Summary of The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:September 18, 2023
The magic of thinking big book cover david schwartz

Summary: 10 min

Book reading time: 3h00

Score: 8/10

Book published in: 1959

Access the Summary Database


  • Beliefs -> action -> success.
  • The longer you wait to do something, the more the fear increases.
  • You become your environment: hang out with the best people, get the best clothes, etc. Go first class.
  • Use goals to grow.
  • Successful people have all one thing in common: the ability to get things done.

Table of Contents

What The Magic of Thinking Big Talks About

The Magic of Thinking Big is a book written by David Schwartz. The book explains how your actions depend on your mind, and how taking the right type of action will lead you to be successful. By thinking right, you act right. By acting right, you make a difference in the world that brings you success, money, and happiness.

I didn’t learn much in this book because I’ve read way too much self-help by now.

But it’s a good intro to self-help and mindset in general.

Summary of The Magic of Thinking Big Written by David Schwartz


All of us are the product of our thinking. People that think big get a lot. People that think small get little.

Why do people think small? Because their environment is constantly putting them down. The mainstream does not like success and will often say it’s not worth the price.

So, you think small, and get few stuff.

Chapter 1: Believe You Can Succeed and You Will

Most people “wish” to be successful. Few believe they can. But the ones that do usually reach the top.

Why? Because action follows beliefs. Since they believe they will succeed, they observe how the top people work, think, and succeed. They hustle to achieve their goals.

Beliefs lead to action which leads to results.

As a result, they reach the top. While it’s good to observe the best people, it’s important not to worship anyone. It prevents you from reaching their level.

When the mind doubts or does not believe, it attracts reasons for failure and you fail.

Your mind is a thought factory. These thoughts come from two assembly lines: the positive one, and the negative one. These lines are directed by your conscious mind.

image 1
The mind

If you tell the negative one to stop working and the positive one to produce more, it will.

Now, how can you develop the power of believing in yourself?

  1. Think success: when you face a problem, think “I will win”. Not “I will lose”. This compels you to act in order to win.
  2. Remind yourself that you’re better than you think you are. Never sell yourself short.
  3. Believe big: big ideas=big success.
image 2
Idea = success

No one will do this for you. Successful people become successful because they take the initiative. If you don’t pro-actively work to self-develop, you will fail.

When you do, you see yourself improving and moving forward. This may be the best feeling in life!

Chapter 2: Cure Yourself of Excusitis, the Failure Disease

If you study people that failed, you notice that they all came up with a bunch of excuses not to pursue their project further.

And the other way around: the more successful people are, the fewer excuses they make.

image 3
The more excuses you make, the more you fail.

When people start giving excuses, they know they’re lies but as time goes by, they believe in them.

So, stop with excuses now.

There are four types of excuses.

  1. Health: no one has a perfect body, and many succeeded despite health issues. Furthermore, whatever health problems you think you have aren’t likely so. 75% of people in the hospital have EII, Emotionally Induced Illnesses. They get unhealthy because they can’t handle their emotions well. But they’re not really sick. Live until you die.
  2. Intelligence: most people underestimate their intelligence and overestimate the IQ of others. Interest, enthusiasm, cooperation, and the ability to think are much more important than intelligence. Use your mind for ideas and creativity. Don’t worry too much about the math equation.
  3. Age: you really get old at seventy. Not before that. Likewise, you’re never too young to do anything.
  4. Luck: nothing is accidental, everything has a cause. People that succeed do because they work hard and have a better attitude than you, not because they’re lucky.

Chapter 3: Build Confidence and Destroy Fear

Fear exists, and we need to take it into account. Fear is so powerful it can make people sick. It’s the main barrier that prevents most people from getting what they want in life.

So, how do you fight fear? With confidence.

Everyone can acquire confidence. Confidence is acquired through action. Taking action cures fear.

Waiting and postponing only increase fear.

image 4
The more you wait, the bigger the fear gets.

Here are some examples of fears and how to cure them.

  • Fear due to your physic: get better clothes, a better haircut, better skin, and better teeth.
  • Fear to fail an exam: spend time studying instead of worrying.
  • Fear of what other people will think: make sure it is the right thing to do before you do it, then do it. There will always be people to criticize you.
  • Fear of people: remember everyone is a human being.

Solving your fear comes down to:

  1. Isolating your fear. Find out what it is that you are afraid of.
  2. Take action.

Fears can also be due to misusing memories. Your memory works like a bank where instead of depositing money, your deposit memories.

When you ask your memory for some proof of weakness, it will serve you exactly that. And if you ask it for some proof of strength, it will also give you that.

The key here is to forget about the bad memories and only remember the good ones. Don’t think about all of your misfortunes. Think about all of your fortunes instead.

One of the worst and most common fears is fear of other people.

Realize that:

  1. Everyone is human, and humans tend to resemble each other more than they differ.
  2. Get a balanced view of people: other people are important, but you are too.
  3. Be prepared for bullies. Realize that they will only bully you due to their own shortcomings.
  4. Do the right thing: when you lie or cheat, your confidence takes a beating.

