The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz - Summary

The magic of thinking big is perfect for beginners wanting to jump start their careers and always wanted to know why their were lagging behind their peers. Beneath you can find my notes from reading the book.



… success is determined not so much by the size of one’s brain as it is by the size of one’s thinking.

As one thinketh in his heart, so is he.

– prophet David

(Read more on that in As a man thinketh.)

Great men are those who see that thoughts rule the world.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or hell of heaven.

– John Milton (Paradise Lost)

There is nothing either good or bad except that thinking makes it so.

– Shakespeare

Life is too short to be little.

– Disraeli

Believe you can succeed and you will

  • if you believe you can do something, the how comes naturally.

  • impress on yourself the attitude of “I’m positive I can” and the skills, power and energy to achieve what you want will come on their own.

  • Observe the attitudes of successful people, learn how they approach problems and make decisions.

Believe, really believe, you can succeed, and you will.

  • the “okay I’ll give it a try but I don’t think it will work” attitude is always bound for failure.

It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don’t worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond. Those who harbor the second-best attitude are invariably second-best doers.

  • As soon as you start believing in yourself, good things will start happening.

Most people will continue to worry, to be afraid, to crawl through life feeling unimportant, unappreciated, not able to do what they want to do.

  • Steps to develop the power of belief:
    • Dominate your thinking process with thoughts like “I’ll win” or “I can do it”. Never think of the opposite.
    • Never sell yourself short.
    • The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.

We need from every man who aspires to leadership - for himself and his company - a determination to undertake a personal program of self-development. Nobody is going to order a man to develop…Whether a man lags behind or moves ahead in his specialty is a matter of his own personal application. This is something which takes time, work, and sacrifice. Nobody can it for you.

– Ralph J. Cordiner (chairman of the board of the General Electric Company)

  • Observe and experiment! Most people understand almost nothing about why people act as they do.

Cure yourself of excusitis, the failure disease

  • “Failure” type people always have an explanation for:
    • why they haven’t
    • why they don’t
    • why they can’t
    • why they aren’t
  • some of the most noteworthy people would have had one of the most discouraging excuses like Roosevelt with his legs, or Truman with no college education or Kennedy with being too you young, or Johnson or Eisenhower behind their heart attacks. But no, they did it anyways.

  • People look for an alibi to rationalize why they can’t succeed.

  • Common excuses:
    • Poor health
    • Lack of education
    • Too old
    • Too young
    • Bad luck
    • Personal misfortune
    • Wife
    • Circumstances during your upbringing as a child
  • being perfectly healthy is by itself an abnormality

  • Read “How to live 365 days a year” by Dr. Schindler

  • Steps to defeat a health alibi:
    • Refuse to talk about your health
    • Refuse to worry about your health
    • Be grateful that your health is good
    • “It’s better to wear out that rust out.”
  • Errors in respect to intelligence:
    • We underestimate our own brainpower.
    • We overestimate the other fellow’s brainpower.

The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than the quantity of your brainpower.

With a positive, optimistic, and cooperative attitude a person with an IQ of 100 will earn more money, win more respect and achieve more success than a negative, pessimistic, uncooperative individual with an IQ of 120.

The story is told that the great scientist Einstein once asked how many feet are in a mile. Einstein’s reply was “I don’t know. Why should I fill my brain with facts I can find in two minutes in any standard reference book?

  • Henry Ford, too, never bothered with remembering miscellaneous information, as written in his autobiography

What I want around me are people who can solve problems, who can think up ideas. People who can dream and then develop the dream into a practical application; an idea man can make money with me; a fact man can’t.

– President of a manufacturing company

  • Steps to defeat intelligence as an alibi:
    • Never underestimate you intelligence and never overestimate the intelligence of others. Concentrate on your assets and talents.
    • Remember that your attitude is more important than your intelligence several times a day.
    • Think about the following: “Am I using my mental ability to make history, or am I using it merely to record history made by others?”
  • one’s attitude towards age makes the difference between being too old or being too young

  • get used to supervising people who are older than you

  • there is no good or bad luck. Only good or bad preparation.

  • Steps to conquer luck as an alibi:
    • Observe people who are lucky and you will see that preparation, planning and success-producing thinking preceded the “good luck” event. During setbacks they typically learn and profit from the event. On the other hand, people with bad luck seldomly try to learn or profit from the “bad luck” event.
    • Focus on the qualities that make out a winner. Don’t be a wishful thinker.

Build confidence and destroy fear

  • Treating fear with “It’s only in your mind” doesn’t make it any less real. Fear is real and has to be treated as enemy number one.

  • nobody is born with confidence, they all acquired it through some form.

