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Summary: The Magic of Thinking Big

A useful summary of success principles


The Magic of Thinking Big is a self-improvement classic first published in 1959 and is still relevant today. The book is full of practical suggestions and exercises to realise your potential through how you think.

Its ideas are well known these days (and the language is little dated) but the book remains a positive, engaging reminder of how to better manage your thoughts and outlook which determine your results.

From the back cover

In his seminal self-help masterpiece, Dr David Schwartz not only motivates and inspires, he gets to the very core of why thinking big will make you live big.

Practical, engaging and hugely empowering, Schwartz’s step-by-step approach will show you how to:

  • Defeat disbelief and the negative power it creates
  • Make your mind produce positive thoughts
  • Plan a concrete success-building program
  • Do more and do it better: turn on your creative power
  • Capitalise on the power of now.


Chapter 1 – Believe you can succeed and you will

  1. Think success, not failure. Let “I will succeed” dominate your thinking process. Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans that produce success. Thinking failure does the exact opposite.
  2. You are better than you think you are. Successful people are not superbeings. Success does not require a super-intellect. Successful people are just ordinary folk who have developed belief in themselves and what they do. Never sell yourself short.
  3. Believe big. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success. Big ideas and big plans are often easier – certainly no more difficult – than small ideas and small plans.

Chapter 2 – Cure yourself of excusitis

  1. Accept the law of cause and effect. Take a second look at what appears to be someone’s “good luck”. You’ll not find luck but preparation, planning and success-producing thinking. In the face of setbacks, learn and profit.
  2. Don’t be a wishful thinker. There is no effortless way to success. Success comes from doing those things and mastering those principles that produce success.

Chapter 3 – Build confidence and destroy fear

  1. Action cures fear. Isolate your fear and then take constructive action. Inaction – doing nothing about a situation – strengthens fear and destroys confidence.
  2. Make a supreme effort to only put positive thoughts into your memory bank. Don’t let negative thoughts grow into mental monsters. Simply refuse to recall unpleasant events or situations.
  3. Put people in proper perspective. Try to see the other person’s viewpoint. We are all more alike than we are different. Some people may bark but it’s a rare one that bites.
  4. Practise doing what your conscience tells you is right.
  5. Make everything about you convey confidence: be enthusiastic and involved; make eye contact; walk 25% faster; speak up; smile big.

Chapter 4 – How to think big

  1. Don’t sell yourself short. Conquer the crime of self-deprecation. Concentrate on your assets. You are better than you think you are.
  2. Use the big thinker’s vocabulary. Use big, bright, cheerful words. Use words that promise victory, hope, happiness, pleasure. Avoid words that create unpleasant images of failure, defeat, grief.
  3. Stretch your vision. See what can be, not just what is. Practice adding value to things, to people and to yourself.
  4. Think above trivial things. Focus your attention on big objectives. Before getting involved in a petty matter, ask yourself, “Is it really important?”
  5. Grow big by thinking big!

Chapter 5 – How to think and dream creatively

  1. Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution. Eliminate “impossible”, “won’t work”, “can’t”, “no use trying” from your thinking and speaking.
  2. Don’t let tradition paralyse your mind. Be receptive to new ideas. Be experimental. Try new approaches. Be progressive in everything you do.
  3. Ask yourself daily, “How can I do better?” There is no limit to self-improvement.
  4. Ask yourself, “How can I do more?” A powerful success combination: do what you do better (improve the quality of your output), and do more of what you do (increase the quantity of your output).
  5. Practise asking and listening. Big people monopolise the listening; small people monopolise the talking.
  6. Stretch your mind. Get stimulated. Associate with people who can help you to think of new ideas, new ways of doing things. Mix with people of different occupations and interests.

Chapter 6 – You are what you think you are

  1. Look important. Your appearance talks to you. Be sure it lifts your spirits and builds your confidence. Your appearance talks to others.
  2. Think your work is important.
  3. Build a “sell-yourself-to-yourself” commercial in your mind. Remind yourself that you are a first-class person.
  4. If all of life’s situations, ask yourself, “Is this the way a bigger person thinks and behaves?”

Chapter 7 – Manage your environment

  1. Just as body diet makes the body, mind diet makes the mind.
  2. Don’t associate with negative people.
  3. Get your advice from successful people.
  4. Circulate in new groups. Discover new and stimulating things to do.
  5. Avoid gossip. If you talk about others, make it positive or say nothing at all.
  6. Go “first-class” in everything you do.

Chapter 8 – Make your attitudes your allies

  1. Be enthusiastic in everything you do.
  2. Brighten everything about you: your smile, your handshake, your talk, your walk. Act alive.
  3. Make people feel important. Show appreciation. Praise often. Respect people’s names.
  4. Service first. Give people more than they expect to get.

Chapter 9 – Think right toward people

  1. Make yourself lighter to lift. Be likeable. Practise being the kind of person people like. This is the right thing to do and wins their support in your endeavours.
  2. Take the initiative to build friendships. Introduce yourself to others at every opportunity.
  3. Accept human differences and limitations. Don’t expect anyone to be perfect. Remember, the other person has a right to be different.
  4. Find qualities to like and admire in a person, not things to dislike. Don’t let others prejudice your thinking about a person.
  5. Practise conversation generosity. Encourage others to talk. Let the other person talk to you about their views, their opinions, their accomplishments.
  6. Be courteous.
  7. Don’t blame others when you receive a setback. How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.

Chapter 10 – Get the action habit

  1. Be an “activationist”. The world is full of talkers. Doers are rare. Be someone who does things and makes things happen.
  2. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect. They never will be. Expect future obstacles and difficulties and solve them as they arise.
  3. Remember, ideas alone won’t bring success. Ideas have value only when you act upon them.
  4. Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Do what you fear and fear disappears. Just try and see.
  5. Don’t wait for motivation. Take action, dig in and motivation will appear.
  6. Think in terms of now. Tomorrow, next week, later and similar words are closely related to the failure word, never. Be an “I’m starting right now” person.
  7. Get down to business – pronto. Don’t waste time getting ready to act. Start acting instead.
  8. Seize the initiative. Pick up the ball and run. Be a volunteer. Show you have the ability and ambition to do.

Chapter 11 – How to turn defeat into victory

  1. When you lose, learn and then go on to win next time.
  2. Be your own constructive critic.
  3. Don’t believe in luck.
  4. Blend persistence with experimentation. Stay with a goal but if an approach is not working, change it.
  5. There is a good side in every situation.

Chapter 12 – Use goals to help you succeed

  1. Get a clear fix on where you want to go. Create an image of yourself 10 years from now.
  2. Write our your 10-year plan.
  3. Set goals to have more energy. Set goals to get things done. Set goals and discover the joy of living.
  4. Let your major goal be your north star.
  5. Achieve your goal one step at a time.
  6. Build 30-day goals. Day-by-day effort pays off.
  7. Take detours in stride. A detour simply means another route. It should never mean surrendering the goal.
  8. Invest in yourself. Invest in education. Invest in ideas.

Chapter 13 – How to think like a leader

  1. Don’t fight petty people – it brings you down to their size.
  2. Expect to be sniped at. It’s proof that you’re growing.
  3. Haters are psychologically sick. Be Big. Feel sorry for them.
  4. Is it worth having an argument about?
  5. When relationships falter, concentrate on the best qualities of the other person.
  6. Nothing in the world is being done as well as it could be. Think, “I can do better”. Put service first and money takes care of itself.
  7. Think big.

About the author

Dr David Schwartz was a lecturer at Georgia State University in Atlanta and the president of Creative Educational Services Inc, a consulting firm specialising in leadership development and motivation.

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