Norton: In honor of a beautiful lost friend

It was right before the pandemic of 2020 was announced. My wife and I had the opportunity to participate in a certification program put on by the Zig Ziglar Corp. It is a program called Ziglar Legacy Certification, or ZLC for those who have gone through it and graduated. Although I was the previous president of the company, and knew the content in-depth, I wanted to share this experience with my wife and carry the official designation as a Ziglar Legacy Certified trainer and coach.

The group that we joined was affectionately known as ZLC23, as we were the 23rd group to complete the certification. On the very first day we met our classmates, each came up with their own story, their business story, their personal story, and then there was their life story. We met Jessica, Shelly, Marvin, Sundiata, JillMarie, Brent, David, Amy, Jerrod, and a few others. But there was one woman who stood out amongst the rest, Jill.

Jill’s smile, enthusiasm, and passion for wanting to complete the program and to begin helping others was contagious. Her energy and intentionality for being a difference-maker in the lives of others was abundantly clear. Her purpose and mission for attending were evident in how she participated in the learning through role-playing, table exercise, and group discussions. I remember sitting next to her for two of those group discussions and table exercises. And I remember walking away from both feeling the impact of her presence and contributions to the conversations.

One of these exercises required us to share at our table what we liked, appreciated, or loved about someone else we had gotten to know during the week. We had to write it down privately on a note, and then read it out loud before handing it to the person at our table that we were writing about. I will share with you that the person reading the note and receiving the compliments was usually in tears, happy tears. As it was Jill’s turn to be the center of attention, we all eagerly wrote our messages of love, affection, and appreciation. And as we all read our note, the consistency was unreal; Jill was light, loving, passionate, determined, a role model of success, bright, beautiful, and someone who exuded the desire to help others.

Why am I sharing this story? Sadly, Jill passed away suddenly last week. Her beautiful smile will never grace this earth again, but will bless the halls of heaven for eternity. Those of us who knew her well, knew all sides of Jill as we had three-plus years to share calls, Zoom calls, webinars, texts, and emails. Some of us got to see her and be with her since we graduated ZLC23. There wasn’t one person who didn’t appreciate her efforts to worry more about us and how we were doing than how she was personally doing herself.

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As the news hit our ZLC23 class, we reached out to one another for comfort and understanding; it’s one of the things that happen when you become Ziglar certified and connect with your classmates, you graduate as difference makers in the personal, professional, and spiritual lives of everyone you have the opportunity to meet. And Jill epitomized that mission and purpose, she changed us all. Even when she was going through life’s challenges herself, she was the first one to respond to a prayer request, jump into a conversation, or ask a meaningful question during a podcast or webinar.

Jill was a difference-maker.

I write this column as a tribute to Jill, a true ZLC’er class 23. I write this to remind us that we all have something to give to others regardless of how short or long our lives here on earth are. We can smile, be kind, show our passion, know our purpose, and simply care about the person sitting across from us in the moment, because that is who Jill was, a living example to us all.

Is there someone who you need to tell how awesome they are before they are gone? Did this tribute connect with you? I would love to hear your story at and when we can remember those who left their fingerprints of love and light on our lives, it really will be a better-than-good life.

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.

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