The Magic of Thinking Big is a book by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D. that was first published in 1959. It’s not as well known as say, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, but I think it’s just as illuminating and also stands the test of time. I was first introduced to this book about three years ago and it really opened up my eyes and changed my approach to life. Like most things, it eventually crept from the foreground to the background until I ultimately forgot about it and all its messages. Luckily, it was brought back to my attention through this post on How To Become A Big Thinker.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that this book was brought back to my attention. I really do believe the universe is constantly trying to help us, and it is only ourselves that truly hold us back from our full potential. I’ve been teetering back and forth for a few years now, wanting to do something more fulfilling with my life, but not pushing through with the necessary actions. There are the simple excuses I’ve been using (lack of time, exhaustion), but I know deep down that it’s simply fear that is holding me back.
Fear and self doubt. Without true self belief, you just can’t get very far. I mean, how hard will you really try if deep down inside, you just don’t think something’s possible? Developing the belief that you can is the critical first step and that’s what this book is all about.
My notes from Part 1 (italics are my personal notes):
- The size of your success is limited only by the size of your thinking
- Thinking big begins with believing big
- When you tell yourself you can, it generates the power, energy, and skill needed to get it done
- Belief is like a thermostat that regulates what you accomplish in life
- When you believe you’re worth very little, you will receive very little and accomplish very little
Guide for developing the power of Self Belief:
- THINK SUCCESS, NOT failure
- At home, at work, with family and friends – substitute success thinking for failure thinking
- Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans that produce success
- Thinking failure produces failure
Negative thinking is so much easier than positive thinking. For some reason, we tend to our negative thoughts like precious flowers in a garden while completely neglecting our positive ones. This quickly becomes habitual and our brains actually become wired for this. Even our culture asserts this as the social norm, glorifying sarcasm and cynicism while belittling cheerfulness and kindness. Describing someone as “nice” is no longer a compliment and talking shit seems to build stronger bonds than pointing out something positive. It not only takes constant and conscious effort to think positively, but real courage.
Be brave. Go against the norm of naysayers and shit talkers. It will likely take years to rewire your brain, but start by controlling what comes out of your mouth. Commit to trying to stop yourself from saying one negative thing a day. You don’t even have to replace it with a positive thing. Just try to catch yourself and refrain from saying something negative out loud.
- REMIND YOURSELF FREQUENTLY THAT YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
- Successful people aren’t superhuman; success doesn’t require genius; there’s nothing mystical or lucky about it
- Successful people are just ordinary people who have developed belief in themselves
This is another tough one since modesty is so revered in our society. But, being modest doesn’t mean we can’t be confident. We’re constantly beating ourselves up over the tiniest of things, but when do we ever compliment ourselves on a job well done? Start a compliment journal, or add a line in your gratitude journal, where you point out something positive about yourself every day. Do this until you don’t feel so squeamish about acknowledging good things about yourself. Do this until you realize you’re actually a lot better than you think you are.
- BELIEVE BIG
- Big goals = big success
- Little goals = small accomplishments
We prefer to take baby steps. Be practical. Play it safe so as not to end up disappointed. But, we all secretly hope that something big will happen. So why should we downplay our dreams? To avoid disappointment? Won’t we be disappointed anyway since deep down inside, we truly want big results? As long as our goals are small, our accomplishments will follow suit. This doesn’t mean you have to take huge risks every step of the way. Be strategic about it. Have a huge goal with smaller goals along the way that will help you achieve the big one.
Remember, you don’t need to tell people what your goals are. People tend to be negative and their reactions can in turn be very discouraging. When we hear our fears echoed by others, we start thinking they must be true and all the work we put into building self belief gets dismantled. There’s a lot of hate and cynicism out there…because most people are in the same situation. They want something bigger for their lives too, but don’t have the courage to make it happen. I think when people criticize or try to temper our expectations, they’re actually trying to convince themselves that they’re making the right choice playing it safe, that we’re the crazy ones. So keep your goals to yourself for now, but just make sure you actually believe in them.
People who reach the top, get there by following conscientiously and continually a plan of self growth. Any plan for success needs the following 3 components:
- WHAT is it that you want to achieve
- HOW you go about accomplishing what you want (series of concrete guides for action)
- PAYOFF (results)
One of the attributes of unsuccessful people: EXCUSITIS
These are the excuses we use to convince ourselves that we actually can’t accomplish something we want. The more you use an excuse, the more you truly believe it until it eventually becomes the real reason you can’t do something.
- Basic fallacy – everybody has exactly the same amount of time – 168 hours/week
50 (work + commute)
24 (relax, watch tv, read, exercise etc)
– 4 (sports, church, market etc)
24 → that’s an entire day
– 6 (more TV)
18 → still have 18 hours left!
- Successful people don’t use this excuse.
- Old axiom: If you want something done, find the busiest person you can and get them to do it.
- Truth behind this axiom: busy, successful people won’t hide behind the excuse of time. They want a challenge/more work because they know that success is a direct product of extra effort.
