Category Archives: Zig Zag Examples

The name Zig Ziglar may sound like one I made up for a Zigzag Principle mascot, but it’s actually the name of a man who took 16 years of zigzagging to steadily reach his goal of becoming a motivational speaker.

Ziglar started out working as a salesman before he even realized he wanted to become a motivational speaker. However, when he heard his first professional speaker give a speech, he was instantly hooked and knew that was what he wanted to do for work. He identified his beacon in the fog.

Ziglar was wise! He knew that he could not quit his job and put his family at risk so he could pursue his dream. He knew it would be unacceptable for him to make it to his beacon in the fog without his family, and he understood that he had some big barriers to overcome before even achieving that goal was possible.

Instead, Ziglar worked for 16 years, zigzagging back and forth to get the experience he needed to reach his goal. He persistently maintained financial profitability by working in sales while gaining skills so he could reach his beacon in the fog. I don’t doubt that he faced many great trials in this long series of zigs and zags.

Yet in the end, it indeed paid off. Now Ziglar is not a solitary speaker trying to keep cash flow steady in his business, but instead he is a very successful motivational speaker with a thriving business. That expanded business may not have been part of his original beacon in the fog; however, he kept moving once he achieved his original goal.

Though I admit I’m a little sad someone else has a claim on such a great zigzagger name, I have to respect the constant determination it must have taken Ziglar to keep steadily building his skills and reputation to become what he is today. It’s an amazing accomplishment to build not just a business and see it become everything you hoped it would, but to build yourself into what you’ve wanted to be for 16 years.


One of the key elements in a business is recognizing trends and then knowing how to ride the wave to help your business succeed. Indeed, many businesses fail because they do not adapt quickly or intelligently enough to the changes in an industry. Zigzagging helps keep you take advantage of trends. It also helps you learn to recognize when to jump on a trend and let it take your business to new and exciting places. The book industry has learned to ride the technology wave and adapt like few others have.

Though books have been around for centuries, the advancement of consumer technology posed both a threat and opportunity to the industry. Instead of insisting that people would prefer to hold physical copies of books, Amazon in particular (one of the largest book retailers in the world) jumped on the wave with the Kindle in 2007. And now Amazon sells more ebooks via the Kindle than it does paperbacks on its original website!

What would have happened if Amazon kept driving to its goal of selling books as defined by a limited view of what makes a book? It would still be fighting an ongoing trend that has impacted the world, especially with the advent of the iPad. Instead, Amazon is not only able to keep selling Kindles, but it sells ebooks through Kindle apps on iPads, iPhones, Androids and other competitors.

This continual drive to ebook profitability has enabled Amazon to try something new with the Kindle Fire. Though I prefer my iPad, the Kindle Fire tries something new for tablets by being both comparatively very inexpensive and focused.

Only time will tell how successful this new zigzag will be for Amazon, but think of how you can use the trends in your industry to boost your own business. Then, before that trend dies away, make sure you find another trend to harness, like the Kindle jumping onto the tablet trend. By making strategic, intelligent zigs and zags, you can dance among the trends to keep your business thriving. 





I love this diagram. So succinct. So accurate. This is one artist’s summary of The Zig Zag Principle. To order the 198-page version click here.

Also please join me tonight on Twitter as we inspire each other with stories about success. Log in and share your story. I’d love to hear all about your successes.

Tonight. Wednesday September 28, 7-9 p.m. MT, @richchristianse, #zigzag

Today marks the 75th birthday of one of the greatest entertainers I know of, Jim Henson. Not many people in this world have had as great an impact on so many people throughout their lives as Jim Henson. Just think of how many generations of kids Henson influenced with Sesame Street and his other creations.

Looking back at Henson’s history and career, I’m amazed at the many zigs and zags he took to achieve his goal. Indeed, he did not begin with the exact formula for how he wanted his creations to evolve. We all know Kermit is the main character, Fozzie is his best friend, Miss Piggy is his girlfriend and Gonzo is a…. whatever.

But that’s not how they started. When Henson was getting his BA in home economics, he made puppets for a kids’ show called Sam and Friends where Kermit made his debut as a sort of lizard. It wasn’t until later when Henson was making Sesame Street that Kermit was revealed to actually be a frog.

