The Magic of Thinking Big

By David J. Schwartz


Success is a mindset. There are 13 mindsets you need to cultivate in order to succeed. Each mindset works independently and contributes to the whole of your success.

1. Believe You Can Succeed

To succeed you must first believe you can succeed. Success rarely happens by accident. Belief is not the same as wishful thinking. Belief is wishful thinking with motivation. When you believe you can become a CEO, you naturally start finding ways to do so. Belief makes it easy to find the how. Similarly, disbelief and doubt dooms you to failure. Even if you believe you may fail but it’s belief that gets you to stand up again. Those who disbelieve or doubt don’t stand up again. Failure is permanent to them. The size of your success is tied to the size of your belief. The bigger you believe the bigger you achieve.

2. Stop Making Excuses

Successful people don’t make excuses. Average people find reasons for why they can’t or shouldn’t do what they want to do. There are four kinds of excuses: health, intelligence, age, and luck. You are never too sick, too stupid, too young, too old or too unlucky to succeed.

  • “The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.”
  • “It’s better to wear out than rust out.”

3. Build Your Confidence and Destroy Your Fear

The best way to destroy your fear is to take action. When you’re afraid of something take action to conquer that fear and build your confidence. Remember that confidence is acquired and not an innate quality. Nobody is born confident. Remember to put people in perspective because it help you conquer your fear of other people. Almost everyone wants respect, time with their family, and fulfilment. People are most similar than they are different. Compromising on your morals to achieve success will undermine your confidence and ultimately undermine your success. Here are five techniques to building confidence: sit at the front, make eye contact, walk faster (although I’m not sure I agree with this), speak your mind, and smile big.

4. Think Big

You are bigger than you think. You can achieve success. Never sell yourself short (something I’m guilty of). Be progressive and think of the future. Be optimistic. Your words shape your thoughts and your thoughts shape your words. Speak in positive tones and invoke powerful imagery. Praise is cheap and provides immeasurable returns (this idea also exists in How to Win Friends and Influence People). Don’t see just what is, see what can be. Don’t get caught up in trivialities. Bikeshedding is a real thing.

5. Think and Dream Creatively

Don’t let tradition paralyze you. Challenge the status quo endlessly. Ask yourself “how can I do better?” and you will find creative ways to improve. Capacity, like success, is a state of mind. If you believe you can do more you will. Ask yourself “how can I do more?” and you will find creative ways to do more. Practice asking and listening. Small people monopolize talking, big people monopolize listening. Listening gives you more ideas and ideas are the source of good decisions. Do things that make you uncomfortable. Meet new people and try new activities.

6. You Are What You Think You Are

Dressing well makes you feel good which makes you behave successfully. This feels like a cheap trick to me. I think this is a good idea when you’re short on confidence but when you believe in your own success, how you dress shouldn’t change your belief. It’s important to remember that how you dress isn’t just for you, it’s for others too. As much as you may not like, success needs other people and what they think of you is important. If you think your work is important, if you think like your superior, you will eventually become your superior. Take pride in your work and you will be promoted. Give yourself a pep talk daily. I do this and it works. Helps set the mood of my day. Always ask yourself “is this the way an important person thinks?”

7. Go First Class

Your environment determines who you are. Make sure you cultivate a first class environment from the foods you eat to the people you spend your time with. Seek advice from those who know, not those who speculate. Spend quality time outside of work to do quality work.

8. Make Attitudes your Allies

Three attitudes are core to success: enthusiasm, self worth, service first. To build enthusiasm for something, learn more about it. To build enthusiasm in others, broadcast good news. Believing you’re important enables to you act like a leader. Believing others are important helps you build better relationships which are important for success. Everyone can teach you something. Having a service-first attitude is a long term play. Money-first attitudes are short term thinking. You need to plant seeds by doing things for others to gain long term rewards.

9. Think Right Toward People

You need other people to be successful. Never underestimate your reputation. Always make others feel important and respected. Treat people like humans. The golden rule matters. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Remember names. Praise others. Practice liking people.

10. Take Action

“The test of a successful person is not an ability to eliminate all problems before they arise, but to meet and work out difficulties when they do arise.” Do not wait for the perfect moment because it will never arrive. Take action now. Conquer your fear. Deal with problems as they arise. Almost no decision is irreversible.

11. Turn Defeat Into Victory

Defeat is a state of mind. Failure is not the same as defeat. “how you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.” For each failure find some way to learn. If you do this you will eventually succeed. Remember that nothing is permanent.

12. Set Goals

You never achieve more than you set out to achieve. Set big, ambitious goals 10 years from now. Use these as guideposts for everyday decisions. Remember that it’s not about where you are but where you’re trying to go.

13. Think Like a Leader

Place yourself in the shoes of those you want to lead. Think about how they will receive your message. Think about how they feel and you will inspire them more effectively. Treat your subordinates like humans. Remember their birthdays. Know about their families. This will increase their loyalty. Think progress. Nothing is the best it can be and the status quo can always be challenged. Spend time alone with your thoughts. This is when you’re most likely to come up with your greatest ideas and solve your hardest problems.


Believe you can succeed and you will. With belief anything is possible. This book is yet another which plays on the idea of the law of attraction. This book is filled with good ideas but it’s mostly anecdotes. I recommend reading it yourself but I don’t think it should be at the top of your reading list. I say that because this book review was a lot less interesting to write than my first, I suspect because this book was less interesting.


Find my notes here.

Buy the book here.

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