Action cures fear.

  • Having fear of what other people may think or say can be countered by the fact that nothing worthwhile was ever not criticized by someone.

  • recall positive events instead of negative events regularly

  • negative thoughts fertilized since your early childhood can become real monsters. Become an emotionally mature person first if you have any left remedies.

  • every person is important, yourself included.

Underneath he’s probably a very nice guy. Most folks are.

Receptionist at a hotel after acting as a scapegoat

  • don’t ever do something that violates your own values or belief system

  • act confidently:
    • reach and clasp the other person’s hand firmly
    • look at the other person directly
    • say: “I’m very glad to know you.”
  • steps to be more confident:
    • be a front seater
    • make eye contact. lack of it may be interpreted as if you wanted to hide something from the other fellow.
    • walk 25% faster. if you are sure to succeed at your destiny, why would you hesitate to get their?
    • speak up. each time you do this, your confidence increases. each time you refrain, your confidence decreases.
    • Smile big. You can’t feel down and smile at the same time.

How to think big

How big we think determines the size of our accomplishments.

  • greatest human weakness: self-depreciation

  • to stop self-depreciations, list 5 chief assets. Afterwards, under each asset list someone you know that lacks in this asset and is more successful than you are.

  • People do not think in words and phrases. They think in pictures or images. Therefore using big words for the sake of sounding important is useless. Use words that produce the right picture in your listeners mind instead.

To think big, we must use words and phrases that produce big, positive mental images.

  • Compare:
    • I’ve tried but the product won’t sell. People don’t want it.
    • So far I’ve not been able to sell this product. But I know it is good and I’m going to find the formula that will put it over.
  • Steps to develop a big thinker’s vocabulary:
    • Use big positive words to describe how you feel.
    • Use cheerful and favorable words to describe others.
    • Use positive language to encourage others.
    • Use positive words to outline plans to others.
  • think about what can be - dream (realistically)

  • practice thinking on how to:
    • add value to things
    • add value to people around you
    • add value to yourself

Resolve to keep your eyes on the big ball.

  • Don’t bother about little things like a barking dog at night or being assigned a smaller office than your co-workers. Ask yourself, is it really important?

How to think and dream creatively

  • The act of thinking creatively can be described as finding new and improved ways to do anything.

  • Believe it can be done.

  • If you really believe, you mind will create a way to make it happen.

  • Don’t ever use the word impossible and practice finding ways for things you always wanted.

  • Average people always resent progress.

  • Welcome new ideas, experiment with new methods continuously and think progressively.

  • If you want something done, give it a busy person.

  • Make an effort to come up with new ideas consistently and store them for later use.

You are what you think you are

  • If you think of yourself as inferior, others will do so too.

How you think determines how you act. How you act in turn determines: How others react to you.

Dress Right. You can’t afford not to!

– American Institute of Men’s and Boy’s Wear

  • Dressing right helps you think right.

  • Other people judge you on appearance. It’s your first impression and you better leave a good one.

  • Underdressing or dressing poorly communicates the message: “Here is a person who isn’t doing well. He’s careless, inefficient, unimportant. He’s just an average person. He deserves no special consideration. He’s used to being pushed around.”

  • But, the questions arises about price. The solutions is: “Pay twice as much and buy half as many.”

Look your best and you will think and act your best.

  • Think your job is important. As a result, your attitude improves and your results too.

A person who thinks his job is important Receives mental signals on how to do his job better; And a better job means More promotions, more money, more prestige, more happiness.

  • After hiring a person, give them th lowest ranking tasks in the company like delivering the mail and observe how important they think the task is. This is similar to Henry Ford’s technique of hiring people.

  • As a child reflects the attitudes of its parents, subordinates reflect the attitude of their leaders.

  • Practice uplifting self-praise several times daily and avoid self-punishment at all costs.

  • Example pep-talk taken from the book:

Tom Staley, meet Tom Staley - an important, a really important person. Tom, you’re a big thinker, so think big. Think Big about Everything. You’ve got plenty of ability to do a first-class job, so do a first-class job. Tom, you believe in Happiness, Progress, and Prosperity. So: talk only Happiness, talk only Progress talk only Prosperity. You have lots of drive, Tom, lots of drive. So put that drive to work. Nothing can stop you, Tom, nothing. Tom you’re enthusiastic. Let your enthusiasm show through. You look good, Tom, and you feel good. Stay that way. Tom Staley, you were a great fellow yesterday and you’re going to be an even greater fellow today. Now go to it, Tom. Go forward.

  • Always ask yourself, would an important person think, act or do that? In regards to every matter imaginable: Worry, ideas, appearance, language, literature, jokes, job etc.

