What You Could Do If You Didn't Know You Couldn't

Zig Ziglar on

Many years ago, when I got involved in positive thinking, inspiration and motivation, I read about a man who was pinned beneath the family car when the jack slipped. His wife, who was average size and strength, lifted the car just enough for him to slide out from under it.

There was much speculation as to how she was able to do that, because most everyone doubted that she could lift the car again. Some say she was able to lift the car because she had no idea what she couldn't do, and her subconscious mind "kicked in" and supplied the needed strength. Others say that love lifted the car, because her husband, the man she loved, had his life in jeopardy, so she was able to lift the car. There may be some who will contend it was because she was a math major, and deep down, knew that she plus God equals enough, and with God's help, she could and would lift the car.

Whatever the reason, she was able to do it. It makes us wonder sometimes about the many things we could do if we didn't know that we couldn't do them. Many people never make a serious effort to achieve worthwhile objectives because they assume they can't reach them.

Here's another story that demonstrates what even a little extra effort can produce. Sir Walter Raleigh was attending a prestigious boarding school when he was a youngster. He was an excellent student, and wanted to be No. 1 in his class. However, one lad always finished ahead of him, so he determined to discover the secret. Each night, when he prepared for bed, he looked across the grounds that separated his room from that of his competitor, and noticed that his candle was still burning. One night, he noticed that the other boy studied only about 15 minutes longer than he did. After that, Sir Walter Raleigh studied an extra 20 minutes every night, and at the end of the year, he was the No. 1 student.

I've often wondered how many students miss out on a college scholarship because they did not study an additional 20 minutes each day. Research shows that more than 98 percent of all scholarships are either academic or hardship, so some deserving students miss out not because of lack of ability, but because of lack of effort. Many times, people grow frustrated because promotions or raises don't come as fast as they think they should, so they jump ship, when just around the corner, the promotion awaits. In the field of athletics, we have all seen the tired athlete near the end of the game simply run out of gas and lose because he or she had not been expending the effort on a daily basis to get into tip-top condition for the event. Yes, as Joe Frazier, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World, said, "You can cheat on your roadwork, and nobody will know until you step into the ring, and then, the bright lights will expose your lack of training to the world." It's true. A little extra effort separates the winners from the could-have-beens.


I have often used the phrase "and then some," pointing out to my audiences that you should keep every promise, and then some; give your clients or customers everything they expect, and then some; give whatever you do an honest effort, and then some. I first learned those words from former Secretary of State James Byrnes, who used that phrase when someone asked him to explain his success in life and in the political arena. I believe that little extra effort, that going ahead from where they are to do the best they can with what they have, and then some, is what separates the successful from the would-be successful. Take that approach, and I'll see you over the top!


To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




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