Motions are the precursors of emotions. You can’t control emotions but you can control what creates them: your actions.

If you practice the right actions, you will feel the right emotions.

Eg: if you’re shy with people, you can cure shyness with these three steps.

  1. Take the initiative to shake their hand.
  2. Look at the person
  3. Say “I am very glad to know you”.

To be confident, act confident.

  1. Sit at the front. The back seats always get filled up first. Sit at the front.
  2. Look at people in the eyes.
  3. Walk faster. The way you walk reveals everything about you. By walking faster and with confidence, you project an image alike.
  4. Speak up: especially in public.
  5. Smile.

Chapter 4: How to Think Big

Everyone thinks small. When companies advertise the same job for €30k per year and €60k per year, they get more offers for €30k per year.

This means that there is less competition for the very big, high-responsibility jobs.

Why? Because we undervalue ourselves.

Here’s how to change that.

  1. Determine your five most valuable assets (education, experience, attitude).
  2. Write the name of three people you know that don’t have your assets yet are more successful than you.

-> conclusion: you’re bigger than you think!

To think big, you need to envision big. And to envision big, you need to speak big. That means you need to use big, positive, cheerful words. You’re not “fine”, but “wonderful”.

You don’t have a problem, but a challenge.

See the potential in things. Builders are builders because they see what could be, not what there is.

The best way to do so is to constantly think about where you can add value to things, people, and yourself.

Chapter 5: How to Think and Dream Creatively

Creative thinking is just finding a way to solve unsolved problems, or finding a new way to solve solved problems.

Here’s how you can engineer your own creative thinking.

  1. Believe it can be done. If you don’t, you’ll never find a solution. If you do, your mind will automatically find one. Eliminate the word “impossible” from your thinking.
  2. Don’t be paralyzed by tradition. Average people resent progress and don’t like change. But things change, and so should you.
  3. Harvest ideas from other people. Ask questions, listen to people. Write down your ideas so they don’t escape you.

Chapter 6: You Are What You Think You Are

People that command the most respect are the most successful. And that is due to your thinking.

If you think you are important, people will treat you as such. Likewise, if you think you are inferior, people will treat you as such.

How you think -> how you act -> how people treat you.

The first thing to do to feel like you are important is to dress like important people.

Principle: if you’re not dressed for a party, you won’t be in the mood to go.

The key to winning what you want lies in thinking positively toward yourself.

Think of yourself as an important person. Give yourself pep talks.

Finally, whatever you do, ask yourself if important people think this way?

Chapter 7: Management Your Environment: Go First Class

The mind is an amazing mechanism, but it needs some direction. It can elevate you and help you succeed. But it can also destroy you.

The mind works like the body: it is healthy as long as you maintain it.

In the case of the mind, its “food” is its environment. We are the result of our environment.

Eg: if you hang out with negative people, you will also be negative.

Most people think they cannot succeed because they were told so as kids.

In adulthood, you have then three types of people.

  1. Those who surrender completely: they rationalize that they’re perfectly happy where they are. But it is often a lie.
  2. Those who surrender partially: those that tried to get what they wanted, failed, and now rationalize that they are happy as they are.
  3. Those who never surrender: these are the people at the top, the ones that succeed.

When you announce your ambitions, many will tell you it can’t be done.

People who tell you something cannot be done almost always are unsuccessful people, and are strictly average or mediocre at best in terms of accomplishment.

Be extremely careful with these people. They can nuke you entirely.

Likewise, if you hang out with positive and uplifting people, they can help you dramatically.

You have to be careful when talking about your ambitions.

There will always be people trying to sabotage you and prevent you from succeeding.

Get advice from people that are in the position you want to be in. The rest likely doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Successful people aren’t as unavailable as you think they are.

Here’s how you can best design your environment.

  1. Constantly meet new people.
  2. Befriend people that have a different view than you.
  3. Select friends who like positive things and remain above petty concerns.

Don’t gossip. Gossip is poison.

  • It shifts our focus on petty matters.
  • It twists our vision of people.
  • It makes us feel guilty when we meet the people we gossiped about.

Go first class.

  • Hang out with the best people you can find.
  • Go to the best doctors, accountants, car specialists, etc. Don’t be cheap. Cheap is costly in problems later on.

Chapter 8: Make Your Attitudes Your Allies

People can read your mind due to your attitude and tone of voice.

If you’re angry or hate your life, they will know.

Cultivate the following attitudes:

1. I am enthusiastic: to make others enthusiastic, you need to be enthusiastic yourself first.

Here’s how you can become more enthusiastic.

  1. Dig deeper: if you’re not enthusiastic about something, it’s likely because you do not know it well. That includes people.
  2. Life it up: when you shake hands, shake.
  3. Tell good news

2. You are important: make others feel important.

Actually, others are important. When someone disappears, everyone is on alert to find them.

