The Magic of Thinking Big

Note: This post is the first edition of a weekly series where PickTheBrain will review a book or product relevant to self improvement. This review represents the honest opinion of the author, but we would like to disclose that we receive a small referral commission on orders.

A wise man is the master of his own mind
A fool is a slave to his

-Publilius Syrus

David Schwartz uses the above quote to close his classic work, The Magic of Thinking Big. It’s an excellent summary of the book’s contents.

The focus of The Magic of Thinking Big is the different thought patterns that repeatedly lead to success. It explains how your mind works and how you can harness it to achieve success instead of allowing it to torture you.

This isn’t another batch of quick fixes, Schwartz was a PhD and Professor of Psychology and Georgia State University. His advice is rooted in psychology and personal experience and he draws on an enormous number of practical anecdotes to illustrate his points.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love this book. It isn’t just one the best self improvement books I’ve read, it’s one of the best books period. Schwartz is a skilled writer and his prose is a pleasure to read. Perhaps because the book was published over 50 years ago, it lacks the fast food information feel of many modern books.

To give you an idea of the contents, here are brief summaries of a few chapters and aspects I found most valuable.

Believe You Can Succeed and You Will

The first chapter starts off by explaining the book’s central princpal, the importance positive beliefs. In order to accomplish anything you need to believe first that it’s possible. Most people never really believe in themselves, and as a result, they never get far. The moment you truly believe that you will succeed, your mind starts to think of ways to get there.

Cure Yourself of Excusitis

The next chapter deals with the common excuses people make and how you can break the habit of making them yourself. According to Schwartz, the top three types of excusitis are age (I’m too old/young), health (I don’t have the energy), and lack of intelligence (I’m not smart enough). This section illuminated the pattern of excuses I’ve used in the past and made me see why they don’t hold any weight.

How to Think and Dream Creatively

In this chapter, Schwartz examines the different mindsets that lead to creative thinking and how you can use them to solve problems. When facing a problem, start with believing it can be done. Don’t allow tradition to paralyze your mind. Always think progressively: how can we make it better?

Think Right Toward People

Although most of the book is inward focused, this chapter deals with the way you think and act towards other people. I found it to be one of the most valuable of all, and it frequently influences the way I view my day-to-day interactions with other people.

Schwartz advocates being extremely friendly and always taking the iniative to form a new relationship. He condemns gossip and other forms of negative language, and recommends listening to other people and respecting their right to be different.

How to Think Like a Leader

In the final chapter, Schwartz discusses the characteristics that make great leaders. He breaks it down to a few essential ways of thinking:

  • Trading minds with the people you deal with
  • Applying kindness to every situation
  • Constantly thinking progressively
  • Using solitude to tap your inner creative giant

To be honest, this book contains so much helpful information that I could write about it for weeks, dedicating an entire post to each chapter. Another useful feature is that each chapter ends with a brief summary of all the important points. There are also interactive thinking exercises that encourage you to apply the principles to your own situation.

Because of the way it can impact your perspective on beliefs, goals, and success, this is a book everyone should read. If you’ve ever battled self doubt and hopelessness, this book will help you understand those thoughts and provide help in on overcoming them.

If you don’t feel like ordering a copy off Amazon, then at least go borrow one from your public library. Time and money invested in this book will more than pay for itself.

43 Responses to The Magic of Thinking Big

  1. Kahsmira says:

    This sounds a lot like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Have you read that one? If yes, can you give a brief comparison of the two? I am reading the 7 habits right now, and I like it so far.

    Will definitely borrow this one from the library as well!

    Thanks for the review.

  2. John Wesley says:

    I read the 7 Habits a long time ago, so I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but overall I think there is a big difference in the content of the two books.

    The Magic of Thinking Big is more thought and psychology oriented, while the 7 Habits is more action and purpose oriented. The material obviously overlaps a bit, but personally I found the Magic of Thinking Big more interesting.