Even the idea that adults could enjoy puppet shows as well as children was something that took time to develop. His goal to make puppets an acceptable form of entertainment for adults as well as children was a beacon in the fog that took years to achieve, and Henson had to do things he did not necessarily enjoy in order to get to that goal.

For example, before Sesame Street launched Henson’s work into the limelight, he used puppets for various commercials. The advertising industry was something he reputedly did not enjoy, but he did it in order to keep his business profitable  and moving. He exemplified the concept that it’s better to move toward something than it is to sit still and wait for someone else to make your dream come alive. Henson worked hard and waited patiently for the time his business could zigzag closer to his beacon in the fog.

Now, Henson’s Muppets live on and are still fulfilling Henson’s goal of making people happy and feel good despite his passing more than two decades ago. That’s the kind of legacy any zigzagger can be proud to have.

The self-checkout was a brilliant novelty when it was introduced to grocery stores several years ago. Customers and grocery store managers alike thought it would improve the flow at the checkout and the customer’s overall shopping experience.

However, store managers are discovering this technology is actually creating problems they never anticipated. Checkout lines are usually longer because customers have to deal with coupons and checking items like produce by themselves. In addition, store managers feel they lost control of the relationship with the customer by eliminating the personal contact of a store employee at the checkout stand.

So now, even after stores have installed dozens of self-checkout stands in each of their locations, they are zig zagging away from the technology to improve customer experience and thus increase revenue.

Albertsons has actually gone as far as eliminating self-serve lanes in all of its stores. Kroger, on the other hand, has zig zagged to what it calls “metro style” checkouts; customers wait in one line and can be directed to multiple cashiers.

Kroger is also testing a “scan, bag, go” system that allows customers to scan items as they shop, and then pay and bag when they are finished.

These are all ways grocery stores are zig zagging to more success and better customer service. We can all learn to be a little bit more flexible—even after we have made a big initial investment. As each of these cases show, it is far better for a company to evolve by zig zagging in order to stay true to company values and to keep on track to its ultimate goals .


I keep two pictures in my office to remind me of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Both of these pictures are of beautiful and awe-inspiring places in nature. I enjoy hiking and I really appreciate how the analogies of hiking through some rough parts of nature are so closely aligned with what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The similarities are almost unbelievable.

In life and in business as an entrepreneur, much of what we face is hard. Sometimes all you can do is grit your teeth and use your determination to work your way through without forgetting to look up and enjoy the beauty.

Please enjoy this video and my thoughts about a recent trip through the magnificent Zion Narrows in Zion National Park in Southern Utah.

No matter how great your new business idea is, it will never succeed if you are the only one who thinks it’s a great idea. People have to want what you’re selling for you to have a successful, lasting business. Indeed, one of the best times to start a business is when you can ride a wave of increasing interest in a new, underserved market. This is exactly how Robert Jordan began his career as an entrepreneur with Online Access.

Jordan recognized the wave of interested people clamoring for information about the Internet and how to get online. This was approximately 11 years back when AOL was making a name for itself by mailing millions of free AOL CDs to everyone in the nation. Jordan seized the opportunity to join AOL in the movement to educate people about the Internet and how to use it.

Jordan didn’t waste time; he launched Online Access as a magazine to help people who weren’t online know more about the Internet, and it took off in a huge way. Riding the Internet wave at the beginning enabled Jordan to not only tap into a large market quickly, but it also positioned the magazine as a prime target for advertising. It became profitable almost immediately from the bidding wars among other Internet-focused companies.

Now Jordan has zigzagged away from Online Access and into new a few other companies, but his success all stems from his initial capacity to recognize a need in an oncoming wave and fill that need before anyone else. He has even published a book called How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America that compiles handwritten notes and interviews from other wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Naturally, not every business that catches a wave rises to such success. Jordan was lucky and smart enough to catch that particular wave, but there are plenty coming and going every year for entrepreneurs to ride. Pay attention to your area and learn to recognize when something is going to be big and how you can attach yourself or your business to it. And always remember to zig zag in these waves so you don’t crash your business.

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is a day of reflection for all of us.

I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was playing a round of golf at Wasatch State Park; it was the worst round of golf I’ve ever played in my life. I was so distracted and so worried about the victims in New York City.

Of course I was also thinking constantly about the safety of my family. We had a trip planned to Nepal and were scheduled to leave America in two weeks. We considered cancelling the trip, but decided to go for it once we heard that travel was safe. I am so glad we decided to go—that trip became one of my life’s best zig zag stories.

