The Magic of Thinking Big: A book review by Bob Morris

Magic Thinking BigThe Magic of Thinking Big: Set Your Goals High…and Then Exceed Them
David J. Schwartz
Fireside/Simon & Schuster (1959)

Attitude is altitude: How high is your limit?

I read this book when it was first published in 1959 and recently re-read it in combination with Richard Newton’s The Little Book of Thinking Big, published 55 years later. There are differences between them, of course. (How could there not be?) However, they both stress the great importance of personal accountability, of taking ownership of the consequences of one’s decision. I agree that we cannot control everything that happens to us but we can control how we respond to whatever happens to us. Also, both David Schwartz and Newton are convinced — as am I — that most human limits are self-imposed. This is what Henry Ford had in mind many years ago when observing, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

To that last point, the title of Chapter 1 in The Magic of Thinking Big is “Believe You Can Succeed and You Will.” As we all know, the fact that we are certain that we will succeed does not ensure that we will. It is true, however, that we are more likely to succeed with a positive rather than with negative attitude. Schwartz urges his reader to think big and it all starts with self-image: “You’re bigger than you think. So, fit your thinking to your true size.”

So, how to think big? Schwartz offers five suggestions:

1. Don’t sell yourself short: If you don’t believe in you and what you can accomplish, why should anyone else?

2. Use the big thinker’s vocabulary: It really is possible to talk yourself into or out success. Which do you prefer, success or failure?

3. Stretch your vision: Whatever it may be, double or triple its scale. So what if your goal had been earning $10,000 a month and you’re “only” earning $7,500? What if the goal had been to earn $5,000 a month?

4. Get the big view of your job: If you think small, you will be small. The same is true of jobs. Think of your current job as a bridge to a much better position. How strong is your bridge?

5. Think about trivial things: Don’t let them drag you down. Focus on big objectives and take care of details that help you to achieve.

I presume to add one more: Avoid losers. You know who they are. They have more “crutches” than the International Red Cross. They see themselves as victims and refuse to assume any responsibility for their failures and inadequacies. Their negativity and self-pity can be contagious.

Although some of Schwartz’s material may seem dated, even quaint, his core insights and practical advice are still relevant and can help almost anyone to avoid or overcome self-defeating attitudes and behaviors.

To repeat, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” The choice is yours.

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