The Magic of Thinking BIG
By David J Schwartz, PhD
First published in 1959, the contents of this book can be considered a guide to a better life. The author believes that ‘the size of bank accounts, the size of happiness accounts, and the size of one’s general satisfaction account is dependent on the size of one’s thinking.’ He tells the story of Harry, a sales rep who achieved five times the earnings of the company’s other reps in a year. The question then asked is what did Harry have that the others didn’t? Was he five times smarter? Did he work five times harder? Was his territory better, or did he simply have better health? The answer to all these questions is no. The difference between Harry and the others was that Harry thought five times bigger. In the early pages of the book, a lengthy ‘What This Book Will Do for You’ list is provided. Items on the list include: Launch Yourself to Success with the Power of Belief; Get Big Results by Believing Big; and Think as Big as You Really Are. The message he wants readers to receive is that we are all products of our thinking, ‘and much of this thinking is little, not big.’
My Top 3 Takes from the Summary
Belief in success is the one basic, absolutely essential ingredient of successful people.
If you believe you can achieve something, how to achieve it will develop from there.
Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are… The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.
Think Big and You’ll Live Big
It’s the author’s belief that every human being wants success. What success means to each of us is an individual thing, but he writes: Success means freedom. Freedom from worries, fears, frustrations, and failure. Success means self-respect, continually finding more real happiness and satisfaction from life, being able to do more for those who depend on you.
The above definition of success will resonate with most readers, but he goes on to point out that while most of us want these things, very few of us really believe it’s possible to have them. Achieving a better life remains wishful thinking, but wishing is not believing. He states: The how-to-do-it always comes to the person who believes he can do it… Belief in success is the one basic, absolutely essential ingredient of successful people.
Developing the Power of Belief
There’s magic in thinking big, so why doesn’t everyone think this way? The author believes the answer to this question is found in our everyday environment, and society’s tendency to lead us into believing that ‘there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians,’ therefore we should content ourselves with being the little guy. There’s also an attitude of ‘what will be will be’ that suggests we have no control over the way things turn out for us in life, so there’s no point in making big plans, and then the often promoted idea that the price of success is too high – not only having to forfeit family life, but effectively having to sell our souls, our conscience, and our values to reach the top.
The author points out that achieving what you want in life is going to require tools to help you. He writes: In building anything, we need tools. Many people, in their attempt to build a successful life, forget there are tools to help them. You have not forgotten. You have, then, the two basic qualities needed to realise real profit from this book: a desire for greater success and the intelligence to select a tool to realise that desire.
Life Is Too Short to Be Little
It was Disraeli who said, “Life is too short to be little.” The author uses this quote to back up his own message about thinking big: Believe, really believe, you can succeed, and you will.
He asserts that if you believe you can achieve something, how to achieve it will develop from there. A positive, can-do attitude generates the energy required to build the skills and knowledge needed – that’s the magic of thinking big. To put this into context, he writes: Every day all over the nation young people start working in new jobs. Each of them ‘wishes’ that someday he could enjoy the success that goes with reaching the top. But the majority of these young people simply don’t have the belief that it takes to reach the top rungs. And they don’t reach the top. Believing it’s impossible to climb high, they do not discover the steps that lead to great heights. Their behaviour remains that of the ‘average’ person.
But a small number of these young people really believe they will succeed. They approach their work with the ‘I’m-going-to-the-top’ attitude. And with substantial belief they reach the top. Believing they will succeed – and that it’s not impossible – these folks study and observe the behaviour of senior executives. They learn how successful people approach problems and make decisions. They observe the attitudes of successful people. The how to do it always comes to the person who believes he can do it.
‘Excusitis’ is the author’s term for what might also be called failure disease. He describes it as an ‘okay-I’ll-give-it-a-try-but-I-don’t-think-it-will-work’ attitude, and he notes that it’s an attitude that always produces failures. He writes: Disbelief is negative power. When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts ‘reasons’ to support the disbelief.
The point he makes is that these reasons are nothing more than excuses. Those who fail will often say things such as, ‘To tell the truth, I didn’t think it would work,’ or, ‘Actually, I wasn’t too surprised that it didn’t work out.’ Someone suffering from excusitis will go through a mental process of coming up with an excuse they can hide behind and use as a ‘reason’ for not doing as well as they should. This might be their poor health; lack of education; their age – either too young or too old; their upbringing; or just bad luck. The more they use the excuse they choose to stick by, the more they convince themselves it’s a genuine reason for their failure, and they’ll keep on using it to explain their lack of success to others.
