The Magic of Thinking Big Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Magic of Thinking Big gives you several starting points to develop and strengthen the most important trait of successful people: believing in yourself.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it was written in 1959. The author, David Joseph Schwartz, was born in 1927 and died in 1987.

That’s why this book does not quote countless studies or the latest scientific research.¬†This doesn’t harm the book’s message at all though.

No matter whether your life goals are incredibly big and daunting or fairly small and achievable, chance are you’ve thought “Where do I even begin?” more than once.

The author suggests you start by creating a mindset in which you feel 100% capable of achieving whatever you set out to do.

Why does this work? Because once you start believing in yourself enough, your brain will spark the creativity required to achieve your goal.

These ideas could have been the roots of what would later become positive psychology. One McKinsey study quoted in the book states that what management and societal leaders are looking for most, when working with people, is the drive to move forward.

People are looking for this attitude, because it makes sure you persevere in the face of failure and adversity, instead of running away at the first roadblock.

Now David presents us with several strategies to improve your self-belief and confidence.

The first is to constantly work on your creative thinking skills. As opposed to just memorizing facts, which will only help you in certain situations, creative thinking will help you solve any kind of problem you will face.

Your brain can assess and adapt to any situation, because it stays flexible.

David suggests 3 things:

  1. Always be open to new ideas.
  2. Learn something new whenever you can.
  3. Ask yourself “How can I do a better job today?” every day.

For example: It might seem useless to you to learn photoshop if you’re working in a car dealership, but if it’s fun, do it anyway. Adopt the mentality of “Who knows what it might be good for?“. In this case you could easily use your new graphic design skills to create a bunch of awesome Facebook ads¬†that can help you sell a lot more cars.

The second strategy is to shut down the negative voices in your head. With the news reporting mostly on horrifying events and everyone around you only complaining, negative thinking is quite the norm. However, you’ll find nay-sayers are almost always unsuccessful or just average.

You can do this by writing down a pep talk that reads like a commercial where you try to sell yourself to yourself. Focus on what makes you different, for example that you’re funny and make people laugh at work all the time. Read it out loud once a day and in quiet¬†whenever you feel a bit down.

Chances are you won’t become a success all on your own – usually people around us lift us up in a way. That’s why you should treat everyone you meet with respect. Even if they act crazy, they might just have a bad day. But just like you want to be treated like an important person, so do they.

Note:¬†The author suggests to treat everyone like they can make or break your career. Thinking that way causes me anxiety, so I rather adopt Kid President’s philosophy: Treat everyone like it’s their birthday, even if they don’t deserve it.

The next piece of advice regards your peers. You’ve probably heard the saying “You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.”¬†And while you can’t change¬†the people around you, you can change the people around you.

So be sure to create an environment of high quality people for yourself and only take advice from the ones that have gone where you want to go.

Note:¬†Jeff Bezos¬†from Amazon didn’t have a lot of successful friends, so he just surrounded himself with books. By reading biographies of successful people he felt like hanging out with them.

Another important factor is your attitude, which will be reflected in the way you walk, talk and behave. Attitudes are mirrors of the mind and people always catch on to what’s going on. After all, reading body language has been how we survived for thousands of years.

Two things you can do to improve your attitude include always doing what you think is morally right and always dressing well. The former is powerful from the inside, because you believing in your work will make sure you take pride in it, the latter is powerful from the outside, because it makes you and others feel important.

No one is born confident, yet everyone can learn it. “Fake it till you make it” is true in this case, because you can control¬†your emotions by behaving the way you want to feel. So sit in the first row, make eye contact with people and walk faster than others.

Just like dressing well it will make you look important on the outside, which in turn will make you feel confident on the inside.

You might have heard the saying “Winners find solutions, losers find excuses.” and it’s true.¬†This is where the book comes full circle, because believing in yourself is what creates the difference between trying to find someone to blame when things go wrong, and looking for a way to try again and be better.

So how do you turn all this into action?

Take a 2-step approach: Plan and execute.

Write down a detailed, step-by-step plan with instructions how you’ll do each step and a rough idea of when you’ll complete it. Then, get to work and study your setbacks.¬†Don’t waste any energy beating yourself up, just¬†try to learn from what went wrong and take the next step.

The final argument of this book is that the only difference between successful people and normal people lies in their self-belief and confidence, which causes them to persist long enough for them to achieve success.

Final thoughts

The third book in a row¬†on how creative thinking is the driving force behind success. I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Even though the individual ideas are all well-known today, I quite liked how the book rounded them all up into one purpose, especially considering how old the book is.

I could relate to the quotes and ideas, for example I’m a fast walker and have indeed noticed it makes me feel more confident when I rush by all the slow people dragging their feet.

The full summary has some more anecdotes and examples and is worth checking out.

Who would I recommend The Magic of Thinking Big summary to?

The 13 year old teenager who is about to take a “what work is right for you” test, the friend who’s just had a major setback¬†and anyone who spends the majority of their time complaining.

Learn more about the author

Read the full book summary on Blinkist

Get the book on Amazon

  • Donata Ling

    I completely agree with this book even though it is from awhile back. If books can stand the test of time, they are good books. I emphasize the importance of believing in yourself too- this also connects to exercise psychology. Self-efficacy is the most important indicator of whether someone will follow through on exercising. It’s the same thing as your belief in yourself in plain terms. Also I love the fast walking- I totally walk super fast and walk everywhere (20K a day).