  3. Eugene says:

    The power of the mind is another completely fundamental (yet often overlooked) fact of life. I’ve always struggled with negative thoughts and negative beliefs. Writing about helped me realize that focusing on negativity attracts negativity to your life just to prove yourself right while focusing on the positive (especially through visualization and affirmation) attracts abundance and success.

    As Anthony Robbins says, our minds can’t tell the difference between something we vividly imagine and something that actually occurs, i.e. whatever you focus on is what you’ll move towards. It really is that simple.

  4. John Wesley says:

    Yes, that was a subject that is covered really well in the book. According to Schwartz, the more time you spend thinking about a negative experience the more vivid and frightening it becomes.

  5. Good review. I ordered a copy of Thinking Big earlier in the week and hope it arrives on Monday. I´m even more eager to start reading it now.

  6. Peter says:

    John – just curious, did you read this book pre or post my article? :)

  7. SK says:

    Good Review. I think I need to get the book out from my personal library to re-read it. This time probably I will have a diffrent perspective after your post.

  8. raj says:

    Couldn’t agree more!
    I had read this book 5 years ago, and speaking from my own experience, it drastically changed many aspects of my life afterwards – direction in my career, my attitude, my self-confidence.
    Lately though I was being overpowered by selfdoubt again. Thanks for reminding about this book, it brings back the realization of all the strenghts I had discovered after reading it long ago that made me stand up against all the odds!
    Thanks again!

  9. GA says:

    I read this book earlier this year because Warren Buffet said it was his favorite book and very instrumental in his life. If I remember correctly, he read it in his late teens or early 20’s. I ordered it immediately. I recommend it highly.

  10. Tom says:

    From this article and comments, I downloaded the audiobook. Good things to reinforce.

  11. Surtur says:

    After seeing your blog post, I put a hold on the book at my local library (there was one copy in the system and it had to be transferred to my local branch.)

    The book does seem to be the ur-self-help book! I was surprised by the dated (but quaint) anecdotes throughout the book (milk deliveries!) I had a 1987 printing and it did not seem that even one word was changed from the 1959 edition.

    Once you distill the book down, you can see where the various “human potential” movements may have come from (think NLP, Tony Robbins.)

    Of course those practices/philosophies tend to add a layer of “magic” and (pseudo-?) scientific legitimacy by adding modern brain studies and quantum physics terminology (mumbo-jumbo?)

    TMoTB leaves that stuff out and comes from a down-to-earth, basic human psychology perspective. Very refreshing to me, in comparison to more “modern” self-help books of this type.

    I wonder if you have ever read “Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless” by Steve Salerno? I think it adds a perspective to this whole subject.

  12. John Wesley says:


    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that the “old fashionedness” of TMoTB is part of it’s charm.

    I’ve never read that book by Salerno, but it certainly sounds interesting. My opinion is generally mixed regarding Tony Robbins and other gurus, so I’d be interested to hear his perspective. Your completely right about the layer of pseudo-science.

  13. SK says:

    Two young men get out of their house to meet their girl friends, and it was raining heavily, one said” Damn, we will get all wet.” another one said”Great, it give a a chance to hold my girlfriend more closely.” What is your perspective about self help book. It is “self help” some use to improve their life tremendously, many read it like novel and story book. It all depend on yourself.

  14. Matt Turner says:

    I read this book last week, and I can’t get it out of my head. It *is* life changing, can’t believe it was penned in 1959, good advice is timeless.

    Thoroughly recommend. *****

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  16. Joe Rock says:

    I read TMoTB when I was a teenager, (20+years ago) and have listened to many self-help audio books, but the central theme of TMoTB is the most powerful message out there. Does it work? Absolutley!
    I’m in the process of arranging financing to build the world’s tallest pyramid, and it will be a housing complex like no other.

    Read it. Think Big! Think about what it is you want to accomplish in your life and get started!!

    If there’s anything missing in the book, its the part about getting started.

