The Magic of Thinking Big

In 1959, Dr. David Schwartz published The Magic of Thinking Big, one of the top selling personal development books of all time. More than 50 years later, this timeless advice by Dr. Schwartz continues to challenge, equip and inspire people of all ages to develop the habits of big thinkers.

My next few posts will present key highlights from this classic work. What’s especially helpful about The Magic of Thinking Big is that it delivers useful methods instead of empty promises, practical action steps instead of rhetoric, and candid advice instead of “happy hot tub talk.” If you’re serious about building your personal brand, read them with focused attention.

Think Big

Part One: Five Simple Steps to Building and Projecting Confidence.

Make everything about you say, “I’m confident, really confident” by practicing these techniques:

  1. Be a “front seater.” – Have you ever noticed in meetings, classrooms, conferences, and all kinds of assemblies how the back seats fill up first? While most people scramble to sit in back to avoid looking conspicuous, sitting up front projects confidence. Make it a personal rule to sit as close to the front as you can. You’re making a profound statement to yourself when you do, projecting a confident, purposeful intention to get the most out of the experience.
  2. Practice Making Eye-Contact. You project nothing good about yourself when you avoid making eye contact. Instead of saying, “I’m afraid, I lack confidence” conquer this fear by making yourself look into the other person’s eyes. Turn it into a habit and you cannot help but inject confidence and self-assurance into your personal brand.
  3. Walk 25 percent faster. Psychologists tell us you can actually change your attitudes by changing your posture and speed of movement. If you tend to walk slow and with poor posture, try throwing your shoulders back, lifting your head, and moving just a little faster. You can’t help but feel your self-confidence grow.
  4. Practice Speaking Up. Many people who attend meetings and conferences have much to offer but fail to speak up out of reluctance or fear of looking foolish. If you’re one of these people, make it a rule to say something voluntarily at every open meeting you attend. And instead of being the last to speak, try to be the ice breaker. You will be amazed at the impact this one action can have on your confidence level.
  5. Smile Big. This sounds overly simplistic, but try to feel deflated and smile big at the same time. You can’t. A big smile not only overcomes fear and despondency, it also influences the attitudes and opposition of others. A half-hearted smile, however, isn’t enough. Smile until your teeth show. You may have to make yourself smile at first, but a forced smile is always better than no smile—and the sense of confidence you gain from doing it consistently will change you.

Like I was when I first read them, you may be tempted to dismiss these five steps as over-simplistic. If so, remember that sometimes the most productive changes you can make in your life lie the right in front of you…and right outside your comfort zone. If you struggle at all with self-confidence, I encourage you to (a) write each step down on an index card (or text them in the “reminders” app on your smart phone) and (b) commit to practicing them as often as possible….and let me know how they work!

Question: Which of these steps come easily to you? Which ones challenge you the most? What would mastering all five confidence-builders make possible in your personal or professional life?

Leave a comment below!

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    12 Responses to The Magic of Thinking Big

    1. Skip August 22, 2013 at 12:52 am #

      Simple but amazingly true how often we need to be reminded

    2. Bill Marsh, JR August 22, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Skip. This book really helped me take my life to a new level.

    3. Helayne Marchand August 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you for including me in this. I have enjoyed and learned from it. One of my difficulties is responding….this last one encouraged me to do so. I will make it a point to push to do it more often. Thanks again

      • Bill Marsh, JR August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        Thanks, Helayne, I appreciate your engagement. By “responding,” I assume you are referring to step #4, Speaking Up. (Knowing you and your dynamic personality, I know #2 and #5 come highly natural to you!)


    4. Paul Guyon August 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      Great article Bill! I difficulty with a big smile. Not because I am unhappy, but because I don’t remember how important it is so smile to project confidence and comfort with the current circumstances. People sometimes misread how I am feeling based on my facial expressions. They may think I am irritiated or unhappy. Ususally, they are not accurate in their assessment.

      These are some definate areas to put into practice. I am looking forward to your next post. Thanks Bill!

      • Bill Marsh, JR August 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm #


        Congratulations, self-awareness is the first step to improvement. I encourage you to commit one day to consciously practice expanding your smile in every personal encounter.. Then assess how you feel at the end of the day.

        As Michael Hyatt says, “Your biggest breakthroughs lie just outside your comfort zone.”

        My challenge is speaking up at conferences. For some reason, I prefer to let others speak first before offering my input.

        Thanks for sharing your feedback!


    5. Terry Winship August 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I think I do ok with numbers 1, 2 and 3–I’ve always been a fast walker and I actually like sitting up front when listening to a speaker. I struggle more with speaking up at meetings where there are lots of folks I don’t know.

      • Bill Marsh, JR August 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

        Same for me, Terry. I used to sit in the back at conferences…until I read this book and deliberately changed my habit. Like you, I am reluctant to share my input in the presence of an unfamiliar group. However, having just enrolled in a conference on September 12th, I am looking forward to speaking up from the front row!

        I appreciate your input,


    6. Djebu Henry June 10, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

      i am over-energized right now and i am really looking forward to myself to put all of these steps to practice both in my business and in my personal life .

    7. Chris Bornschein August 14, 2015 at 8:59 am #

      Loved the simple truths in these basic steps, Bill. Always room for improvement. Sitting in front is a big part of the testimony of the most positive things in my life. I have tried to teach my kids and athletes with whom I have worked these very same things. I would add: Be a lifetime learner.

      Thanks for the reminders and the encouragement.

      • Bill Marsh Jr August 14, 2015 at 10:05 am #

        Thanks for your insights, Chris. I agree with you about becoming a lifetime learner. I read a sad statistic a few years ago stating that more than 50% of men who graduate from college never read another book in their lives. (Women, on the other hand, are more avid readers.)
        How sad! I think the ultimate aim of college is to equip us to continue learning and growing as long as we live. NMC President Tim Nelson describes his vision for the college as giving students the knowledge and experiences to create social and economic value whatever they do and wherever they live. I love that!

    8. Julie August 14, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

      Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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