The Magic of Thinking Big - Critical summary review - David J. Schwartz

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The Magic of Thinking Big - critical summary review

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This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: The Magic of Thinking Big

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 0671646788

Publisher: Fireside Books

Critical summary review

Even though different individuals define it differently, success is, undoubtedly, the final objective for the majority of people. Everybody wants the best of life, and nobody settles willingly for mediocricy. And yet, very few people actually succeed in life. The reason, according to motivational writer and coach David J. Schwartz, is that they don’t think properly. According to him, “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. There is magic in thinking big.”

So, get ready to learn how to develop the power of this kind of belief and how to cure yourself of “excusitis,” the failure disease, and prepare to discover why thinking power is more important than mere intelligence and why a defeat is nothing more than a state of mind!

Believe you can succeed and you will

“Truly I tell you,” says Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “if you have faith and do not doubt… you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask.” And he is not the only one to say something along these lines. Thousands of years before him, the prophet David wrote, “As one thinketh in his heart, so is he;” thousands of years after him, John Milton observed, in “Paradise Lost,” that the mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven. A few centuries after Milton, Ralph Waldo Emerson concurred, noting that great men are those who see that thoughts rule the world.

And yet, despite these four being some of the finest and biggest-thinking minds in history, most people nowadays think that it’s nonsense to believe that you can move a mountain simply by telling it to move. “But you can move a mountain with belief,” writes Schwartz confidently. “You can win success by believing you can succeed. There is nothing magical or mystical about the power of belief.” Why? Because belief is basically a power source. 

The I’m-positive-I-can attitude generates the power, skill, and energy needed to do great things. In other words, the how-to-do-it mindset is a straight upshot of the I-can-do-it belief. Or, better yet, the potential of any individual is a product of his thoughts: those that adjust their thermostats forward – move forward, and those who believe big – grow big.

Fortunately, it’s not at all difficult to acquire and strengthen the power of your belief. You just need to remind yourself to comply with the following three guidelines:

  1. Think success, don’t think failure. Thinking failure conditions your mind to give up trying; thinking success does the exact opposite: it prepares your whole body to create plans that produce success. So, make “I will succeed,” your master thought. Wherever you are, think “I’ll win” or “I’m equal to the best” rather than “I’ll probably lose” and “I’m outclassed.” Embrace the I-can-do-it attitude.
  2. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. Think about all the successful people you know: most of them are neither more intelligent nor luckier than you. Instead, they are just ordinary people with a belief in themselves. Emulate them. You are better than you think you are. Never, ever sell yourself short.
  3. Believe big. As they say, if you shoot for the stars, even if you miss, you’ll land on the moon. “The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief,” reiterates Schwartz. “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.”

Cure yourself of excusitis, the failure disease

Where there’s a will – there’s a way; where there’s none – there are excuses. Besides thinking small, they explain best the difference between the people who are going places and those who are barely capable of making ends meet. As a rule of thumb, the more successful the person, the less inclined they are to make excuses. Unsuccessful people, on the other hand, suffer from “a mind-deadening thought disease,” called excusitis. 

Now, excusitis appears in a variety of forms, but the four most common – and, coincidentally, worst – types of this disease are health excusitis, intelligence excusitis, age excusitis, and luck excusitis. Let’s see how you can protect yourself against all of them.

1. Health excusitis: “But my health isn’t good.”

Millions of people suffer from health excusitis, but the sheer number of people with bad health who are successful – think Ludwig van Beethoven, Frida Kahlo, Franklin Roosevelt, Stephen Hawking – proves that bad health is never a legitimate excuse for not making it in life. The best vaccine against health excusitis consists of the following four doses:

  1. Refuse to talk about your health. Talking about your health is not only a bad habit but a counterproductive one: it’s like putting fertilizer on weeds. Stop doing that: unsuccessful people crave sympathy, and successful people strive for victory.
  2. Refuse to worry about your health. The only thing worse than chronic complainers is chronic worrywarts. Think about what you can do with all that energy you put into worrying about your health! Start exercising some self-control.
  3. Be genuinely grateful that your health is as good as it is. Instead of complaining about not feeling good, be grateful for the health you already have. Remember that old saying: “I felt sorry for myself because I had ragged shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
  4. Remind yourself often, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” You only live once: don’t waste your time here on Earth. Instead of imagining yourself being in a hospital bed – enjoy yourself.

2. Intelligence excusitis: “But you’ve got to have brains to succeed!”

Most people make two basic errors concerning intelligence: they both underestimate their brainpower and overestimate the other people’s intellectual capacity. “What really matters is not how much intelligence you have but how you use what you do have. The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than the quantity of your brainpower,” writes Schwartz. It is of vital importance to understand this: with a positive attitude, a person with an IQ of 100 will earn more money and respect than a pessimistic individual with an IQ of 120.

 To vaccinate yourself against intelligence excusitis, try the following:

  1. Never underestimate your own intelligence, and never overestimate the intelligence of others. Stop worrying about your IQ: it’s how you use it that really matters.
  2. Remind yourself several times daily, “My attitudes are more important than my intelligence.” Put your IQ to creative, positive use. Instead of using it to prove to yourself that you will lose or to rationalize your defeats – use it to find ways to win.
  3. Remember that the ability to think is of much greater value than the ability to memorize facts. Don’t just record history and repeat other people’s ideas: use your brainpower to make history and develop new and better ways to do things.

