Blow the Lid Off Yourself by Thinking Big

by Stephen Mills on May 23, 2009


“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”  — Theodore Roosevelt

Every time I read that I can almost feel the chills.  “…at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”  That is so powerful, inspiring, and motivating.

Two of my favorite articles here on The Rat Race Trap are Develop the Courage to Take Risks and 17 Ways to Achieve Heroic Goals.  Underlying both of those articles is the idea of thinking big.  Recently I read a short little book called The Think Big Manifesto by Michael Port and it got me pondering the subject again.  The book did not enthrall me, but I like what his is trying to do over at The Think Big Revolution.

In this article I’m going to share some of my thoughts and some of Michael’s thoughts with you.

“We are the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our doing big things in the world.  We are our own worst enemies.”  –Michael Port

Small Thoughts

You don’t need a guru to tell you how to start thinking big.  You just need to start doing. it.  It’s not hard to think big.  It’s only hard to stop thinking small.  I think we all struggle with it every day.  I know that I do, but I’m determined to kill the small thoughts that are holding me back.  Are you?

Some small thoughts we think:

  1. I’m not.
  2. I don’t.
  3. I can’t.
  4. I’ll try.
  5. I don’t have time.
  6. I don’t have the energy.
  7. I’m only one person.
  8. Pop culture.
  9. Television.
  10. People magazine.
  11. Corporate culture.
  12. Intolerance.
  13. Our past determines our future.
  14. We are never enough.
  15. For every winner there is a loser.

Big Thoughts

“Small thoughts fear the future.  Big thoughts are the future.”  –Michael Port

We will rise no higher than we think and if we want to achieve big things, we better stop thinking small and start thinking big.

“The time has come.  We cannot wait anymore.  For years we have hidden behind our own small thoughts or let ourselves be held back by other small thinking people who don’t believe in us.  Worse still, we have been rejected as marginal, unrealistic, dreamers, idealists, maybe even delusional.  Family, friends, colleagues and others (not to mention our own selves) have tried to negate us, eliminate us, and silence us.  We will not stand for it anymore.”  –Michael Port

Big thoughts are different things to different people and that’s perfectly OK.  Being realistic is OK and is not small thinking as long as it is expansive and well outside your comfort zone.  Starting my own business is a big thought to me.  That might be a small thought for someone else.

Here are examples of big thoughts for you to think about.

  1. Build your own business.
  2. Change jobs.
  3. Change careers.
  4. Go back to school.
  5. Come out of the closet.
  6. End relationships with those who hold you back.
  7. Run a marathon.
  8. Follow your dream in the arts.

What now?

“There is NO right FIRST STEP and no last step.  To begin to think big is ORGANIC.  Once you start it will grow like the seashell, your thoughts EXPANDING ever upward and outward.”  –Michael Port

There is an abundance of solutions, we only need to start thinking and acting big to create them.  You are abundant.

“We are are own pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.”  –Kim George

Get high on life.  If you are comfortable and safe you are thinking small.  If you are uncomfortable and excited you are thinking big.

You can’t do things perfectly.  Trying to do things perfectly will guarantee you will never do them.  Just go for it.  Modify along the way.  The best planning technique in existence is to modify as you experience.

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”  –Japanese proverb

Make promises to yourself and others and keep them.  There is no better way to develop a sense of personal integrity and self-esteem.  If you aren’t going to do it then say so and say why.  Be honest.  I tell people no all the time and yet they seem to respect me and return.  Making promises you can’t or won’t keep makes you small in their eyes and more importantly in your own eyes.

Promise something big and uncomfortable.  Make it public.  It’s almost a guarantee of success.  Promise your readers you are going to lose 30 pounds in three months and promise them weekly updates.  You will lose 30 pounds in three months.

“We will make promises.  Big promises.  Promises hard to fulfill.  Yet we will – fulfill.”  –Michael Port

Blow the lid off of yourself and do something big.  Live each day as if it is your last but look forward to living forever.  I don’t plan on living forever, but I believe that human near-immortality is on the horizon.  I am thinking big about long life.

As an eighteen year-old freedom lover, I was excited about what I heard come out of Ronald Reagan’s mouth in ‘79 – ‘80.  By 1984 he had shown he was just another disappointing politician who would compromise away principles and I decided to ignore politics and pursue freedom some other way.  Within a few years I had been totally swallowed up by the rat race.

Today I read the following quote by him and found it beautiful and appropriate.

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” –Ronald Reagan


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Great Article Stephen,

One of the best things any of us can learn in life is to get out of our own way. Life is full of challenges from external forces. We need to be part of the solution, not contribute to the problem. To live big you must first think big.


