The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz
Simon & Schuster (1959)
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Henry Ford
Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — with regard to self-help books. I am among those who believe that the best of these books, notably Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937), Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), and Eckhart Tolles’s The Power of Now (1997). Add Schwartz’s classic to their number. All can be of great value to those whose circumstances require them to rely almost entirely on themselves to achieve success, however defined. The Magic of Thinking Big was first published in 1959 and my review is based on the abridged version published in 1987.
Schwartz presents his material in 13 chapters. The title of the last, “How to Think Like a Leader,” is preceded by nine chapters whose titles could well serve as core principles of effective self-leadership. Here they are:
1. Believe you can succeed and you will
2. Cure yourself of excusitis, the failure disease
3. Build confidence and destroy fear
6. You are what you think you are
7. Manage your environment: go first class
8. Make your attitudes your allies
9. Think right toward people
10. Get the action habit
12. Use goals to help you grow
Schwartz explains HOW to develop these dimensions of leadership as well as HOW to think BIG (Chapter 4), think and dream creatively (5), turn defeat into victory (11), and in aforementioned Chapter 13, “How to Think Like a Leader.” One of his key points, suggested by the Ford observation, is that people must assume personal accountability, take ownership of the consequences of their decisions, and thereby be an effective leader and manager of who they are, what they do, and how they do it.
Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a farmer’s market at which some of the merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now provide a selection of Schwartz’s observations:
o “The thinking that guides youur intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you may have.”(Page 35)
o “We can’t do much to change the amount of our native ability, but we can certainly change the way we use what we have.” (37)
o Three Ways toCure Intelligence Excusitis: 1. Never underestimate your own intelligence and never overestimate the intelligence of others…2. Remind yourself several times daily, ‘My attitudes are more important than my intelligence.’…3. Remember that the ability to think is of much greater value than the ability to memorize facts.” (39)
o “All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence.” On averaged, it takes parents 3-5 years to overcome a newborn’s inherent fear of whatever is unfamiliar. (47)
o “Use this two-step procedure to cure fear and win confidence; 1. Isolate your fear. Pin it down. Determine what exactly you are afraid of. 2. Then take action. There is some kind of [corrective] action for any kind of fear.” (50)
o “When you believe that something is impossible, your mind goes to work for to prove why. But, when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you to find ways to do it.” (85)
o “Big people monopolize the listening. Small people monopolize the talking.” (95) We have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth so we should observe and listen at least 80% of the time. That’s why high-impact people spend much more time requesting advice than giving it.
o “How you think determines how you act. How you act in turn determines: How others react to you.” (103)
o “You are what you think you are.” For better or worse. (108) Eleanor Roosevelt oncer suggested, “No one can intimidate you without your permission.”
o “Success depends on the support of other people. The only hurdle between you and what you want to be is the support of other people.” (151) An African proverb suggests, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
o “The person who does the most talking and the person who is the most successful are rarely the same person. Almost without exception, the more successful the person, the more he practices conversation generosity; that is, he encourages the other person to talk about himself, his views, his accomplishments, his family, his job, his problems.” (162)
o “Now is the magic word of success. Tomorrow, next week, later, sometime, someday often as not are synonyms for the failure word never. Lots of good dreams never come true because we say, ‘I’ll someday,’ when we should say, ‘I’ll start now, right now!'” (175)
These are not head-snapping revelations. Timeless wisdom never is. Re-read the list and then apply them to a situation in which there are troublesome ambiguities, perhaps even perilous implications. See the big picture, focus on details, and — as Jiminy Cricket suggests — “let your conscience be your guide.”
The best self-help advice has defining characteristics. Here are three of them: It is practical, almost anyone can immediately apply it, and it can help almost anyone to accelerate their personal growth and professional development. Thinking BIG is a worthy vision but as Henry Ford observed long ago, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Only with execution can thinking BIG have magic.
Here’s another self-help classic I also highly recommend: Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. The power to which Murphy refers is limited only by the extent you absorb, digest, and then apply the material he provides.