The Importance of Thinking Big

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Mod Note (Andy): Check out wilowallstreet's AMA here. The AMA is still live and he is actively answering any questions that you may have.

I am here to tell you that just as important as how you deal with failure is how BIG you think everyday. Ask yourself: how many of your childhood dreams have come true, how many of them have you given up on, where have you settled for less? Every day I see people who limit their thinking to be something less than what they intended and less than they can be today. Somewhere along the way, they stopped thinking big and started thinking small.

I have been lucky. Everyday I get to work with very successful people. No matter what aspect of life they have achieved success in, the one thing they have in common is that they think big and positively. As David Schwartz says: The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. This post is going to teach you some of the tricks on how to think bigger and drive more success into your life.


In meetings and in class, be up front, be engaged, be present and speak up. No matter what you are doing, don't take a back seat and try to coast. Life is too short for that, either commit fully or don't get involved. Let the world know that you are present. I used to be one of those kids who thought it was cool to skip class or sit in the back. That was stupid. It accomplishes nothing and is a waste of the opportunity you have.

Now I arrive early, leave late, contribute and get involved. This also applies with the people you meet, be the first to put your hand forward, be the first to introduce yourself, and be the first to follow-up. Act like a person who gets things done. Would a successful person step forward and be confident or sit back and wait ?

Take Action

There is always an excuse to wait, why something won't work out, and all the things that could go wrong. It doesn't matter, do it anyway. Believe me there is little you can dream of right now, that you can't eventually achieve. The only thing you need to do is take the first step. I have seen too many people with bright ideas and dreams, who were afraid of failing or wanted to wait for the right moment. There will always be a reason holding you back, there will always be a reason why it won't work out. But the only way to succeed is to take the first step.

I get asked by a lot of people in jobs they don't like, if one day in three years time, they can try doing something else. Why wait ? If there is something else that you would rather be doing, go do it. Take the first step towards your dream. If you haven't seen it yet, please watch Neil Gaiman's Making Good Art here.

Do more

Ask for more responsibility, ask for more work. Take five minutes every day to ask yourself how can I do more, how can I add more value, how can I achieve more. Step up to more challenges, volunteer for more difficult jobs. The more challenges you have surmounted, the better you will be. I saw a lot of friends who just wanted to do the bare minimum, they figured look I just want to collect my pay check man, and yes they collected their paycheck. But that's all. They never learnt more, they never grew and they were never put up for the next promotion. We used to have a saying at my IB: You have to do the job, before you get the job. So show people that you are capable of doing the job you want to get.

Be an Idea Machine

I got this one from James Altucher. If you haven't read his stuff yet please do. Ideas are at the core of all your thinking and your achievements. You need to harness them and use them. The trick is simple: every day, write 10 ideas about anything. What you write about isn't as important as the fact that you use your idea muscle. So here are some easy one, why not write 10 ideas on how you can earn more money, 10 ideas on how you can grow your network, 10 ideas on how you can learn faster, 10 ideas on how you can be more productive, 10 ideas on how you can stop wasting time, 10 ideas on how you can help your parents. You get the idea. Build that idea muscle. Successful people have more ideas than less successful, just think about how many good ideas have you had in the last year, maybe 2 or 3. Now imagine if you were coming up with ideas every day.

Be Important

Here's a simple trick: in all walks of your life, ask yourself if an important person would do this. So when you lose your temper - ask would an important person get mad at this ? Appearance - would an important person dress like this ? Reading - would an important person read this ? Speech - would an important person talk like this ? You get the idea. By acting and emulating important and successful people around you, you will acquire their habits. As you begin to act like a succesful person, you will slowly become a successful person.


Remove distractions from your life. What are the things you waste time on ? The one thing successful people guard fiercely is their time and energy. Those two are the only things finite and cannot be renewed. Everything else can come back. Find the people and the habits that are toxic to your goals and remove them. You can't afford to not focus on your goals 100%. You can't imagine how much freer you will feel once you do that and how much energy you will have.

Review your failures

Failure is inevitable and necessary, so learn from it. After every failure, sit down for 30 minutes and review what went wrong, what could have been prevented, what can you do better next time, how can you improve. If you don't review your failures how do you expect to get better. World class athlete's to world-class investors use this to hone their craft and keep improving. It's hard to learn from your successes but failure is a wonderful teacher.

