Download Think Big By Ben Carson (MD)
Think big – This is a book about giving our best and especially about doing whatever we can to help others — about
Thinking Big — one of the important concepts of my life. It might also be called a book about excellence.
Or about dedication.
It is also a book about people who give their best and who Think Big.
I chose this theme because our society tends to focus on super-entertainers, sports figures, politicians,
or the highly publicized individuals who do outstanding work and get recognized for their achievements.
I am all for achievement, and just as much in favor of recognition. But what about those who give their best
but never receive recognition? Or financial reward? Or honor? Or fame?
This book is for you if your life is a series of shattered dreams. This book is for you if you have no dreams at all. It’s for you if you’ve bought the lie that you’ll never amount to anything. That’s not true.
Your life is BIG–far bigger than you’ve imagined. Inside these pages lie the keys to recognizing the full potential of your life. You won’t necessarily become a millionaire (though you might), but you will attain a life that is rewarding, significant, and more fruitful than you ever thought possible.
The author of this book knows about hardship. Ben Carson grew up in inner-city Detroit. His mother was illiterate. His father had left the family. His grade-school classmates considered Ben stupid. He struggled with a violent temper. In every respect, Ben’s harsh circumstances seemed only to point to a harsher future and a bad end. But that’s not what happened.
By applying the principles in this book, Ben rose from his tough life to one of amazing accomplishments and international renown. He learned that he had potential, he learned how to unleash it, and he did. You can too. Put the principles in this book in motion.
Things won’t change overnight, but they will change. You can transform your life into one you’ll love, bigger than you’ve ever dreamed.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents – Think Big
Part 1 Giving Their Best and Thinking Big,
1. Do It Better!, 13,
2. My Mother, Sonya Carson, 31,
3. Mentors, Inspirers, and Influencers, 57,
4. Medical Mentors, 71,
5. Other Significant People, 89,
6. Builders for Eternity, 99,
7. Parents and Patients, 113,
8. Taking Risks, 127,
9. Not Enough, 139,
Part 2 You Can Give Your Best and Think Big,
10. Thinking Big, 151,
11. Honesty Shows, 169,
12. Insightful Thoughts, 177,
13. Nice Guys Finish, 195,
14. Knowledge Counts, 205,
15. Books Are for Reading, 219,
16. In-depth Learning, 231,
17. Caution: God at Work, 243,
18. Reaching for Success, 257,
CHAPTER 1 – Think Big
Do It Better! It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are true levelers. They give to all who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race. William Ellery Channing Benjamin, is this your report card?” my mother asked as she picked up the folded white card from the table. “Uh, yeah,” I said, trying to sound casual. Too ashamed to hand it to her, I had dropped it on the table, hoping that she wouldn’t notice until after I went to bed. It was the first report card I had received from Higgins Elementary School since we had moved back from Boston to Detroit, only a few months earlier. I had been in the fifth grade not even two weeks before everyone considered me the dumbest kid in the class and frequently made jokes about me. Before long I too began to feel as though I really was the most stupid kid in fifth grade. Despite Mother’s frequently saying, “You’re smart, Bennie. You can do anything you want to do,” I did not believe her. No one else in school thought I was smart, either Now, as Mother examined my report card, she asked, “What’s this grade in reading?” (Her tone of voice told me that I was in trouble.) Although I was embarrassed, I did not think too much about it. Mother knew that I wasn’t doing well in math, but she did not know I was doing so poorly in every subject. While she slowly read my report card, reading everything one word at a time, I hurried into my room and started to get ready for bed. A few minutes later, Mother came into my bedroom. “Benjamin,” she said, “are these your grades?” She held the card in front of me as if I hadn’t seen it before. “Oh, yeah, but you know, it doesn’t mean much.” “No, that’s not true, Bennie. It means a lot.” “Just a report card.” “But it’s more than that.” Knowing I was in for it now, I prepared to listen, yet I was not all that interested. I did not like school very much and there was no reason why I should. Inasmuch as I was the dumbest kid in the class, what did I have to look forward to? The others laughed at me and made jokes about me every day. “Education is the only way you’re ever going to escape poverty,” she said. “It’s the only way you’re ever going to get ahead in life and be successful. Do you understand that?” “Yes, Mother,” I mumbled. “If you keep on getting these kinds of grades you’re going to spend the rest of your life on skid row, or at best sweeping floors in a factory. That’s not the kind of life that I want for you. That’s not the kind of life that God wants for you.” I hung my head, genuinely ashamed. My mother had been raising me and my older brother, Curtis, by herself. Having only a third-grade education herself, she knew the value of what she did not have. Daily she drummed into Curtis and me that we had to do our best in school. “You’re just not living up to your potential,” she said. “I’ve got two mighty smart boys and I know they can do better.” I had done my best — at least I had when I