The Magic of Thinking BIG

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):

Key concepts:

  • 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:

  1. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  1. WHAT is it that you want to achieve
  2. HOW you go about accomplishing what you want (series of concrete guides for action)
  3. 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.

  1. TIME
  • Basic fallacy – everybody has exactly the same amount of time – 168 hours/week

51 (sleep)
50 (work + commute)
15 (eating)
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!
  1. AGE
  • 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
  • CURE:
    • 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:
  1. We vastly underestimate our own brain power
  2. 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)
  • CURE:
    • 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:















I Will Choose

It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted. All the discipline I was cultivating started wilting from lack of nurturing and essentially came to decay. The pressures of all the different stresses in my life were too much, and instead of caring for myself in positive ways, I turned to negative releases. About five months ago, my world was turned upside down. I don’t want to go into details for many reasons, but it involves taking on the care of a pre-adolescent child. As one can imagine, this fundamentally changed the course of my entire life as I knew it, but more importantly, as I wanted it. Raising children, no doubt, can be a beautiful thing…if that’s what you want. But when something like this is thrust upon you with no choice in the matter (and zero time to prepare), well, I don’t think anyone can truly understand the gravity of it without experiencing it. Actually, I misspoke – I do have some choice in the matter. I can leave, but that would involve also leaving a relationship of nearly a decade. That’s longer than most marriages. But, as we all know, the sheer number of years is not reason enough to stay in a relationship. And I’m a firm believer in making truly conscious decisions about the path your life will take. I don’t want to be swept away and then carried indefinitely by the tides of chance. But that’s kind of what I’ve been doing…

The part of my life that I’ve actually been the most unhappy about is my work. It’s something I’ve been complaining about for awhile now. The single most exasperating part of my life. In the interest of making conscious decisions, I gave up my career as an attorney (so cliche, I know) to pursue something more creative. That “creative” pursuit was a career in fashion. I like it well enough and would take it over law any day, but it isn’t in line with my innards. That thing inside of me that I feel I need to get outside to the world. My calling…my purpose…my dharma. There’s this saying I heard once: My job isn’t who I am, it’s what I do. I know many people who feel this way, who can make this distinction. I, myself, have tried very hard to do the same. But, I can’t. It’s just not how it works for me.

We spend the majority of our lives working. There’s 168 hours in a week. Take away about 50 hours for sleep, and that leaves us with 118. Conservatively (and I’m being super conservative here), it takes us about an hour to get ready and another hour to commute to and from work – another 10 hours. That leaves us with 108. Assuming we only work 40 hours a week, which again, is a conservative measure in this ass backwards society of America, that means that 37% of our lives are spent working. That’s almost half of our waking lives (and this doesn’t account for the fact that we’re usually dead tired by the time we get off, so forget about spending that time productively).

How can I separate 40% from who I am, from what I’m contributing to the world? And if all that time is spent doing something I don’t really care about under people I don’t really respect, then can I truly say that I’m even in control of my life? I know, I know, everyone has the same number of hours. It’s not that I don’t actually have enough time, I’m just not making certain things a priority. And of course, there’s the ultimate: I can get another job. But, we all know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. And I’m not here to make excuses. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last half of this year. I’m done with that. I want to fuckin’ do something about it.

Now, I go through this phase every so often. Pumped up with motivation, sick of being tossed around by that tide of chance, ready to make moves and make shit happen. Then I lose momentum and go back to spending my extra time wallowing with friends over alcohol. But, hey, so what? One defeat (or even hundreds) doesn’t mean the game’s over. And even if I’m defeated over and over again, that’s still better than nothing, right? So how do I do this? How do I equip myself with enough tools and ammunition to give myself the best odds for success? Well, I’ve been gathering just such tools for a while now. Through podcasts, reading, meditating, conversing with people whose opinions I respect. Now it’s time to put it all down and make a plan.

Every Day

Everyday, do ONE thing that makes you a better person. No, fuck that. Do one thing that gets you closer to the person you want to be. So, who do I want to be?

I want to a writer.
I want to be a scholar.
I want to be kind through and through.
I want to be patient.
I want to be an artist.
I want to be a creator.

I think we put too much pressure on ourselves, and we ignore all the tiny things that we do that contribute to making us who we are. If I read a book, I’m taking in writing that I appreciate. If I text a friend something nice, I’m becoming more loving. If I pluck a succulent leaf to propagate, I’m creating life. If I don’t get mad while stuck in traffic, if I don’t get frustrated with how annoying work is, I’m becoming more patient. Why do I think these little things don’t matter? Why do I feel like I have to do such grand things to be working towards my purpose? It’s not that onerous. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s being done, day by day, moment by moment. I just have to acknowledge it.

Hokusai Says

One of my favorite people sent this to me the other day, knowing I was having a hard time. A poem by Roger Keyes (who I can’t seem to find out much about). Hokusai was a great Japanese artist and printmaker.


Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive —
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

by Roger Keyes

Unending Storm

It seems the storm just continues to grow and get worse. I really thought that I was at that point where, you know, “Well, it can’t get any worse. It has to get better from here.” Turns out, things can always get worse.

Last night, I spiraled, broke down and just wept. Why does the universe insist on piling it on? When can I catch a break? And of course, I spent quite a bit of time attaching stories of self blame to the latest event (one of my employees is leaving because she got a job that could offer her more money). Then, just before I went to bed, I decided to stop.

I don’t have to attach all this unnecessary, and in all likelihood untrue, meaning to what happened. What does this really mean? Someone quit. As a manager, this is an inconvenience. I’m going to have to find someone new and train them. Is my life really that bad?

I have an incredible father – yes he’s sick, but he’s still fuckin alive and I had the privilege of having him as my dad, uninterrupted until now…and still going, by the way.

I have an amazing partner that is showing up in all the ways I’ve ever wanted. How many people dream and yearn for this. I have it.

I have a great job that offers me exactly what I need right now. Yes, it’s difficult as fuck right now, soon to get even more challenging, but it’s just work. It is the means by which I sustain myself. Outside of that, it can only affect me as much as I allow it to.

This morning, the universe decided to send me a little help. A little offering of practical advice via a newsletter I’m subscribed to: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do.

Instead of worrying, over thinking, over analyzing, contemplating worst case scenarios, it offered me 3 steps to follow instead:

  1. Forget about the ultimate outcome.
    • We don’t have much control over it anyway, and most likely many things will continue to shift and change.
  2. Focus on the next right action.
    • What can I do to that will move whatever issue it is I’m having along in the right direction? One step at a time. Baby steps.
  3. Do something now.
    • Do that thing. Do something. But don’t spend time trying to gain clarity over the whole matter, analyzing and overanalyzing what went wrong because the answer is unlikely to come and unlikely to even be helpful.

An Abundant Mindset

I stumbled upon Michael Hyatt through another writer/blogger I sometimes follow Jeff Goins (author of a great book, The Art of Work). I’d never heard of him, but according to Wikipedia, he is an author, blogger, speaker and former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I recently listened to a podcast of his about Abundance and Scarcity thinking.

There were so many things that resonated with me. My default mode of thinking is definitely one of scarcity and not abundance. When I think about something I want to do, my go to mental reactions are:
“So many people have already done that.”
“Why would you think that you would be able to do that?”
And I definitely get tense and guarded when I feel competition. But, I’ve definitely been moving towards these other ways of thinking, and I think with a lot of practice and awareness, I will get there.

Here are the Eight Characteristics of people who have an Abundant mindset:

  1. They believe there’s always more where that came from.
  2. They are happy to share their knowledge, contacts, and compassion with others.
  3. They default to trust and build rapport easily.
  4. They welcome competition, as they believe it makes the pie bigger and them better.
  5. They ask themselves, “How can I give more than what is expected?”
  6. They are optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come.
  7. They think big and embrace risk.
  8. They are thankful and confident.

I really enjoyed it and recommend a listen: The Mindset That Will Limit Your Future. It not only unpacks and explains all of these ways of thinking, but also reveals how their counterparts can really hold us down and limit us from achieving our true goals in life.

New Morning Routine

The other morning I was laying in bed thinking to myself that I really want to have a set morning routine. I recently decided that the routine I was trying to establish wasn’t working, so instead of trying harder, I wanted to try better. In all honesty, what I was trying didn’t have the set structure of a regular routine, and I think that was a big part of why it fell apart. I had specific things I wanted to do everyday, but I just couldn’t place them into a schedule I could follow. So I’m lying in bed thinking about this new routine when I go through my email to discover that the universe, via one of my dearest friends, has sent me a message:

A Navy SEAL’s Morning Routine To Stay Focused & Feel Great All Day –

I’ve made a few tweaks and am now on Day 2 of my new morning routine:
1. Find a calm space.
I’ve decided to start my mornings outside. I live in the hills and have a truly wonderful outdoor space, but for some inexplicable reason, I barely spend any time out there. I’ve come to view this place as my version of Thoreau’s Walden, and I’m hoping that this practice will lead to me spending more time out there.
2. Drink a glass of water.
3. Write three things I’m grateful for with my left hand.
I was recently inspired by another article ( to start practicing writing with my left hand (I’m right handed). I attempted this a few years ago, but like most things soon forgot about it. It almost feels like a meditation practice because I have to be truly focused on what I’m doing and nothing else.
4. Mindfully stretch.
5. Breathing meditation for a minimum of five minutes.
Breathe in for 3, hold for 3, breathe out for 3, hold for 3. Repeat.
I haven’t made up my mind on whether I want to make a list or plan for the day. I’ve found that whenever I make lists of things I want to do, I usually don’t get through most of the items and then just feel really shitty about myself. I do like the idea of visualization though. Maybe I’ll try visualizing one thing I want to do each day.