3. Age excusitis: “It’s no use. I’m too old (or too young).”

Who are you fooling? Some people have started revolutions in their teenage years, and people who can bench-press more than you in their 80s. No person is too young or too old to do something that they want. So:

  1. Look at your present age positively. Instead of thinking “I’m already old,” think “I’m still young.” Always practice looking forward.
  2. Compute how much productive time you have left. Life is longer than most people think. Just think about it this way: a 30-year-old person still has 80% of his productive life ahead of him, and “the 50-year-old still has a big 40 percent – the best 40 percent – of his opportunity years left.”
  3. Invest future time in doing what you really want to do. It’s never too late for anything: Socrates started learning a new song on the flute just a few moments before his execution. So, stop thinking – “I should have started years ago.” Instead think –  “I’m going to start now: my best years are ahead of me.” That’s the way successful people think.

4. Luck excusitis: “But my case is different; I attract bad luck.”

Do you know who attracts bad luck? The people who think they do. And you know why? Because luck, in reality, is nothing more than an excuse made by the losing side. It’s possibly the worst kind of excusitis out there. Cure it in two steps:

  1. Accept the law of cause and effect. Compare your “bad luck” to someone else’s “good luck.” Be honest in your comparison. You’ll probably realize that bad luck is actually a failure to learn from your own mistakes, and good luck is essentially a combination of “preparation, planning, and success-producing thinking.”
  2. Don’t be a wishful thinker. Nobody has become successful simply through luck. Success is all about mastering skills and doing things. So, don’t count on luck anymore. Instead of being a wishful thinker, be a realistic doer: concentrate on developing those qualities in yourself that have made other people winners. And you’ll become a winner too.

How to turn defeat into victory

When someone dies, doctors perform autopsies to better understand the cause. Just as well, when an air accident occurs, the Federal Aviation Administration studies the site of the plane crash for months until it has a satisfactory answer.

“I have not failed,” said Thomas A. Edison once. “I've just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And that is the difference between successful and unsuccessful people: the former think big and don’t see failure as the end of the journey, but a stepping stone toward finding the right solution. The following five guideposts should help you develop this mindset and start turning defeat into victory:

  1. Study setbacks to pave your way to success. If understood properly, failures can be portals to discovery. So, try to learn from them: no defeat is final unless you believe it to be.
  2. Have the courage to be your own constructive critic. The difference between amateurs and professionals is simple: the latter neither hide nor exaggerate their weaknesses, but seek out them and try to correct them. Nobody is perfect. However, you will not even get close to perfection without a proper dose of constructive self-criticism.
  3. Stop blaming luck. They don’t say that luck is what happens when preparation means opportunity for nothing. So, research each setback. Find out what went wrong the last time and improve your chances to succeed in the next one.
  4. Blend persistence with experimentation. Experiment. Instead of fearing failures, fear not trying. Constantly try new approaches.
  5. Remember, there is a good side to every situation. Find it, no matter how difficult it is. This is what encouragement is made of.

Use goals to help you grow

Unless you have a lot of free time on your hands, it’s not a smart idea to start a journey without knowing the destination first. Just as well, it’s pointless to think big for the sake of it and strive to become successful without having a more specific goal to achieve. To set one, use the following success-building principles to work:

  1. Get a clear fix on where you want to go. Picture yourself ten years from now. Strive to become that person.
  2. Write out a 10-year plan. Don’t leave things to chance: put down on paper what you want to accomplish.
  3. Surrender yourself to your desires. When you have a clear goal in mind, you can really enjoy both your work and your free time. Set goals not only to get things done – but to get more energy as well. 
  4. Let your major goal be your automatic pilot. Allow yourself to be absorbed by your major goal. If necessary, fake it – until you make it.
  5. Achieve your goal one step at a time. Remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no need to run: you just need to walk slowly and surely, with preplanned baby steps.
  6. Build thirty-day goals. Break down your long-term plans into month-by-month and day-by-day activities.
  7. Take detours in your stride. A detour doesn’t mean surrendering the goal – it’s just another route, a way of experimenting.
  8. Invest in yourself. Don’t just purposelessly save money for the future: purchase the things you need to achieve your goal now. Invest in your education and your skills. It will be worth it one day.

Final Notes

First published in 1959, Schwartz’s “The Magic of Thinking Big” has sold over 6 million copies so far and is one of the all-time personal development bestsellers. It’s also still in print, so it has stood the test of time.

Let’s just say that even if you need to read just one self-help book, you won’t make a big mistake if you opt for this one.

12min Tip

As little-known poet Walter D. Wintle wrote in that celebrated poem “Thinking,” “Life’s battles don’t always go/ To the stronger or faster man;/ But sooner or later the man who wins/ Is the man who thinks he can.” So, be that man! It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s all in the state of mind: even if it doesn’t end with it, success, indeed, begins with one’s will. 

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Who wrote the book?

Born in 1927, David J. Schwartz was a professor of marketing at Georgia State University and the founder of a successful consultancy company – Creative Educational Services Inc. – which specialized in life strategy and leadership development. However, he is today most f... (Read more)

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