Book Summary: The Little Book of Thinking Big by Richard Newton

Are you looking for a book summary of The Little Book of Thinking Big by Richard Newton? You have come to the right place.

I jotted down a few key insights from Richard Newton’s book after reading it.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this The Little Book of Thinking Big: Aim Higher and Go Further Than You Ever Thought Possible book summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

What is The Little Book of Thinking Big About?

Short and punchy, with quick tips, The Little Book of Thinking Big will have your imagination, creativity and determination firing on all cylinders.

The key to a better life is learning to think big. You need to clear your head, not get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life, surround yourself with creative people who will challenge you, mash-up ideas to create new ones, sometimes be idle (not lazy) to allow time to reflect, and most of all, allow the universe to show you things.

Who is The Author of The Little Book of Thinking Big?

Arthur Richard Newton was the dean of the University of California, Berkeley College of Engineering. Newton was educated at the University of Melbourne and received a BE in 1973 and MEng.Sci in 1975.

The Little Book of Thinking Big Book Summary

Publishers these days are increasingly fond of books that don’t have too many words and include some pretty pictures or motifs. You might see this as evidence of a broad dumbing down across the industry…I couldn’t possibly comment.

Anyhow, this is an example of the trend. It’s under two hundred pages long, including full-page images for each chapter title, numerous doodles and a scattering of inspirational quotes on illustrated backgrounds. Flicking through it is somewhat like scrolling through your flaky friend’s Facebook feed to read maxims and quotations they have reposted from elsewhere.

Having said that, it is quite a sweet little book in some respects (and it was a bestseller, so clearly some people love it). The chapters have titles like ‘Have a Big Ego and a Small Ego’, ‘Float, Don’t Swim’, and ‘Change Reality (… Don’t Deny It’). 

The text is arranged in spaced, short paragraphs, often no more than a sentence: the effect is to heighten the expectation of profundity, whereas quite a lot of what is actually said is fairly banal. 

One typical paragraph runs, ‘Because the bottom line is this: your imagination is now the limiting factor of your life. In the world of anything-is-possible, the outer limits of thinking big are the barriers of your life.’

The focus, of course, is on thinking big, particularly in business and with creativity. The author writes, for instance, ‘That’s what it took: ideas upon ideas, thinking big upon thinking big, to bring forth into the world his Big Idea, which would eventually not only make him a multi-millionaire but would also be one of those little-noticed inventions that change the world.’

This is promoted as the way to encourage creative ideas and to improve your decision-making. Some of the most useful advice is about prioritising and choosing how to apply yourself. 

There are warnings against being an ‘agreeing machine’ rather than a ‘deciding machine’, because the more you allow others to dictate how you spend your life, the less control you are able to assert over it.

This is an analogy the author has borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut, in the story ‘Harrison Bergeron’. The plot is based on the idea that, in the future, people will be ruthlessly ‘handicapped’ to prevent the most intelligent, strong or attractive from having an unfair advantage. As a result, some people turn themselves into agreeing machines in order to be ‘stupid on purpose’.

The metaphor of the ‘Sargasso Sea of mind’ is used to depict a becalmed state in which it is impossible for you to make progress. This happens when you give in to work pressures, gossip, the draw of social media, arguing with trolls and other mental drains. This all makes it hard to think big. You need to take a step back with respect to what you truly want to achieve, rather than focusing on the objectives that are foisted upon you by others.

Given that none of us is a tabula rasa, our life experiences make up a huge part of who we are. For this reason, you need to surround yourself with good, interesting people who will challenge your thinking and help to inspire you.

There is an interesting section on the value of idleness. The author carefully distinguishes this from laziness. Laziness is being unwilling to work hard or apply yourself. Idleness is regularly making the time and space to ‘do nothing’ and to allow yourself to reflect and take a step back. 

The universe is trying to show you things, to inspire you all the time: you can only be receptive to this if you give yourself time to notice what it is showing you.

There is also a neat distinction made between ‘Yes, but …’ (which is really ‘No’) and ‘Yes, and …’ which accepts a new state of affairs and starts the process of incorporating it into your life.

Inevitably, the book does descend into platitudes at times. By the time the last chapter is introduced with a page mostly blank, apart from the word ‘…. twang!’ at the bottom, this can get a bit grating. But it would be unfair to dismiss Newton too readily. It’s clear that if one were in the right mood, this could be quite an inspiring read, and one that could be consumed on a short train journey, to boot.

Further Reading

If you like the book The Little Book of Thinking Big, you may also like reading the following book summaries:

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