On that trip, we met our little Sherpa girl, Nawong. She introduced my family to a vision that is very much a part of everything we do today. That mission is to educate and empower children all over the world who lack the opportunity to learn. Nawong is now my adopted daughter and a college graduate.

America has had it’s own zigs and zags in the last decade to make a come back from the devastation of September 11, 2001. Just this last week, we heard from New York’s Mayor Bloomberg about the last decade’s events that have helped bring Lower Manhattan back from the rubble.

This is a great zig zag story. Lower Manhattan was home to hundreds of businesses and was considered the world’s financial district. It was a bustling business center, but in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, it was vacant and hollow. About 14,000 businesses were impacted by the event.

Ten years later, Lower Manhattan is not quite back to where it was, but it is well on its way. Mayor Bloomberg said New York has seen the greatest population growth, the biggest commercial development and biggest cuts in crime in the area surrounding the World Trade Centers site.

Small-business owners like the Gandias zig zagged back to success by conserving costs while they could not access their Greenwich Jewelers store because it was too close to burning rubble. They also zagged by adding an online element to their business, which they had never considered previously. This drove Greenwich Jewelers to profitability and the opportunity to rebuild and expand, even though they were in the midst of a national tragedy.

Today the Gandia’s are on to zag number two by adding more resources through adding more product and more space.

Zig zagging is a way of life—particularly when the unexpected comes. It is interesting to note that while the Gandias found great success by zig zagging, others failed by giving up in the face of trial. Don’t let failure bog you down. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep zig zagging. So many times the unexpected brings you results you never even thought of.

Ford Motor Company is a household name in the United States—one that everyone automatically links to the automotive industry. It is no wonder since Ford has produced some of the most popular cars of the century, including the Model T, which sold more than 15 million cars in less than 20 years. Now, Ford is gearing up for another huge, international zig zag with a $1 billion manufacturing and engineering complex in India.

Though Ford has been zigzagging since its inception in 1903, the people there know that it takes more than one zigzag to win in business. All three zig zags for businesses to follow—(1) drive to profitability, (2) add processes and resources, and (3) scale—are repeatable steps. Once Ford went through the three phases, it repeated, and repeated and repeated them.

Now, Ford has reached a measure of profitability and refined its processes. After achieving scale in its home country, Ford repeated the process in other parts of the nation and the world. In India, it is adding additional resources through these building plans (not to mention adding 5,000 employees), and will be able to produce 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines a year—talk about scale!

So what are the benefits of adding these resources and scaling the business? Not only will Ford be able to make and sell more cars without burdening or overworking domestic plants, but as Ford India president Michael Boneham said, “[Ford will be able] to aggressively grow the Ford brand in India,” further increasing profitability.

As soon as Ford has got the scale zig down, it’ll be back to zig number 1, driving to profitability once again. It’s a process you will routinely see in many businesses, especially large ones looking for new markets to claim. But for your own business, never forget that these steps are repeatable even though your business may not be the same size as Ford or expanding internationally. These steps are intended to keep a business growing and succeeding, all at a manageable, steady pace, no matter the size.

Last week, I wrote about how to avoid hurricanes in your business. I talked about how important it is to get out of a storm’s way (both figurative and literal) when you know it’s coming, even if the skies look blue out your window.

But many businesses actually caught by hurricane Irene last weekend are now zig zagging their way to recovery. Less than a week has passed since cleanup began, and they are already letting everyone know they are open for businesses. They are looking to restart that all-important zig to profitability.

Disasters happen in life, both in business and out. No matter how well prepared you are or how closely you keep an eye on your business, you will one day get blindsided by a disaster. Resolving disasters is tricky business, but once you’ve faced the worst of the storm, remember to get back up and keep zig zagging!

After hugely disruptive moments like this, you may even need to revisit your entire zig zag plan. Your assets may have decreased significantly, or your beacon in the fog may have moved. Some of the processes you had well in place may now need changing, depending on the nature of your disaster. Also, keep an eye out for hidden opportunities. If something goes wrong in your business, it may be just what you need to help get you to an even better business.

No matter where you decide to go after a disaster, don’t forget to work on that essential profitability zig as soon as you know where you are headed.