of the General Sherman fell into the rich soil of California and was nourished by the minerals, the rain, and the sunshine. The giant tree was the result.
Neither the Bonsai nor the General Sherman had a choice in its destiny. You do. You can be as big, or as little, as you wish to be. You can be a Bonsai or a General Sherman. Your self-image—the way you see yourself—will determine which one you will be. The choice is yours.


I close this chapter the same way I opened it—by reminding you that nobody on the face of this earth can make you feel inferior without your permission.
When you reach that point where you refuse to give that permission to anyone you will have accepted yourself. Then, as a result of honest, consistent effort, you will see yourself as a person who truly “deserves” the good things in life, more of which come as the result of honest, consistent effort. This will result in your removing those limiting ceilings and obtaining more of the good things life has to offer.

Before you go on to the third segment of this book, let me urge you to do the following things:

(1) Look at the next Stairway To The Top diagram and in big, bold letters, write the word “good” opposite “self-image” and draw a box around it.
(2) Close the book and your eyes. Now, relax for a moment and see yourself as already possessing that good, healthy self-image and everything else necessary for success.
(3) Review this section and place emphasis on the portions you have underlined, as well as the comments you made in your Trigger Page notebook.
(4) “It’s true that if you take care of your car, it will take you places, and if you take care of your self-image it will take you places, too.” Now, get ready for the next exciting step on your stairway to the top.


You don’t drown by falling into water, you only drown if you stay there.
It’s all right to get down, but don’t get down on yourself.
You’re not beaten by being knocked down. You’re only beaten if you stay down.

It was discouraging to be broke, in debt, uncertain of what I was doing, and not really knowing from one day to the next whether I would sink or swim. It’s times like this when faith in something bigger than yourself is so extremely important. Also of infinite value to me was my mother’s example of courage, dedication, and persistence, which served as a wonderful inspirational guide.

When our first daughter was born, the hospital bill was only $64. The problem was, we didn’t have the $64. I had to make two sales in order to get the money together to pay the bill. These were all embarrassing and humiliating but, fortunately, they were not the end of the world.


the picture changed dramatically and my career did a 180-degree turn.

I had promised to attend all sales meetings and training sessions. Mother’s words also came back to me.
“If your word is no good, eventually you will be no good,” and “When you work for someone—work for them all the way. If you are in something, get all the way in, and if you can’t get all the way in—get all the way out.”
I stumbled back out of bed and made that cold drive to Charlotte, and a whole new way of life.

“You know, Zig, I’ve been watching you for two-and-a-half years, and I have never seen such a waste.”
“You have a lot of ability. You could be a great one and maybe even become a national champion.”
“Zig, there is no doubt in my mind if you really went to work on an organized schedule, and started believing in yourself, you could go all the way to the top.”

To tell you the truth, when those words really soaked in I was stunned.
You have to understand my background to appreciate what those words meant to me.
As a boy I was rather small, weighing less than 120 pounds fully dressed when I entered the senior class in high school. Most of the time since the fifth grade I had worked after school and on Saturdays, and hadn’t been active in sports. In addition to being little and slow, I was also scared. I never dated a girl until I was 17, and that was a blind date someone else had “fixed” for me.
My self-image was that of the little guy from the little town, who someday was going to go back to that little town and earn $5,117 in a single year. Now, all of a sudden, here’s a man who I admired and respected telling me, “You could be a great one.”
Fortunately, I believed Mr. Merrell and started thinking like a champion, acting like a champion, seeing myself as a champion—and performing like a champion.


It’s important for you to understand that during those 2½ years of struggling as a salesman I had learned how to get prospects, make appointments, conduct demonstrations, handle objections, and close sales. The “salesman” was trained but the man was not “ready.”

Mr. Merrell got the “man” ready. He didn’t teach me a lot of sales techniques, but before the year was over, I was the number two salesman in America in a company of over 7,000 salesmen.
The next year I was one of the highest paid field managers in the United States. Later, I became the youngest division supervisor in the sixty-six-year history of the company.

After my encounter with Mr. Merrell I did not suddenly acquire a whole new set of sales skills. Nor did my IQ jump 50 points. Mr. Merrell convinced me that I had the ability to succeed, gave me something to live up to, and the confidence to use what I already had.
I believed him because he had set many records, had written the training program we were using, and, more importantly, he was a man of integrity. Had I not believed him, his message would have had no impact on me. I hope you believe me when I tell you that you, too, are someone special, that you were put here to succeed and that if you will use your ability you can accomplish worthy objectives.

During one of my “downs” I picked up Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and my career, which was in trouble again, surged forward. Dr. Peale helped me identify the real source of my problems.
Needless to say, it was me. Many other good books and good people have been “life savers” at other “down” times. That’s why I encourage you to deliberately seek the company of good people and good books. While there have been some “downs” after Mr. Merrell there have been more “ups,” especially since July 4, 1972, when I committed my life to Jesus Christ.

Mr. Merrell helped me stop seeing myself as the little guy from the little town struggling to get along. He led me to see myself as somebody special who had something to offer others.
What a privilege it would be to play just a small but similar part in your life. I just happen to believe that when I share thoughts or ideas that make your life more rewarding on Planet Earth, I am doing God’s work. It is my hope and prayer that this book—and specifically this chapter—will be the bridge that will enable you to easily move from accepting yourself to accepting others. If that happens, then my rewards will be great. My cup truly will be running over.