Manage your environment: Go first class

The body is what the body is fed. By the same token, the mind is what the mind is fed.

  • Mind food is the environment your are in. It influences your conscious and subconscious continuously and shapes your habits, attitudes and personality.

  • The body reflects what you feed it and the same goes on with your mind.

  • As children, we used to dream big. We had the highest objectives but as we grew older, we heard from all sides utterances like “It’s foolish to be a dreamer” or that our ideas are impractical, stupid, naive or foolish.

  • 3 groups of people:

    • those who surrendered their dreams completely and still hope for some kind of opportunity by job hopping
    • those who made it somewhat in life but they lack the motivation to achieve high success because of fear of loosing their already above average accomplishments. This group is crowded by talented and intelligent people.
    • the third group is the one of the high achievers. they make out about 2-3% of the total but to stay in this group you have to fight the detrimental influences of a bad environment.

Big men do not laugh at big ideas.

People who tell you it cannot be done almost always are unsuccessful people, are strictly average or mediocre at best in terms of accomplishments.

  • Accept negative advice only as an exercise to yourself to proof that you can do it.

  • As the saying goes, birds of feather flock together. Likewise, pay attention that you don’t turn negative yourself which will be reflected in your environment.

Go first class when you have questions. Seeking advice from a failure is like consulting a quack on how to cure cancer.

  • Get to know many different people to learn as much as possible about people.

  • Associate with people with different opinions but make sure they have potential in themselves.

  • Select friends who stand above petty things like the square footage of your home or the appliances you have. Select friends who are interested in positive things and who are really interested in seeing you succeed.

  • As you stay clear from body poison by avoiding food poisoning, you should avoid thought poison. One example is gossip.

  • going first class in any matter will cost you less in the long run.

Make your attitudes your allies

  • Try to follow these attitudes:
    • I’m activated.
    • You are important.
    • Service first.
  • If you want to activate others and become enthusiastic, you first have to become enthusiastic yourself.

  • To increase your enthusiasm about something, try to learn more about the subject. Really dig deep into the subject.

  • Put more life into the things you are doing like a lively handshake or smiling with your teeth showing.

  • Telling other people about good news, lets them feel better too.

  • Treat other people with respect no matter their occupation.

  • Good service always precedes money. It’s never the other way around.

Think right toward people

In at least nine cases out of then, the “likability” factor is the first thing mentioned [when selecting a person for a promotion]. And in an overwhelmingly large number of cases, the “likability” factor is given far more weight than the technical factor.

  • Common questions that arise in a committee on selecting a new professor are for example:
    • “Will he fit in?”
    • “Will students like him?”
    • “Will he cooperate with others on the staff?”
  • President Lyndon Johnson’s rules for success (abbreviated):
    • Learn to remember names.
    • Be an old-shoe kind of individual. (Easy going.)
    • Don’t be ruffled by things.
    • Don’t be egotistical.
    • Be interesting to people.
    • Remove the “unlikeable” parts of your personality. Also become aware of them.
    • Clear all misunderstandings and their implied grievances.
    • Never miss congratulating someone.
    • Give spiritual strength to others.
  • Don’t buy friendship with gifts and the likes.

  • A big person usually is the first to introduce himself and build friendships.

  • Six ways to win friends:
    • Introduce yourself to others everywhere.
    • Remember other peoples names.
    • Pronounce their names correctly.
    • Spell their names correctly.
    • Initiate contact with the other fellow via phone or via texting.
    • Say pleasant things to strangers.
  • Don’t be timid, don’t be afraid to be unusual, find out who the other person is and be sure they know who you are.

If we let our thinking go uncontrolled, we can find much to dislike in almost anyone. By the same token, if we manage our thinking properly, if we think right toward people, we can find many qualities to like and admire in the same person.

  • Your mind is a mental broadcasting station.

  • Avoid negative thoughts about others produced by yourself by quickly jumping to positive remarks.

  • When another person tries to impress negative thoughts on you about someone else, try to change the topic as quickly as possible or excuse yourself.

  • Nobody is perfect and accept everyone as they are.

  • Think positive about others and really start to like them and consider them as friends. Soon, they will return the favor.

The person who does the most talking and the person who is the most successful are rarely the same person.

[…] It depends on how you look at things.For example, I never had a teacher I hated. Naturally I was disciplined just like every other pupil, but I always figured it was my fault that the discipline was necessary. I have also liked every boss I ever had. I always tried to please him and do more than he expected if I possibly could, never less.

– Benjamin Fairless (CEO of United States Steel Corporation, Oct. 1956)

Get the action habit

  • passive people always postpone taking action until it’s too late. active people are self starters.