He writes: People – as you think yourself to success, that’s what you’ll study. You will study people very carefully to discover, then apply, success-rewarding principles to your life. And you want to begin right away. Go deep into your study of people, and you’ll discover unsuccessful people suffer a mind-deadening thought disease. We call this disease excusitis. Every failure has this disease in its advanced form. And most ‘average’ people have at least a mild case of it. You will discover that excusitis explains the difference between the person who is going places and the fellow who is barely holding his own. You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses. But the fellow who has gone nowhere and has no plans for getting anywhere always has a bookful of reasons to explain why. Persons with mediocre accomplishments are quick to explain why they haven’t, why they don’t, why they can’t, and why they aren’t. Study the lives of successful people and you’ll discover this: all the excuses made by the mediocre fellow could be but aren’t made by the successful person.
Your Mind Is a Thought Factory
To explain the power of thought, the author describes the mind as a thought ‘factory’ – a busy place where millions of thoughts are produced on any given day. He creates a mental image of two foremen busily running the factory, naming them ‘Mr Triumph’ and ‘Mr Defeat’. It’s Mr Triumph’s job to oversee the manufacturing of positive thoughts, so he’s the person in charge of producing reasons ‘why you can, why you’re qualified, why you will.’ Mr Defeat’s job is overseeing the production of negative, deprecating thoughts, so he specialises in producing reasons ‘why you can’t, why you’re weak, why you’re inadequate,’ and he’s an expert in ‘why-you-will-fail’ chain of thoughts.
Both of these foremen jump to attention whenever you give them the slightest signal, with Mr Triumph responding to positive thinking and Mr Defeat to negative thinking. To give an example of how these foremen jump into action whenever you signal, he writes: Tell yourself, ‘Today is a lousy day.’ This signals Mr Defeat into action, and he manufactures some facts to prove you are right. He suggests to you that it’s too hot or it’s too cold, business will be bad today, sales will drop, other people will be on edge, you may get sick. Mr Defeat is tremendously efficient. In just a few moments he’s got you sold. It is a bad day. Before you know it, it is a heck of a bad day. But tell yourself, ‘Today is a fine day,’ and Mr Triumph is signalled forward to act. He tells you, ‘This is a wonderful day. The weather is refreshing. It’s good to be alive. Today you can catch up on some of your work.’ And then it is a good day.
Whatever Mr Defeat is convinced you can’t do, Mr Triumph is convinced you can do, and they’ll both work hard at convincing you they’re right. The more time you devote to either one in your thoughts, the stronger they become, or as the author puts it, the more personnel they’ll bring in to help them do their job. If you’re dwelling on negative thoughts, Mr Defeat is going to end up taking over the entire thought-manufacturing division, leaving no room for Mr Triumph to operate. In using this analogy, his message is that you need to fire Mr Defeat and only employ Mr Triumph. He writes: You don’t need Mr Defeat. You don’t want him around telling you that you can’t, you’re not up to it, you’ll fail, and so on. He won’t help you get where you want to go, so boot him out. Use Mr Triumph 100 per cent of the time. When any thought enters your mind, ask Mr Triumph to go to work for you. He’ll show you how you can succeed.
Strengthening the Power of Belief
The author provides three guides to acquiring and strengthening the power of belief. He writes:
Think success, don’t think failure. At work, in your home, substitute success thinking for failure thinking. When you face a difficult situation, think, ‘I’ll win,’ not, ‘I’ll probably lose.’ When you compete with someone else, think, ‘I’m equal to the best,’ not, ‘I’m outclassed.’ When opportunity appears, think, ‘I can do it,’ never, ‘I can’t.’ Let the master thought ‘I will succeed’ dominate your thinking process. Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans that produce success. Thinking failure does the exact opposite. Failure thinking conditions the mind to think other thoughts that produce failure.
Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. Successful people are not supermen. Success does not require a super-intellect. Nor is there anything mystical about success. And success isn’t based on luck. Successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves and what they do. Never – yes, never – sell yourself short.
Believe big. The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success. Remember this, too! Big ideas and big plans are often easier – certainly no more difficult – than small ideas and small plans.
As the book’s title suggests, there is magic in thinking big, and the author sets out exactly what this means to all of us in the many real-life case histories he includes. He leaves the reader in no doubt that belief triggers the power to do, and it’s power everyone has within them if they choose to develop and strengthen it. Space travel and finding a cure for cancer are given as examples of thinking big, as he points out that without unwavering belief in these possibilities, the courage, interest, and enthusiasm to pursue such big goals would be lost. Thinking big and believing big holds the key to living big and achieving big, and seeing not just what is, but what could be.
The author not only talks about what he believes, he provides practical ideas, techniques, and principles that can be used by the reader to harness the power of thinking big for themselves, making this book a guide to a better life.
Bio of the Author
David J Schwartz (1927-1987) was an American author, motivational coach, and life strategist. He was a professor at Georgia State University, and founder of Creative Educational Services Inc., a consultancy firm focusing on leadership development.
The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, 2016 edition, ISBN: 978-1-785-04047-4 is available to buy at Amazon.