Expert from The Think Big Manifesto
by Michael Port, p. 139-145.
Our values and actions are contagious.
When we think big, it is contagious. But beware: When we, or others think small, the influence is that much more virulent. As much as we influence others, so are we are at risk of catching others’ values and actions, of coming under their influence. If we surround ourselves with small thinkers, we will think small.
Remember this, too: We are our own most dangerous source of contagion. It is our own small thoughts that can act most virulently against our big thoughts. As Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote 100 years ago in her still beloved children’s book, The Secret Garden, “…[T]houghts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.”
The irony is this: The negative energy and influence of small thinking ripples outward through our networks with a force greater than the positive energy of big thinking. Small thinking has the power to suck in everything around it. To influence and sway small thoughts, big thinking must at first exert twice the strength to achieve a fraction of the same force. Bad news.
Good news: Everything has side effects. The negative energy of small thinking is preset to autodestruct in its own entropic circle of influence. Negativity can prevail only so long. In the end it feeds on itself so ferociously that it will consume itself. At the basest level, a network spreading disease (whether a cold or obesity or cancer) cannot long survive its own natural demise. So, too, a network spreading dis-ease and small thinking will ultimately close in on itself under the weight of its negativity.
We are all part of different networks. Our influence is more than we think. It matters that we think big, because others around us are affected by our thinking and being and actions. And we are influenced by the others’ thoughts more than we know. It matters to think big, to protect against the negative influences we may encounter. We must don our mental crampons against the slippery slopes of negativity and compromise. Gird ourselves against the great negativistic vacuum that will eventually create a black hole where once there were small thoughts. Only by thinking big, fiercely, ferociously, with all our will, can we withstand this vacuum.
When we think big we are aware at all times of what we are influencing and what influences us. We undertake to bring positivity to relationships, but we will not take away others’ negativity. We give what we give, but we are careful about what we take away. Relationships are not transactional.
We are connected to others, but we are not, and should not be, attached. We are under no obligation to take on someone else’s issues or absorb others’ negativity. As we begin to think bigger, our networks may change. Yes, our friends, lovers, and colleagues may change. We will need to make serious decisions about those we can keep in our lives and those we cannot. Just as we draw people to us with our values and actions, so we will shed those who are not yet ready to think big, who cling to small thinking.
Who brings you down? Who makes you feel good? Who in your life thinks small? Who in your life thinks big?
Amanda is a regular on the Think Big Revolution weekly call. When she started thinking big, opening her own business, her husband of 20 years didn’t support her efforts. He was jealous of her dream (not to mention her budding success) and obstructive of everything she tried to do. She realized that his behavior was simply a continuation of his generally abusive behavior toward her over the course of their marriage. Not only did Amanda think big enough to build her own business, she tackled the next challenge and left her unhealthy marriage.
There is a myth about success: that those who achieve it leave many behind. Perhaps a few who achieve success are like this; more often, though, it is envy or ill will that prevents the less successful from following their friends. We may fear success because we are not comfortable with how those around us will deal with our success. That’s thinking small, on both sides. When we think big, we will succeed, and we cannot fear the advent of success and its side effects. We must be ready to leave behind those who will not support us, who will not celebrate with us, just as we would celebrate their successes. We are never held back from big thinking by others. We hold ourselves back by allowing others’ influence to negatively affect us.
We will refuse to adopt the negative values and habits of those around us: our lover who is depressed and causes us to be depressed; our friend who gossips about, envies, and criticizes others and encourages us to do the same; and our colleague who cuts corners, procrastinates, and does the minimum amount necessary to maintain the status quo.
We will break with negative influences. But it must be done consciously and specifically to be effective. I can’t be around you right now. It’s just not the right energy for me. Harsh? Possibly. Healthy? Yes. We cannot think big if we are surrounded by small thinking, negative influences and bad habits: the friend who supports us, but doesn’t believe in us; the partner whose lifestyle is unhealthy; the business colleague who takes comfort in mediocrity.
We will be a positive influence and we will surround ourselves with positive influences. That’s what big thinking is and what it requires. Ron Quintero grew up in the foster care system and spent some time living on the streets. He might have settled into his comfortable UPS job, which offered secure benefits and a decent wage, but he didn’t. He quit UPS to pursue his dream of a career in real estate. He ran through his savings, and his home went into foreclosure. His girlfriend stuck with him. She supported him and believed in him. She thought big with him. Now Ron Quintero is the founder of My Resource Center, Mortgage Leaders Edge, Debt Advisory Alliance, and Finance This Home, a suite of highly successful businesses.
We cannot change others, only ourselves. We can hope to influence them only by the integrity of our own behavior and actions. There’s so little time to waste. We must think big now.
Words have the potential to lose their meaning through overuse. Sometimes it seems as if everyone is talking about big thinking. Yet note how they are talking about it, what they mean when they say it…too often it is thinking big from a consumption point of view. For so many, thinking big is about being larger, about having more: more fame, more money, more power, more influence. Thinking big is not about quantity, about more. More is not expansive. Big thinking is expansive.
Big thinking is open and generous, discerning and judicious, yet not judgmental. Big thinking is not excessive, nor is it about the pursuit of excess. Rather, it is moderate.
Big thinking by its nature avoids the problem of extremes.
Nothing is all good or all bad in this universe of contradictions. We fall into the dangerous trap of small thinking when we succumb to a belief in extremes, starting with a necessarily false belief in some universal infallibility, or worse still, our own.
To think expansively is to begin again and again at first principles, with the beginner’s openness toward the world coupled with the wisdom of experience—our own and, as important, that of others.
To live in integrity is to be and to think and to act in the current of positive energy created by the expansiveness of big thinking.
What are your dreams, hopes, ambitions, and goals? Have small thoughts killed your aspirations? If so, whose small thoughts? Your own? Those of others?
Dream. Aspire. Do.
for The Think Big Manifesto, today only, bonus campaign page.
for direct link to Amazon.com.