Revisiting a Classic

In this issue we’re diving into an old classic that helped define the modern personal development genre and has helped millions of readers improve their lives. “The Magic of Thinking Big” flew off shelves when it was first published in 1959, propelling author David J. Schwartz from university professor to foremost authority on motivation. But does his seminal work still hold true 60 years later? Is there still magic in letting yourself think big in the 21st century?

In a word, yes. The lessons in “Thinking Big” are broad, but their wide applicability is also what makes them timeless. While today, many authors and motivational coaches — from “influencer” culture to “growth hacking” — focus on whatever is new and shiny, Schwartz focuses on the fundamentals.

This can make the opening chapters in “Thinking Big” feel excessively familiar to those who have read other personal development books. The power of positivity and self-confidence may have been groundbreaking ideas back when Eisenhower was president, but today they’re a given. While this may make some of Schwartz’s ideas feel old hat to modern audiences, the essence of what he wrote in 1959 still rings true today.

In fact, one could argue that several core concepts of this decades-old work are even more applicable today. A running theme in Schwartz’s book is the incomparable benefit of treating people like people. While many personal and business dealings hinge on the power of a handshake, there’s something refreshing about the common human decency of Schwartz’s outlook. So many motivational works today focus solely on personal reflection — “Thinking Big” reminds us that there is great power in simply being good to other people.

Perhaps the largest takeaway today's readers can find here is to take on more and think bigger. “Thinking Big” is replete with real-world success stories of people doing precisely that, from students collaborating to solve supposedly impossible problems to wounded paratroopers making their way across the mountains of Burma toward safety. Whether you’re dusting off an old copy or picking it up for the first time, this classic is still worth a read in 2019.