The Outset Book Club: December 2021

The Outset Book Club gathers several of our experienced business advisors together to review books that will specifically help business start-ups and people who are beginning their journey to self-employment. 

December’s Read: The Magic of Thinking Big, by Dr. David J Schwartz

In December we reviewed David J Schwartz’s seminal book, The Magic of Thinking Big. Following our reading, we came together to discuss the different aspects of the book, and the various lessons that can be learned. 


A book dedicated to bettering oneself in career and business, The Magic of Thinking Big was ground-breaking when it was first released in 1959. It introduced a completely new way of thinking about achievement and success in life.

The book centres around themes of human psychology and sociology, taking the approach of ‘the self-made man’. You are encouraged to discover (or rediscover) the benefits of ‘thinking big’ by believing in your own strengths and focussing on the most important things in your life.  

The book contains of 13 chapters that explore the “Think Big” concept from different perspectives. Topics include planning, goal setting, learning from failure, discarding excuses, avoiding negative people and influences, and turning defeat into victory. 

First edition published in 1959

There is a reason why ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ has sold over 6 million copies internationally and why some of its fans insist on re-reading it regularly. Its message is simple, powerful, and inspirational. Its examples are formulaic but they’re relatable and accessible. But above all its easy to implement on a day-to-day basis.

Lessons for entrepreneurs

Broadly speaking the lesson from the book is the power of self-belief. It is vital to have awareness, of both yourself and of others, and to believe in the benefits of a positive attitude – or in the words of Dr Schwartz “The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief”. 

Schwartz also champions the art of listening and taking the higher standpoint when it comes to dealing with conflict. “Quarrelling helps no one. Think to yourself ‘what will the end result of this conflict be’”. On the first reading this does seem obvious, however often in busy workplaces negative behaviour can eat into precious time. This is time would be much better spent focusing on reaching targets and goals. If you are self-employed, getting caught up in unhelpful conversations and feuds can take focus away from being successful.

Another persistent lesson throughout the book is the importance of being proactive in the face of failure. Schwartz believes you should, “Regard a setback as a lesson. Learn from it. Research. Use it to Propel you forward”. This advice is still just as relevant today, and can be found in small and large corporations. (Google champions this approach in their software development.) When you experience things going wrong, firstly recognise it and understand exactly what is going wrong. Next, move forward from it in the knowledge that you have learned from the experience of failing. This practical approach empowers start-ups, and enables them to move forward with their plans and goals.

Key take-aways from the book

Remember that every big success is created one step at a time. The key is to measure yourself against the goals you have set, rather than comparing yourself to others.

Take the time to plan out how you will achieve you goal.  Acknowledge that you will face obstacles, but also believe that when you do you will find a way to overcome that obstacle.  

Don’t let your fears or doubts linger.  The book suggests that when you experience fear or doubt the best thing to do is to act immediately rather than procrastinating and putting things off.  Action is the cure to defeat fear.  

Things to consider

To a contemporary reader the language is somewhat jarring.  It makes frequent references to ‘superior people’ and is liberally sprinkled with outdated gender typing.  This of course, reflects when it was written, we must accept that “normal” in the mid-to-late 1950’s looked very different from today.

Furthermore, there is a question over what Schwartz classifies as success. His definition centres around traditional aspects of success such as wealth, status, and material achievements. This again, is certainly a reflective of the time and culture into which the book was published. However, when we substitute or add into the mix ideas around community development, personal metal health and wellbeing, impact on others’ lives for the better, we can start to build a more modern picture of success. 

Overall rating

While there was some interesting debate amongst our team of Outset Business Advisors on the overall rating for the book, there was a strong feeling about how useful and inspiring the book content it. The base messages of positivity, persistence, goal setting and self-belief are so true, and so vital to a person starting their own business. These essential themes we felt overpowered the dated elements of the book. 

Our Outset Book Review Score :