riffs & rants blog

Think Big. Succeed Small.

In recent years, the “think big” movement hit fever pitch. Fueled by motivational speakers, easy-to-obtain credit and “law of attraction” practitioners, the idea that one needs to “think big” in order to succeed morphed into the feel-good monster that it is today.

As with most movements that morph into monsters that cannot be controlled, the “think big” movement started out with good intentions. When considering new ideas and a better future, it is imperative to think bigger than before, to go beyond the scope of what you think is possible.

Technological innovation is a good example. I bet when you were a kid and you walked over to the phone to make a call, you weren’t thinking that one day you would be able to carry one in your pocket wherever you went. Back then, a phone was a phone. It sat on your desk to make and receive calls in one spot, nothing more.  Designers and engineers thought big, acted on those ideas and now we have smartphones.

Then the idea that you should “think big”  turned into an entire industry of people deciding that looking and thinking big was the key to success instead of thinking big while working hard and maintaining a semblance of humility.

"Take me to Your Leader"
“Take me to Your Leader”

Thousands of self-help books and motivational speakers rose out of the demand to learn HOW to think big. Keep in mind, no one was asking the more important WHY do you want to think big? How to do it was the sole focus of the movement.

“To be a success, one must project an image of success at all times” –Buddy Kane, American Beauty

As with any new and exciting industry, buzzwords emerged, namely, the granddaddy of all bullshit buzzwords, “prosperity consciousness”, which cleverly (and intentionally) marries materialism with nebulous new-age philosophy.

Prosperity consciousness is nothing but a load of steaming dog shit. People who claim to have prosperity consciousness always seem to be the ones chasing prosperity but never achieving it.

I prefer to call this “chasing bling” because it seems prosperity is only measured in money and material goods, instead of a combination of things that represent actual prosperity: money, health and well-being, to name a few.

You’ll know you’re in the clutches of a bling chaser when you find yourself sitting in a “free” seminar in a Holiday Inn Express or you are compelled with the urge to order a 20 DVD set with workbooks at a price much lower than it’s stated “value”.

Acquiring the so-called “trappings of success” does not make you successful. It does not (in spite of what any new age self-help “guru” may have told you) make you any more likely to be successful. Holding your hands to your head and saying “I have a millionaire mindset” does not make it so.

You don’t need a fancy car, expensive office or designer wardrobe. In fact, you’ll be far more effective if you get your basics in order and take it from there. Excessive overhead adds to stress. Building a business is stressful enough. Do you really need to add a BMW payment to that must-do list?

If you truly have a prosperity mindset, you do not make time for any of these distractions. Having an authentic prosperity mindset means you are out there building stuff. Creating actual stuff, not sitting in a vapor room dreaming of owning a sailboat while being persuaded to buy someone’s else’s “can’t fail system of 5 easy steps”.

I believe the “think big” movement has failed us with it’s promises. It may have made some bank accounts bigger but it has not made us any wiser. In contrast, I find thinking big helps to as long as you are willing to “be humble and make widgets” while you are doing it. Getting your nose down and doing some work is the only thing that’s going to get you where you need to go.





4 Responses to Think Big. Succeed Small.

  1. I understand this post is a rant.

    Still, I feel there is need for moderation here. What about promoting moderation and cautious optimism? What about teaching people there is always more than meets the eye? Instead of tarring the entire speaker/author/thought leader industry with one brush (it’s “dogshit”), what about opening the kimono and talking about the deliberate work and planning that goes into one of those events?

    Yes, hard work and taking action is certainly important. Saying that, you can’t get where you’re going without even being able to identify the end goal. If you’re not willing to suspend your own disbelief/fear and walk into room to hear something new, try a different mindset, stretch and grow, then you’ll only ever get what you got. And if you want something more, new, or different, you have to be in a new and different room. Period.

    Yes, plenty of people are lemmings and will follow the leader. Yes, there are plenty of people who buy into a system without understanding the work that needs to go into it. And yes, there are some really unscrupulous people out there just blowing smoke. Some skepticism is healthy. Too much is just following the leader like a lemming, only off a cliff on the opposite side.

    • Indeed. Great insights. Thank you for your perspective. We have wonderful clients and friends who are ethical, thoughtful, gifted consultants and speakers. We love ’em.

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