first started at Higgins Elementary School. How could I do much when I did not understand anything going on in our class? In Boston we had attended a parochial school, but I hadn’t learned much because of a teacher who seemed more interested in talking to another female teacher than in teaching us. Possibly, this teacher was not solely to blame — perhaps I wasn’t emotionally able to learn much. My parents had separated just before we went to Boston, when I was eight years old. I loved both my mother and father and went through considerable trauma over their separating. For months afterward, I kept thinking that my parents would get back together, that my daddy would come home again the way he used to, and that we could be the same old family again — but he never came back. Consequently, we moved to Boston and lived with Aunt Jean and Uncle William Avery in a tenement building for two years until Mother had saved enough money to bring us back to Detroit. Mother kept shaking the report card at me as she sat on the side of my bed. “You have to work harder. You have to use that good brain that God gave you, Bennie. Do you understand that?” “Yes, Mother.” Each time she paused, I would dutifully say those words “I work among rich people, people who are educated,” she said. “I watch how they act, and I know they can do anything they want to do. And so can you.” She put her arm on my shoulder. “Bennie, you can do anything they can do — only you can do it better!” Mother had said those words before. Often. At the time, they did not mean much to me. Why should they? I really believed that I was the dumbest kid in fifth grade, but of course, I never told her that. “I just don’t know what to do about you boys,” she said. “I’m going to talk to God about you and Curtis.” She paused, stared into space, then said (more to herself than to me), “I need the Lord’s guidance on what to do. You just can’t bring in any more report cards like this.” As far as I was concerned, the report card matter was over. The next day was like the previous ones — just another bad day in school, another day of being laughed at because I did not get a single problem right in arithmetic and couldn’t get any words right on the spelling test. As soon as I came home from school, I changed into play clothes and ran outside. Most of the boys my age played softball, or the game I liked best, “Tip the Top.”
We played Tip the Top by placing a bottle cap on one of the sidewalk cracks. Then taking a ball — any kind that bounced — we’d stand on a line and take turns throwing the ball at the bottle top, trying to flip it over. Whoever succeeded got two points. If anyone actually moved the cap more than a few inches, he won five points. Ten points came if he flipped it into the air and it landed on the other side. When it grew dark or we got tired, Curtis and I would finally go inside and watch TV. The set stayed on until we went to bed. Because Mother worked long hours, she was never home until just before we went to bed. Sometimes I would awaken when I heard her unlocking the door. Two evenings after the incident with the report card, Mother came home about an hour before our bedtime. Curtis and I were sprawled out, watching TV. She walked across the room, snapped off the set, and faced both of us. “Boys,” she said, “you’re wasting too much of your time in front of that television. You don’t get an education from staring at television all the time.” Before either of us could make a protest, she told us that she had been praying for wisdom. “The Lord’s told me what to do,” she said. “So from now on, you will not watch television, except for two preselected programs each week.” Just two programs?” I could hardly believe she would say such a terrible thing. “That’s not — ” “And only after you’ve done your homework. Furthermore, you don’t play outside after school, either, until you’ve done all your homework.” “Everybody else plays outside right after school,” I said, unable to think of anything except how bad it would be if I couldn’t play with my friends. “I won’t have any friends if I stay in the house all the time — ” “That may be,” Mother said, “but everybody else is not going to be as successful as you are — ” “But, Mother — ” “This is what we’re going to do. I asked God for wisdom, and this is the answer I got.” I tried to offer several other arguments, but Mother was firm. I glanced at Curtis, expecting him to speak up, but he did not say anything. He lay on the floor, staring at his feet. “Don’t worry about everybody else. The whole world is full of ‘everybody else,’ you know that? But only a few make a significant achievement.” The loss of TV and play time was bad enough. I got up off the floor, feeling as if everything was against me. Mother wasn’t going to let me play with my friends, and there would be no more television — almost none, anyway. She was stopping me from having any fun in life. “And that isn’t all,” she said. “Come back, Bennie.” I turned around, wondering what else there could be. “In addition,” she said, “to doing your homework, you have to read two books from the library each week. Every single week.” “Two books? Two?” Even though I was in fifth grade, I had never read a whole book in my life. “Yes, two. When you finish reading them, you must write me a book report just like you do at school. You’re not living up to your potential, so I’m going to see that you do.” Usually Curtis, who was two years older, was the more rebellious. But this time he seemed to grasp the wisdom of what Mother said. He did not say one word. She stared at Curtis. “You understand?” He nodded.