    Whatever you do or dream you can do begin it! Boldness has magic, power and genius in it. – Goethe

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  18. Zulfiqar Mirza says:

    This book is extremely good. It changed my way of thinking and my style of work. To put your life in proper focus, read this book once. I salute Dr. David J. Schwartz for writing such book.

  19. Josue Lopez says:

    I just finish reading this book and WOW!!!! This book is POWERFUL!!! Definately the best self help book that I have ever read. It instantly made a change in my life for the better. After reading each chapter, I’d go out into the world and put it to use. Dr. Schwartz hits the nail on the head every single time. THINK BIG people!!!! THINK BIG!!!

  20. Sumit says:

    I first read this book around 7 or 8 yrs ago. I’m not much of a book reader but this book, I have no recollection of how or where I got it, changed my life for the period I followed it’s principles or till I thought BIG. It’s an amazing book which gives you an insight into how your thinking works and makes a difference in your life. I’m a firm believer that thoughts rule the world, also your perception alters your reality. So thinking Big certainly helps you in achieving big and achieving a happy life! I think it’s time for me to reinforce the invaluable values this book preaches.
    Although I’ve never seen and may never see Mr. Schwartz in my life but I will always think of him as my Guru.

  21. U.Bhaiwal says:

    I have read this book so many times,because it is one of the best books on Personality Development.It is a ladder to success for the young generation.

  22. Roshan says:

    It’s a Must-Read Book. Great writer.

    Thank you.

  23. Justin says:

    Where can i get this book. everywhere i look it isn’t there, sold out, or something. Where can i find it!!??

  24. Sanjiv says:

    The Magic of Thinking Big… makes you think big. Pick up 10% of the content and see how life changes. Great work by Author.

  25. Mike says:

    Best book I have ever read and suggested to me buy the most important person I have ever met.

    MUST READ!!!!!

  26. dhananjay says:

    its good book, must read!!!

  27. Cameroun says:

    Following David Schwartz’s leadership rule #4: The main job of the leader is thinking. And the best prepartion for leadership is thinking.

  28. samching says:

    The magic of thinking big is a very inspiratinal book.basically the chapter that talks about excusities helped understand alot why some people dont do much in their business,education and many other thinks.

  29. jenny says:

    I love this book! It has changed my life a lot!

  30. MR.URBAN UJAVA says:



  31. I can’t wait to lay my hands on the book..thanks Dr. Shwartz

  32. Nice blog. I agree with most comments aired above.Thanks

  33. Sanju says:

    This book is a really big part of me. It got me through a time of utter hopelessness in my late teens. The main things I took from the book were:

    The power of simply remembering your goal a few times a day or week. As long as you do that you will never veer off course.

    The concept of negative people. This helped me instantly recognize and understand people that I otherwise couldn’t. Also gave me the reason and strength to avoid such people.

    The book was so influential that I hardly notice it’s powerful influence in my thought and action 10 years after reading.

  34. Tony Harvey says:

    I read this book 12 years ago when I realised that I was being made redundant from my comfortable well paying job. I used some of my payoff to go on two Antony Robbins courses. Inspired full of positivity I sold my house and invested the lot into a project to bring jobs and stability top a third world community. I am now homeless, penniless, on income support, and borderline alcoholic. Read with caution, it doesnt matter how good you feel when you induce that feeling because you learned how to. What matters is good old common sense and business aptitude.

  35. Thanks for this has been a really educative experience

  36. Mind is a very powerful thing. just need to learn how to harness it’s power.

  37. day says:

    Here is another help for your mind. (audio)(download link on bottom left of the page)

    Please leave comments on the page of the audio. i would like to hear your thoughts on it.

    thank you.

  38. Lsmith says:

    I do…

  39. sharoz says:

    i think dis book is one of d best booksim clearing d view of my goals and now im thinking big to do..!! dis book really support me alot..!!

  40. Shastrirohan21 says:

    great book,i have started living because of it

  41. MARYAM says:

    how can get that book coz i couldnt get here in interior sindh of pakistan. would anyone help me out …………………….thnks

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