"The basic principles and concepts supporting 'The Magic of Thinking Big' come from the highest-pedigree sources... minds such as Emerson, who said, ‘Great men are those who see that thoughts rule the world.' … Amazingly perceptive minds like Shakespeare, who observed, 'There is nothing either good or bad except that thinking makes it so.'"
The Magic of Thinking Big, by motivational coach and professor Dr. David J. Schwartz, is filled with lessons that illustrate how a subtle shift in thinking can help ordinary people achieve big success in life. Although the book was first published in 1959, there is growing scientific evidence now that having a positive outlook has a myriad of benefits.
This book has plenty of actionable advice on how we can shift our thinking. I found the lessons around using action to cure fear and a “sell-yourself-to-yourself” commercial to be very practical. I write about these in more detail below.
As Emerson’s and Shakespeare’s quotes show, our thoughts have a significant influence on our behavior. If you’re looking for ways to elevate your thinking or perhaps get out of a bit of a rut, this book can be a great place to start.
See What Can Be, Not Just What Is
"Capacity is a state of mind. How much we can do depends on how much we think we can do. When you really believe you can do more, your mind thinks creatively and shows you the way."
Dr. Schwartz shares a story from a highly successful realtor who specializes in rural property listings. “Most of the rural property around here,” the realtor describes, “is run down and not very attractive. I’m successful because I don’t try to sell my prospects a farm as it is. I develop my entire sales plan around what the farm can be.”
To explain this, he describes a new listing he was working on—a dilapidated property located far from the center of town that hadn’t been farmed in five years. In order to get to know the property, he spent two days on the farm and studied it carefully. He considered the neighboring farms, relative location to existing and planned highways, and asked himself, “What’s this farm good for?”
One of his ideas was to convert the farm into a riding stable. Considering the rapidly growing city nearby, increasing interest in outdoor activities, more money for recreation, and good roads, it was a potentially lucrative business idea. He created a detailed plan and, as a result, sold the farm at a far higher price than initial expectations.
“People naturally pay more for acreage and an idea than they do for just acreage,” he explained.
This is an important takeaway: People will pay, desire, or value something more when we add value to it. We can practice adding value to things or people around us everyday. Imagine the impact we could create if we started each day by asking ourselves:
“How can I create more value for my customers today?”;
“What can I do to help my direct report be more effective?”;
“What can I do to make myself more valuable to others today?”
The beauty of this approach is that it’s a continuous cycle. When we create more value for others, we, in turn, become more valuable. I’ll expand below on other “big thinking” approaches and how we can implement them.
Isolate Your Fear Then Take Appropriate Action
"Next time you experience big fear or little fear, steady yourself. Then search for an answer to this question: What kind of action can I take to conquer my fear? Isolate your fear. Then take appropriate action."
Fear is one of the most common obstacles to thinking big. For example, have you ever found yourself in a social situation where you were interested in meeting someone but couldn’t muster the courage to introduce yourself?
The more we think about introducing ourselves, the more we worry about things like how the other person will respond, how others around us will respond, what the conversation will entail, and on and on—until the opportunity passes and we’re left there standing with regret.
Whether it’s a big fear or little fear, you can follow this two-step process to overcome it:
- Isolate your fear. Pin it down. Determine what exactly you’re afraid of.
- Then take action. There is some kind of action for any kind of fear.
There’s no better antidote to fear than action. It builds confidence and, even if it doesn’t work out, there’s always something we can learn. More importantly, not taking action erodes confidence and magnifies fear when we encounter the situation next time.
Next time you come across a situation where your fear is triggered, pause for a moment, think of an action to take and do it.
Create a “Sell-Yourself-To-Yourself” Commercial
"Every day you and I see half-alive people who are no longer sold on themselves. They lack self-respect for their most important product—themselves… The half-alive person needs to be resold on himself…"
One of the key themes in the book is the importance of feeding one’s mind with positive, self-affirming thoughts. Negative thoughts, as Dr. Schwartz explains, “produce needless wear and tear on your mental motor.”
While the book was written almost sixty years ago, Dr. Schwartz was definitely onto the influence of positive thinking in our lives, as there’s more science emerging now around how a positive outlook may improve health and extend life.
Successful people are adept at putting positive mental thoughts in their memory bank so when they need to draw upon positivity, there is positive “mental interest” that has accumulated in their minds.
Dr. Schwartz suggests implementing a “sell-yourself-to-yourself” commercial. In a nutshell, it’s a motivational commercial about yourself to read to yourself everyday.
Here’s an example of a 60-second commercial that Tom, a young man highlighted in the book, wrote about himself. He credits his commercial with helping him become a more successful, dynamic person, and it changed how he views himself.
Here’s how you can create your own self-yourself-to-yourself commercial:
- Select your assets, your points of superiority. Ask yourself, “what are my best qualities?”
- Jot down these points down on paper in your own words and write your own commercial. Be direct and don’t think of anyone but you as you write it.
- Practice your commercial out loud in private at least once a day. Ideally you do this before a mirror.
- Read your commercial several times a day silently. Keep your commercial handy before you tackle anything that demands courage.
The additional benefit here is not only in the cultivation of a positive mindset, but to prepare our mind against the inevitable challenges and potential setbacks that will come. If we’re better grounded in our belief in ourselves, we’ll be better able to maintain our focus and perspective.
The Magic of Thinking Big is one of those books that I plan on revisiting on an annual basis. In writing this summary, I was only able to touch upon only two practical tactics but there are at least twenty more that I could’ve shared. In fact, I’ve written up my own commercial and I’m excited to experiment with it to see how it’ll impact my mindset.
Did any of the ideas resonate with you? What are some of your tactics to creating big-picture thinking in your life?