Muscle for life

The “Danger” of Thinking Big

The “Danger” of Thinking Big

The cliche of “daring” to set big, hairy goals for ourselves can be found in one form or another in just about every self-help book ever written and commencement speech ever delivered.










Great achievements start with great imagination…you have to hitch your wagon to a star just to reach the top of the trees…imagine your beautiful future down to the most minute of details and you’ll be on your way to making it a reality…yada yada yada.

I’m all for thinking big, but I think these bromides can set people up for failure just as much as they can propel them toward success.

I think there’s a “dangerous” side to thinking big. Especially when you really mean it–when you’re not just indulging in playful fantasy but actually drumming up real desire.

The danger is this:

Big goals require big effort, big courage, and big sacrifice. Much, much bigger than many people think.

They have no clue how many thousands of hours of practice came before the Carnegie Hall performance…how much thankless toil came before the bestselling novel…how many hours of sleep were lost building the company…how many risks must be taken, how many failures are experienced along the way, how many distractions life offers you, how many justifications for giving up you can invent, and how many times you’ll have nobody but yourself for consolation and support.

Call me cynical but thinking big just doesn’t seem to be for everyone. Some people just don’t seem to be cut out for it.

Look around for a moment and consider how many dreamers you know that are making real, tangible progress toward making those dreams a reality. Not boasts of what could or will be but actual results.

My guess is you don’t know very many. Why? Are they just not thinking big enough? Did they just forget to envision the wheel color of their imaginary Lamborghini or number of cents in their imaginary Swiss bank account?

No. Thinking better thoughts will have absolutely no bearing on their circumstances.

These people just don’t realize that big goals are to be respected. Feared, even.

Trifle with them at your own risk because they can break you–they can split you open and lay bare your every weakness and insecurity. Some people’s spirits just never recover from their disastrous encounters with big goals.

If, at the outset of a “big think,” you feel nothing but excitement, assuredness, and optimism…and not even a twinge of sobriety, humility, or apprehension…you’re probably going to fail. Don’t pull up the anchor just yet.

If you’re not ready to sacrifice damn near everything at the altar of Big Think…your weekends…your social life…your social media accounts…your hobbies, TV shows, and video games…turn back. You’re not ready.

But if you can confidently stand in the shadow of the monolthic Big Goal…if you can steel your gaze, harden your jaw, and begin what you know is going to be a long, hard march through treacherous, hostile lands, you probably have what it takes to survive the journey.

The moral of this article is choose your goals carefully. 

Take a ruthlessly realistic look at what you’re getting yourself into and what it will entail and ask yourself if you’re ready. Believe in your abilities, but don’t put on rose-colored glasses. Plan for success, but don’t let optimism make you soft.

You can achieve big goals, but they’re probably going to take more effort, time, and sacrifice than you think. If you can face that comfortably, then you’re ready to begin.

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Geez Mike, when do you actually have time to do anything other than write? I headed over to Amazon.com to check it out, but more the reviews, and they are really good. How long have you been publishing on Kindle for? I’ll download a copy of this one.

    I think that ‘thinking big’ is definitely a good thing, we are all capable of so much more than we believe, BUT, and this is what I am learning now, that even with lofty goals, one needs to break it down into small bits, daily actions that can be achieved without being overwhelmed.

    Even putting a daily/weekly/montly/annual/5 year? plan together and then chipping away on a daily, even hourly basis, totally focussing on the NOW. Then periodically chack to see how the bigger med/long term goals are squaring up.

    Congrats on your success man, it is really inspiring for me.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah thanks. I enjoy writing so I guess I just find myself doing a lot of it. 😛

      I published my first book in Jan 2012.

      I totally agree–big goals require realistic, executable plans. I’m into planning but not to the point of paralysis–I lay out all the big steps that need to happen and just get to work.

      Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

      • Thanks for the reply. I know you do a lot of things, but do you think Kindle publishing is a great way to make part of one’s living? I assume you didn’t have a massive audience when you started writing for Kindle?

        Did you just write, publish and hope for the best to some extent? And do you think the Amazon exposure hs made a big difference to your business? As in Amazon sales drove people to become fans, rather than the other way round?

        If this is too much for the comments, I’m happy to chat via email (if you are??)

        Thanks for taking the time to reply and answer questions, you need to get your Legion supplements over to the UK, or do you do that already? Distributor??

        • Michael Matthews

          It can become a great way to make a living yes, but it’s not just a slam dunk.

          I had NO audience when I started in Jan 2012. I published Bigger Leaner Stronger without anything–a website, a following, etc.

          Word of mouth alone fueled it in the beginning and when I saw it could become something, I started on the next book, published, etc.

          My pleasure brother. 🙂

          EU distribution will be set up later this year. Q4 I think.

          • So why did you start with the book, was it a plan, or did you just have no idea that the usual thing to do was to build a following, build a list, and then tempt them with your products 🙂

            That is definitely not meant to sound disrespectful, you have done incredibly, but I’m interested in whether it was all part of the plan, or you just thought, “If I work hard it will all come good in the end”.

            I know I need to work much harder, but sometimes get petrified that I’m chipping away in the wrong area, when in reality, just doing SOMETHING on a regular basis for a prolonged period of time probably gets you a lot of the way there.

            Tenacity is a definite barrier to entry for most people, which is cool for people like you with an amazing work ethic.

          • Michael Matthews

            Because I just like to write and in the beginning didn’t really care if it sold well or not. I wanted the experience.

            I knew enough about marketing to set everything up once I saw potential.

            Check out my latest post on the final point:


  • Mike,

    This is absolutely amazing. Cutting right through the fluff, and telling it exactly how it is. I appreciate this article because of your first hand experience and wisdom.

    It’s too common that most self-help content will have the reader in “la la land” and overly optimistic, and fail to even warn you how hard it will be. Until you try it, get a few failures under your belt, and understand exactly what it means to be optimistic, BUT apprehensive as well. Going for a goal is essentially fighting the battle that’s worth fighting.

    Love it. Keep it up!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with self-help stuff, haha. I like a lot of the ideas out there but dislike how much the current focus is on “manifesting” wealth and all that nonsense.

  • Fernando

    Dropping the words of wisdom nicccce

    • Michael Matthews


  • Harry

    “If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way” – Napoleon Hill

    • Michael Matthews

      Good quote. 🙂

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