  • passive people are often perfectionists and tend to bail out on the last minute.

  • don’t wait until conditions are perfect. expect future obstacles and deal with them as they arise.

Regardless of how good the idea, unless you do something with it, you gain nothing.

  • Utterances like “Had I gone into business seven years ago, I’d sure be sitting pretty now.” or “I had a hunch it would work out like that. I wish I had done something about it” cause tremendous psychological pain. On the contrary, acting upon on a good idea brings enormous mental satisfaction.

  • To fight fear: ACT

  • to get you in motion before the “main action” do something that resembles the main action. for example, if you have writer’s block, try to write out some sentences or move your hand across paper as if you were writing.

  • Tell yourself: “I’m in condition right now to begin. I can’t gain a thing by putting it off. I’ll the use the ‘get ready’ time and energy to get going instead”; Do this to avoid distracting yourself with other chores.

How to turn defeat into victory

  • The people who are successful come from the same backgrounds as the people on skid row. The difference only between them is how the successful responded to defeat.

All it takes [took] is [was] a persistent man who never thinks [thought] he is [was] defeated.

  • Use setbacks and obstacles to propel you forward. Seldomly success is reached without any obstacles.

Salvage something from every setback.

  • Defeat is only a mental state. It’s only a word describing a situation but depending on the perspective it can be the thing thing ever.

  • Stop blaming luck for your misfortunes. Learn from the experience and become self-reliant. Be your own constructive critic.

  • Combine persistance with experimentation to achieve success.

  • Tell yourself there is a way to achieve your goal to attract ideas.

  • Step back from problems and try to tackle the problem from a new angle. Some of the most noteworthy people made it a deliberate choice to relax regularly to get new ideas while watering the flowers or listening to music.

Use goals to help you grow

The important thing is not where you were or where you are but where you want to get.

  • Know you goals for 10 years in the future in regards to work, home and social affairs as precisely as possible.

  • According to a McKinsey Foundation for Management Research study, it was found out that people succeed who have a ‘sheer desire to get ahead’.

  • Success requires heart-and-soul effort.

  • Reasons for failure:
    • self-depreciation: “I’d fail if I tried.”
    • security-itis: “I’ve got security where I am.”
    • competition: “The field is already overcrowded.”
    • parental dictation: “I’d really like to prepare for something else, but my parents want me to do this so I must.”
    • family responsibility: “It would have been wise for me to change over five years ago, but now I’ve got a family and I can’t change.”
  • Having an entrenched goal, helps you decide whether you should do something or not. This works through your subconscious mind. A person without a goal aimlessly wanders around. They lack the help of a so called “automatic instrumentation” which would guide them back on track if they got lost.

  • Set goals, deadlines, target dates, self-imposed quotas. You accomplish only what you plan to accomplish.

  • Reach your goal in tiny steps to make big goals small.

  • Expect detours towards your goals. For example, if you drove somewhere and encountered a road block, would you camp there or god forbid turn back home? No, you would find a way around to your destination.

  • Self investments that will pay of:
    • Education: not the amount of diplomas but how well a person can think
    • Invest in idea starters: like books or magazines at least once a month

How to think like a leader

  • Remember, leaders are lifted to success and not pulled up there. Hence, you need the support and cooperation of others.

  • 4 leadership principles:
    • Trade minds with the people you want to influence.
    • Think: What is the human way to handle this?
    • Think progress, believe in progress, push for progress.
    • Take time out to confer with yourself and develop your supreme thinking power.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, buyers, prospects.
  • Use their vocabulary and not word that only a college professor understands if you want to appeal to the masses.

  • Leadership also involves protecting and caring for your employees.

  • Criticize people with care:
    • Talk to them privately
    • Praise them
    • Point out the one thing they could do better and help them
    • Praise them again
  • Avoid sarcasm, being cynical, taking people down a peg or two, putting others in their place.

  • Practice praising people.

  • Keep the following 2 things in mind:
    • Think improvement in everything you do.
    • Think high standards in everything you do.
  • Leaders spend considerable amount alone with their “thinking apparatus”. For example, every outstanding religious leader spend a prolonged time alone away from the distractions of life - even political leaders like Hitler who spend several months in jail writing “Mein Kampf” as the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Marx and many others.

  • Leaders need the time to do their superthinking.

  • On the other spectrum you have people who avoid being alone at all costs thinking: “Here, Mr. TV, Mr. Newspaper, occupy my mind for me. I’m afraid to occupy it with my own thoughts.

  • Solutions found in solitude have a tendency of being 100% right. Managed solitude pays off.

  • The main job of a leader is thinking. Spend time alone everyday of at least 30 to 60 minutes.

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