Mark Lewis May 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Indeed, great focused article.

I particularly like your point about how BIG things can be different to each one of us. It’s all relative. It’s something that successful people often misunderstand; they compare their great achievements to their peers and come to a conclusion about whose is BIGGER.

BIG is something beyond your comfort zone. That’s an interesting perspective. Thanks!


Darren Sproat May 24, 2009 at 6:17 am

What you are saying rings true, or SHOULD ring true, for everyone in all aspects of life. One should release negativity and fear and focus on, visualize, and expect only the best, most positive results in everything they do, experience, and think. One should set goals beyond perceived capacities to achieve always…
Thanks for a great read!
Darren Sproat


Giovanna Garcia May 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

This is a great one, everyone should read this post. I will stumble it so more people can get this message.
“If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Think Big! Not just think big but “Blow the lid off….BIG”
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action


Stephen Mills May 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm

@Jonathan, thanks! I have a book about getting out of my own way. I need to read it. I wish I had 8 hours a day to read. I’ve been reading while walking around my home instead of sitting in my recliner lately. I actually think I absorb more that way.

@Mark, Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

@Darren, thank you and you’re welcome.

@Giovanna, thank you so much for your support! I really appreciate it.


CHristiaanH May 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Another great article Stephen,

Somehow it reminds me of a problem a lot of us have: We over think things and end up doing nothing.

An empowering thought would be: “I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll figure it out when I get there.” Instead of needing to know every little detail before we dare to start. Most of us panic when this situation arises and we don’t know what to do. But if we trust on our life experience we almost always will find a solution somehow.

Just get stuck in there and figure things out as you go along. Indeed Imperfect action s better than no action at all.


Vin | May 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Thank you Stephen for an inspiring article! It’s so easy to be discouraged by minor setbacks. By reminding yourself of the “big” goal and that you have the capability to achieve it, I believe that it influences the day to day behavior that will ultimately make the difference of whether or not you achieve the goal.


Karl Staib - Work Happy Now May 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I’ve fallen into the “thinking too small trap.” I’ve thought of grand plans, but I was afraid to execute them because I didn’t think they were possible. I’m finally letting go of this small thinking and allowing myself to reach for new universes. I still hear that little voice that says you can’t do it.

I just listen and say, “You make a strong argument, but not strong enough.” Of course I will never get to where I need to be if I keep the status quo, but there is no fun in that.

The fun is trying so hard and learning so much that it just makes the next try that much easier.


Laurie | Express Yourself to Success May 25, 2009 at 2:29 am

Good post – thanks.

Sometimes I find it easier to choose who I tell my big thinking to. I’ve learned that not everyone can handle it because it can bring up their fears and then they have an uncontrollable urge to tell me. I only tell the people around me who are also inclined to think big because not only will they “get it” but also they are more willing to think of ways that they can be help me progress to the levels I want to go (and vice versa).


Writer Dad May 25, 2009 at 9:12 am

That Teddy Roosevelt quote is off the hook. Dude lived a life filled with quotable moments, but that one right there might just be his best.


Robin Easton May 25, 2009 at 9:45 am

I think one of the biggest steps we can make is DECIDING that we are going to think BIG, even if we don’t yet know how to or quite what that means, simply making that decision that we are not going to limit ourselves with “I can’t, It won’t, There’s no way, blah, blah blah”, that we are going to at least keep an open mind will immediately begin to open us up to new ideas, ways of acting, thinking and living. Kind of like the old saying, “Jump and net will appear.” Often if people can’t see the answer, the solution, the way out, etc. they won’t jump, won’t even court an open mind. So THAT ends THAT right THERE! LOL! But if we can at least open our minds eventually the whole bit Universe out there will start to pour in. For me it never fails. The biggest battle is not finding the solution or answer; the biggest battle is DECIDING that we are going to get out of our own way, that we will keep an open mind, a VERY open mind.

Great article as usual, very inspiring and uplifting. Much needed in the world. Thank you dear Stephen!


Kikolani May 25, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Trying something big and failing at least means that you did try. You won’t have to wonder years down the road if you could have done something more if you had gave it a shot. And probably by going through the process of attempting such a big goal will give you the confidence and experience that you can go for something else big, but different.

~ Kristi


Alex - unleash reality May 26, 2009 at 8:13 am

really liked the roosevelt speech. good ol hearty inspiration =D makes my soul smile 🙂

i like the big vs small thoughts quote too. makes you think 🙂 big thoughts.

really cool Seth Godin quote, “the only thing worse than starting and not finishing is not starting at all”.

lately i’ve been more for no thought. like trying to think stops you from having profound thoughts. let go and it flows.

power stuff


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