Littler Books cover of The Magic of Thinking Big Summary

The Magic of Thinking Big Summary and Quotes

David J. Schwartz

4.6 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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What it's about in one sentence:

Think big and achieve greatness with this practical and inspiring guide by one of the foremost experts on motivation.

Bullet Point Summary

  1. Unwavering belief in yourself is the key to success in all aspects of life.
    1. It generates the skill and energy needed to accomplish your goals.
    2. People who believe they can succeed are more likely to achieve their goals than those who doubt themselves.
    3. Belief triggers the power to act and makes others place confidence in you.
  2. β€œBelieve it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”
  3. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think. Believe big to achieve big, as your success is determined by the size of your belief.
  4. Follow a personal self-development plan focused on observing the attitudes and techniques of successful people to make positive thinking and habits natural.
  5. Excusitis is a thought disease that causes people to make excuses for their failures rather than taking responsibility. The most common types are:
    1. Health excusitis ("my health isn't good")
    2. Intelligence excusitis ("I am not smart enough")
    3. Age excusitis ("I'm too old or too young")
    4. Luck excusitis ("I have bad luck")
  6. Focus on assets, not limitations, and refuse to talk yourself out of opportunities. Replace excuses with optimism and action. Own your circumstances, believe in your abilities, think creative solutions, and persist through challenges.
  7. Fear is a real and powerful force that holds many people back, but you can conquer fear through decisive action. Isolate your specific fear, then take appropriate action.
    1. If you fear failing a test, use your worrying time to study.
    2. If you fear you have a bad appearance, make an effort to look your best.
    3. If you fear losing a customer, work harder at giving better service.
    4. If you fear people, recognize that all people are more alike than different. Develop an understanding attitude rather than becoming pessimistic.
  8. Self-confidence comes from properly managing your thoughts and memories. Deposit only positive thoughts (achievements, compliments, etc.) in your "mind bank" and withdraw only positive thoughts. Don't dwell on past failures or unpleasant experiences.
  9. Success requires ethical behavior.
    1. Do what your conscience tells you is right to avoid guilt that undermines your confidence.
  10. Act confidently and your feelings of confidence will follow.
    1. Strategies include sitting up front, making eye contact, walking briskly, speaking up at meetings, and smiling big.
  11. Address problematic situations rather than avoiding them. Taking action defeats fear. Inaction strengthens fear.
  12. John's neighbor sees himself as a poor man destined to live in a run-down apartment forever. In contrast, John sees his current struggles as temporary, and envisions himself becoming an executive living in a nice suburban home in the future. Who will achieve more success?
  13. β€œBig thinkers are specialists in creating positive, forward-looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others. To think big, we must use words and phrases that produce big, positive mental images.”
  14. People often let small, petty issues get in the way of their success (e.g., worrying about minor speaking mistakes rather than having an important message to share, arguing over unimportant matters instead of preserving peace).
  15. Keep your eyes on the big goals, ask "is this really important?", avoid triviality traps, use positive and expansive language, see the future as promising, surround yourself with big thinkers, and turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
  16. The secret of successful people lies in honing creative thinking, not memorizing information.
    1. Creative thinking is finding new and improved ways to do things. It is not limited to certain occupations or super-intelligent people. Examples include solving family problems, keeping employees happy, or getting a child into college.
    2. To think creatively, first believe that a solution is possible. This mindset enables your mind to start thinking of ways to make it happen. Disbelief cripples creative thinking.
    3. Avoid phrases like "can't be done". Be open and experimental with ideas. Don't let tradition and routine freeze your mind.
    4. Ask "How can I do better?" and "How can I do more?" Regularly questioning yourself in this way sparks creative answers for improvement and increased capacity.
    5. Listen to others' ideas to fuel your own creative thinking. Big leaders spend more time listening than talking.
    6. Diversify your life and challenge yourself with new ventures beyond your usual routine.
  17. Capture ideas when they strike and review them regularly. Letting ideas die means wasting the fruits of your thinking. Refine and develop the most promising ideas.
  18. β€œYou are what you think you are.”
    1. Your self-image and thoughts determine how you act, which in turn shapes how others see and treat you. If you think you're inferior, you will be inferior.
    2. Upgrading your appearance makes you feel more confident and causes others to perceive you as prosperous and important.
    3. View your job as vitally important and you will receive mental signals on improving, leading to promotions.
    4. Give yourself frequent positive pep talks to build courage and enthusiasm that inspires your team.
    5. Continually ask yourself "Is this how an important person thinks?" to improve your thought patterns and behavior to match successful people.
  19. Cultivate positivity by crafting a self-adulation "commercial" highlighting your unique strengths. Daily repetition of this mental pep talk builds confidence and propels you toward success.
  20. Your environment (home, work, social) shapes your thinking and personality, so ensure it is of the highest quality and has positive influences. Avoid negative people who will suppress your ambition. Seek advice from successful people who encourage your growth.
  21. Spend weekends and time off constructively doing stimulating activities to tune up your thinking. Those who bore themselves impair their minds.
  22. Don't participate in gossip. It is poison. Stay positive when discussing people.
  23. Invest in quality goods and services, which pay off better in the long run than inferior products.
  24. Three key attitudes for success:
    1. Be enthusiastic and interested.
    2. Make others feel important by appreciating them.
    3. Put service first. Give people more than what's expected. Money will come later.
  25. To succeed, you need the support of other people, so you must think right toward them.
    1. Make people want to help you. Take the initiative to meet people, accept their differences, focus on their positive qualities, and let them talk about themselves.
    2. US President Lyndon Johnson made an effort to memorize everyone's names and praise everyone's achievements.
    3. When you encounter setbacks, don't blame others. Ask what you can do better next time and stay positive.
  26. Ideas alone are not enough, you must act on them to bring success.
    1. Don't procrastinate and wait for perfect conditions that will never come. Take action now and meet obstacles as they arise.
    2. Consistently taking action builds confidence and overcomes fear.
    3. Be a crusader who volunteers for assignments to demonstrate initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do.
  27. Study setbacks to learn from them and use the lessons to achieve future success.
    1. Don't blame bad luck. Be self-critical to identify faults and weaknesses, then take action to correct them and improve so you can avoid repeating mistakes.
    2. Persist towards your goals but also experiment with new approaches if you hit obstacles.
  28. Set clear, ambitious goals for what you want to achieve in 10 years across work, home, and social aspects of your life to give direction and motivation.
    1. Break down the 10-year goals into smaller monthly and daily goals and tasks to make progress incrementally.
    2. Stay focused on your ultimate goals but be adaptable to take detours when needed without losing sight of where you want to go.
    3. Invest in educating and improving your mind through courses, books, etc. to build your abilities.
    4. View everything you do, however small, as a step toward your bigger goals to develop the habit of purposeful action.
  29. Effective leaders think from the perspective of others, considering their views and mindset, which makes the leader more influential.
    1. Leaders should apply the "be human" rule by putting people first and treating them respectfully like they would want to be treated.
    2. Leaders should always think and exemplify high standards which subordinates will follow over time.
    3. Great leaders spend a lot of constructive solitary time thinking, planning, and developing solutions without distractions.
  30. How to effectively provide criticism:
    1. Talk to them privately.
    2. Praise what they're doing well.
    3. Point out the one thing at the moment that they could improve on and help them get there.
    4. Praise again on their strengths or accomplishments

The Magic of Thinking Big: Resources