The Magic of Thinking Big: Book Overview

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Is David J. Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big book worth reading? What do you think is the main contributor to success in life?

The book The Magic of Thinking Big covers a wide range of ideas on what contributes to success. At a high level, the ideas split into two categories: mindset and behavior.

Here is a brief overview of The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

The Magic of Thinking Big is a true progenitor of self-help books. Originally published in 1959, it has been motivating and inspiring people to change their lives for the better for over 60 years now.

Below is a quick summary of the key ideas from The Magic of Thinking Big book by David J. Schwartz.

The Mindset of Thinking Big

Success Requires Believing in Yourself

Success means something different for all of us because we all have different goals. But regardless of the goal, successful people have one thing in common: they believe in themselves. Disbelief in your own abilities makes failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. In contrast, believing in yourself generates the energy to achieve your goal and overcome obstacles. 

What Does Thinking Big Mean?

“Thinking big” means not limiting your possibilities — knowing you are capable of reaching lofty goals and achieving success. There are four key strategies to thinking big:

  1. Don’t sell yourself short. Realize how capable you really are.
  2. Develop a “big thinker’s vocabulary” of positive words. Talk about yourself and others using positive, favorable words. Don’t bring yourself down with negative words.
  3. See the possibilities in a situation, not just what’s in front of you. Imagine what can be, not just what is.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t let petty arguments and perceived insults derail you from your course.

Stop Making Excuses

Unsuccessful people make excuses about why things haven’t worked out. They blame their health, or say their age is holding them back. They blame their lack of intelligence or luck.

Big thinkers don’t fall back on these common excuses. Instead, they focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. They don’t let circumstances hold them back, and use setbacks to propel themselves forward.

Build the Confidence Habit and Kill Fear

Everyone faces fear at some point. Fear in all its forms — worry, tension, embarrassment, anxiety and panic — can be crippling, blocking you from reaching your goals. 

Successful people know that confidence is the antidote to fear, and confidence is a habit anyone can develop. Big thinkers first isolate their specific fear and pinpoint what exactly is making them afraid. Then they take some form of action to conquer that fear. 

Other techniques for conquering fear include thinking positively, gaining an understanding of people, making moral choices, and showing confidence even if you don’t feel it.

Think Creatively

Big thinkers don’t just amass knowledge. They think creatively. Creative thinking is about finding innovative solutions to problems. There are six steps to develop creative thinking:

  1. Believe it can be done. You have to believe something is possible for it to be achieved. 
  2. Know that there’s more than one way to do something. 
  3. Always think, “I can do better.” Find something you can improve every day.
  4. Understand you can do more; you have a greater capacity than you think.
  5. Talk less, listen more. Be curious and absorb more knowledge to think of new ideas.
  6. Get some mental stimulation. New experiences generate new ideas. Explore interests outside your occupation; interact with people outside the mold of your social circle.

The Behavior of Thinking Big

By Default, Take Action

There are a lot of great ideas and plans floating around out there, but if you don’t act, nothing will happen. Successful people take decisive action on their ideas. Action-takers understand that:

  1. Action cures fear. If you’re nervous about something, often starting to do it makes the anxiety melt away.
  2. Conditions are never going to be perfect, so don’t wait for perfection to act. Don’t use “things aren’t perfect right now” as an excuse for inaction.
  3. “Now” is the default time to take action. Not “someday,” not “tomorrow.”
  4. Taking initiative means taking action without being told to take action. This is universally respected and sought after. 

Find a Victory in Every Setback

Highly successful people use setbacks as fuel and motivation to move forward. Successful people handle setbacks productively: 

  1. They salvage something from every “failure.” They find the lesson and apply it. 
  2. They don’t blame others for a setback. Instead, they ask themselves, “What could I have done differently?”
  3. They try something different in their approach if things aren’t working out. It’s great to be persistent, but you also have to experiment with different ways of doing things. 
  4. Even if the setback is someone else’s fault, go easy on them. Don’t expect perfection from people, since this sets you up for disappointment. Figure out how you can adjust yourself to match them.

Set Specific Goals for a Motivating Target

Goals are energizing and motivating. They give you a target to work toward, and you work harder than if you’re aimless. Big thinkers set and achieve goals with these key strategies:

  1. Figure out what you really want to do. You are only going to be great at something you can put your whole heart and soul into.
  2. Visualize your ideal future 10 years from now in three areas: work, personal/home and social. 
  3. Make progress one step at a time. Every big accomplishment is the result of a steady series of little accomplishments. 
  4. Create a 30-day improvement guide. Set little goals for yourself for the next 30 days to build positive new habits and destroy old bad habits. 

Create a Magnetic Attitude

Your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language all convey your attitude. Other people pick up on your attitude; if it’s negative, you drag yourself down and look bad in the process. Successful people convey three attitudes:

  1. Enthusiasm: You have to be enthusiastic if you want anyone else to get excited. Approach little interactions like handshakes with energy. Spread good news with joy.
  2. YOU-are-important attitude: Others react positively to you when you make them feel important.
  3. Service-first attitude: Give people more than they expect. Think: what can I do for other people? This builds a loyal customer base and social group.

Think Like a Successful Leader

Successful people are often in leadership positions, but they didn’t get there alone or by luck. They have the support and cooperation of others.To develop as a leader, follow four guidelines: 

  1. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Try to think as they would think. 
  2. Think about the “human” way to handle a situation. Treat other people with basic human decency. 
  3. Have a “progress mindset”: Keep the attitude that “there’s always room for improvement.” 
  4. Take time out away from all the noise to think things over and confer with yourself

Make Your Environment First Class

Your mind is a product of your environment: the people you surround yourself with, the clothes you wear, the neighborhood you live in, the food you eat. Your environment changes how you think. Improve your environment to improve how you think.

  1. Take a look at the people in your life. Tune out the negative people and seek out those who think positively.
  2. Go first class. From restaurants to furniture, surrounding yourself with quality helps you feel and look successful. Often, choosing a first-class option doesn’t cost much more, but it makes you feel much better.
  3. Look important. Dress in a way that makes you feel proud and important. 
The Magic of Thinking Big: Book Overview

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Magic of Thinking Big summary :

  • The strategies and techniques that successful people use
  • How to find victory in every setback
  • How to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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