When you make others feel important, they will like you. Furthermore, making others feel important makes you feel important too.

Here are other tips.

  1. Appreciate what others do for you. Don’t take others for granted.
  2. Call people by their name.
  3. Don’t monopolize glory. Praise others instead.

3. Service first:

Most people are money-first. It’s fine, money is important as it helps a lot of people get better lives.

But the money-first attitude isn’t the right one. Indeed, what brings money is service, so “service-first” (going the extra mile) is how you’ll eventually make money.

Chapter 9: Think Right Toward People

The success you experience depends on other people.

If you don’t get other people’s support, you will never be successful.

So, how do you gain others’ support? Think right toward them. Like people, and they will like you back.

President Johnson had a set of rules to be likable.

  • Remember people’s name
  • Be comfortable in your own skin so people like being with you
  • Be relaxed and easy-going
  • Don’t be selfish. Don’t appear as a know-it-all
  • Be interesting.
  • Get rid of the annoying things in your personality
  • Fix the misunderstandings with people
  • Force yourself to like people until you do so genuinely
  • Congratulate people

Don’t try to buy friendship. It’s not for sale. You can give gifts but only if they’re backed up by real sincerity.

Take the initiative. Leaders always win.

Here’s how you can make friends.

  1. Take the initiative to make connections. Don’t wait for people to ask you on Linkedin, ask them!
  2. Introduce yourself to others every time you got the chance to
  3. Make sure the other person gets your name.
  4. Make sure to pronounce and write the other person’s name well.
  5. Follow through after you’ve met your new friend
  6. Say nice things


  1. Recognize the fact that nobody is perfect
  2. Accept that everyone is different
  3. Don’t be a reformer: live and let live. Don’t try to change other people.

When people gossip, don’t listen to them. Try to change the topic right away. Gossips will influence your behavior.

Liking people guarantee further success. Listen to people. The most successful people listen more than they talk.

When you fail to get what you want, don’t blame yourself or others for it. Think about how harder you can work.

Chapter 10: Get the Action Habit

The top positions in society aren’t easily filled due to one thing: the difficulty to find people that can get things done.

Whatever you want to do, the time never is right. But that’s ok. These obstacles are part of the journey.

While you should expect problems, you shouldn’t try to fix them before they arise.

Action feeds and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act.

So, whatever you need/want to do, do it now. Resistance increases as you wait.

Be a crusader: when you see something that needs to be done, do it yourself.

Chapter 11: How to Turn Defeat into Victory

People at the bottom of the social hierarchy often had some tragedies in their lives.

However, once beaten down, they never stood up again. They remained down, and accepted it as “fate”.

People at the top don’t do that.

They fight.

They get up and keep at it.

The only difference between successful people and losers is how they react to failure.

Successful people don’t see failure as failure. They see it as a learning experience. So they update their knowledge and try again.

They don’t blame luck. They blame themselves.

When you hit a problem you can’t solve, back off. Take a holiday. Don’t think about it. We become highly creative when we’re relaxed and bored. That’s when you solve your problem.

Chapter 12: Use Goals to Help You Grow

A goal is a dream being acted upon.

Goals are essential to success as they tell you clearly where to go.

We should decide now who we want to be 10 years from now. If we don’t know, we will stagnate. Without goals, we cannot grow.

So, what do you want your future to be like?

Visualize it.

Then ask yourself these questions.

  1. What do I want to accomplish with my life?
  2. What do I want to be?
  3. What does it take to satisfy me?

Be as specific as possible.

Many people don’t follow their dreams and goals for five reasons.

  1. They self-deprecate.
  2. They think that going after their goal will challenge the “security” that they have.
  3. They think there’s too much competition.
  4. They obey their parents
  5. They “need to take care of the family”.

When you have a proper, definite goal, these excuses don’t hold anymore. A big goal unleashes your energy.

It gives the subconscious a direction to take, so you naturally start working to get closer to your goals.

Days when you don’t have anything planned are days when you do nothing.

To do stuff, you need a plan. You need a goal to do stuff and you also need a goal to live. Many people once they retire die because their goal was taken away.

Some goals seem too big to ever achieve. Don’t think about them. Think about the next step to take.

Eg: don’t think about writing a million words. Just think about writing the next sentence.

Make sure you invest in yourself, in your education (actual education, no “diploma paper”), and in “idea starters” (books). This is the best investment you can make.

Chapter 13: How to Think Like a Leader

There are four rules to respect.

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you want to influence.
  2. Don’t be a dictator, don’t be a machine: be human and treat people humanely.
  3. Constantly be improving things. When you change the leadership of a company (the top), the rest of the company (the down) adapts and changes too.
  4. Take time out to reflect. At least each week.

For more summaries, head to

Want more?

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and I'll send you a list of the articles I wrote during the previous month + insights from the books I am reading + a short bullet list of savvy facts that will expand your mind. I keep the whole thing under three minutes. 

How does that sound? 

Leave a Reply