I'm always reminded of a quote that is credited to Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." Decide how you will do things differently next time. If you are one of those people who has sent out 200 resumes and hasn't received a reply yet, pay attention.

To do list

Even Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan walks around daily with a to do list of what he needs to get done and what he needs to follow-up with others on. Make a physical to do list, pen on paper. Write down the key things you need to and want to get done today and this week. carry it around with you every day. Look at it regularly. Your productivity will shoot through the roof.

Too many people walk around without an idea for what they need to get done, and then they wonder why nothing is moving in their life. So make that list and then go get those things done. Then do it again. Nothing else is more empowering to your success.

Alright, enough reading for now. Let's go out and get something done. When you've done it, drop me a line and tell me.

Also, check out @wilowallstreet's earlier posts:
1. Advice from an ex-IB MD on how to make it to Wall Street
2. Advice from an ex-IB MD - on how to make VP
3. Advice from an ex-IB MD - why aren't you getting those interviews ?
4. Advice from an ex-IB MD: Eight tricks to ace your 1st round interview
5. Advice from an ex-IB MD: Who succeeds on Wall Street
6. Advice from an ex-IB MD - DON'T make these mistakes
7. Advice from an ex-IB MD - The Importance Of Failure

Comments (10)

Best Response
Dec 1, 2015

I kind of agree with the general sentiment, but I think you take some of it a little too far to be practical. For instance, you write, "I get asked by a lot of people in jobs they don't like, if one day in three years time, they can try doing something else. Why wait ?". There are lots of legitimate reasons. Let's assume this person wants to start a business (as many people do). Maybe they need to build their contacts, maybe their business idea sucks and deep down they know it, maybe they need capital, maybe they don't have the right experience now, maybe the risk isn't worth it.

In general, I think too many people look at successful people and try to mimic their actions. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but you are also missing a big piece of the puzzle. If you wanted to do it correctly, you would look at all of the people who do those things and determine what all of their outcomes were. This is almost impossible to do as it's easier to find the 'winners' than the 'losers'. For example, if you look at the Forbes 400, you will find that the overwhelming majority of people that made their own money took some big risks along the way. What it misses is that were many more people that took big risks and lost big. The survivorship bias in lists of the successful is enormous and looking for a template of success is largely wasted time.

There's no secret formula to success. Work hard, add value, develop relationships (work and outside), and you should do fine. You may not be the next Rockefeller, but you'll do fine, maybe even very well

    • 5
Dec 4, 2015

I agree with this statement, I think that with all advice, we need to look at how the author views his own measuring stick. It is difficult to capture a precise meaning in "why wait" than to exacerbate the point because it is a call to arms and often, people do not wakeup to the reality unless motivated by a big "NOW".

Dec 2, 2015

Good thread, I think the general ideas in OP are well-intentioned but there is always issues with trying to make blanket statements about success, life, happiness, etc. Lots of exceptions and complexity. In fact, doing the same thing over and over sometimes does give different results, and no insanity prognosis required for that expectation...I would call it the effects of persistence and luck.

    • 1
Dec 2, 2015

That's a good thread, I think both wilwallstreet and Dickfuld oint toward the right direction, work hard and i don't mean the 100 hours work week of an analyst in which (if disliked) you hate your life. I think having dreams allows you to set goals and to work hard for achieving them.

In undergrad my dream was to work for a BIG4 in CF and I worked more than what I'm doing now to get there, and if I look back I don't even remember the fatigue nor the stress. However, if I think about the deck x that needs to be done by yesterday I feel sick and this is because it's not my interest to get it done, but someone else's.

    • 1
Dec 4, 2015

Love this.

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Dec 4, 2015

Your content never disappoints, this post is gold!

  • Anonymous Monkey
  •  Dec 4, 2015

If there is something else that you would rather be doing, go do it. Take the first step towards your dream.

And...who's gonna pay my rent if I may ask ?

Dec 8, 2015

ha, its not binary. for example if you are an associate at an IB and want to go to the buyside, then start running a model portfolio, get to know people on the buyside, and see what you think. Thats the first step.
I don't mean quit your job and be home less.

Dec 13, 2015

Great post @wilowallstreet

Dec 14, 2015