Resolve now to NEVER say “I don’t have time,” or “I’m too busy.” Always find ways to accommodate new challenges (in job, special assignments, with family and friends).
- Catch yourself if you slip back to this excuse
- Budget your time if needed
- Remember: Everyone has the same amount of time, the difference is in how you use it.
- Millions of people suffer from health problems, but is it really a legitimate excuse in most cases?
- Consider other side of the coin – all the people who became successful in spite of their health problems
- FDR – confined to wheelchair due to polio
- JFK – crippling back pain
- Arthur Ashe – heart trouble stopped his career, but he went on to achieve great success in business
- Physical conditions doesn’t need to hold you back. There is something physically wrong with everybody.
- The more you worry about your health, the worse you’ll feel
- The more you tell people about it, the worse they’ll feel too
- Instead, tell people: “I FEEL GREAT!” It’s impossible to say this phrase and not actually feel a little better.
- Remember: How you feel is a product of how you think you feel
- Refuse to talk about your health
- Refuse to worry about your health – if you have a problem, see your doctor
- Be genuinely grateful that your health is as good as it is
- I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes…until I met a man who had no feet (there’s always someone worse off than you)
- Remind yourself that it’s better to wear out than to rust out
- Don’t waste this precious gift of a life!
- Too old or too young – think age is somehow wrong, so they don’t even bother to try
- We live in a society that seems to reinforce these stereotypes (don’t respect opinions of youth, discard elderly)
- For every statistic and dramatization of these problem ages, you can find real life exceptions to these rules:
- Ronald Reagan – almost 70 when elected into office
- Harland Sanders – receiving social security checks when he started KFC
- Apple – founded by two young men in their twenties
- FedEx – started by a college student
- Look at present age positively – I’m still young vs I’m too old
- Keep this computation in mimd: Most people can expect about 50 years of productive working life (20-70)
- If 30 → still have 80% left
- If 40 → still have 60% left
- If 50 → still have 40% left (20 years of productivity, that’s plenty of time to succeed!)
- Invest future time doing what you really want to do. It’s only too late when you let your mind become negative
- STOP thinking I should’ve started years ago
- START thinking: I’m going to start NOW, my best years are ahead of me.
- Not quite smart enough; other people know something I don’t
- People tend to suffer this one in silence because they don’t want to talk about how dumb they feel
- 2 basic errors with regard to intelligence:
- We vastly underestimate our own brain power
- We vastly overestimate the intelligence of others
- Interest + Enthusiasm are critical factors
- It’s not how much intelligence you have that matters, it’s how you use it
- Thinking that guides your intelligence is way more important than the actual intelligence you have
- Difference is one of attitude: using brainpower to find ways to succeed instead of defeating yourself
- Far more important to use brainpower for thinking and analyzing than memorizing (people mistakenly equate piles of facts with useful brainpower)
- Never underestimate your own intelligence and never overestimate the intelligence of others
- Don’t sell yourself short, concentrate on your assets, discover your superior talents
- Constantly remind yourself: My attitudes are more important than my intelligence
- Put your intelligence to creative, positive use → find ways to win versus lose
- Remember: Ability to think is much more valuable than ability to memorize facts → use mind to create and develop ideas, to seek solutions, and to find new and better ways of doing things
This all sounds great and lovely, and so much of it rings true, but how do we actually make this happen? I think the key is to remind ourselves of these things daily. We’re basically wired to believe the exact opposite of what we need to become successful. Those are some powerful forces we’re up against. I’ve actually only heard this as an audiobook and I must say there is a certain force to hearing these words out loud as opposed to reading them. I would highly suggest getting this as an audiobook and just playing it everyday while you’re driving to work, running, or in the background whenever. I’m going to make a note of the key points and look at it every morning and night. I actually started this post a couple weeks ago, so it’s been some time since I listened to the material and I have to admit that it’s already receded to the background. That’s just how it goes. The daily grind just washes over you and strips you of all the progress you’ve made. Don’t forget:
THE SIZE OF YOUR SUCCESS IS LIMITED ONLY BY THE SIZE OF YOUR THINKING
WHEN YOU TELL YOURSELF YOU CAN, IT GENERATES THE POWER, ENERGY, AND SKILL NEEDED TO GET IT DONE (I absolutely fuckin’ can!!!)
BELIEF IS LIKE A THERMOSTAT THAT REGULATES WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH IN LIFE (Turn that shit to high!)
THINK SUCCESS, NOT FAILURE
YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
YOU HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH TIME
YOUR HEALTH IS GREAT. YOU FEEL GREAT!
YOU’RE STILL YOUNG!
YOU’RE GOING TO START NOW. THE BEST YEARS ARE AHEAD OF YOU!
YOU’RE SMARTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
THEY’RE NOT AS SMART AS YOU THINK THEY ARE
YOUR ATTITUDE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR INTELLIGENCE