“Bennie, is it clear?”
“Yes, Mother.” I agreed to do what Mother told me—it wouldn’t have occurred to me not to obey—but I did not like it. Mother was being unfair and demanding more of us than other parents did.
* * *
The following day was Thursday. After school, Curtis and I walked to the local branch of the library. I did not like it much, but then I had not spent that much time in any library.
We both wandered around a little in the children’s section, not having any idea about how to select books or which books we wanted to check out.
The librarian came over to us and asked if she could help. We explained that both of us wanted to check out two books.
“What kind of books would you like to read?” the librarian asked.
“Animals,” I said after thinking about it. “Something about animals.”
“I’m sure we have several that you’d like.” She led me over to a section of books. She left me and guided Curtis to another section of the room. I flipped through the row of books until I found two that looked easy enough for me to read. One of them, Chip, the Dam Builder—about a beaver—was the first one I had ever checked out. As soon as I got home, I started to read it. It was the first book I ever read all the way through even though it took me two nights. Reluctantly I admitted afterward to Mother that I really had liked reading about Chip.
Within a month I could find my way around the children’s section like someone who had gone there all his life. By then the library staff knew Curtis and me and the kind of books we chose. They often made suggestions. “Here’s a delightful book about a squirrel,” I remember one of them telling me.
As she told me part of the story, I tried to appear indifferent, but as soon as she handed it to me, I opened the book and started to read.
Best of all, we became favorites of the librarians. When new books came in that they thought either of us would enjoy, they held them for us. Soon I became fascinated as I realized that the library had so many books—and about so many different subjects.
After the book about the beaver, I chose others about animals —all types of animals. I read every animal story I could get my hands on. I read books about wolves, wild dogs, several about squirrels, and a variety of animals that lived in other countries. Once I had gone through the animal books, I started reading about plants, then minerals, and finally rocks.
My reading books about rocks was the first time the information ever became practical to me. We lived near the railroad tracks, and when Curtis and I took the route to school that crossed by the tracks, I began paying attention to the crushed rock that I noticed between the ties.
As I continued to read more about rocks, I would walk along the tracks, searching for different kinds of stones, and then see if I could identify them.
Often I would take a book with me to make sure that I had labeled each stone correctly.
“Agate,” I said as I threw the stone. Curtis got tired of my picking up stones and identifying them, but I did not care because I kept finding new stones all the time. Soon it became my favorite game to walk along the tracks and identify the varieties of stones. Although I did not realize it, within a very short period of time, I was actually becoming an expert on rocks.
The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man; nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out. After an era of darkness, new races build others; but in the world of books are volumes that live on still as young and fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.
Two things happened in the second half of fifth grade that convinced me of the importance of reading books.
First, our teacher, Mrs. Williamson, had a spelling bee every Friday afternoon. We’d go through all the words we’d had so far that year. Sometimes she also called out words that we were supposed to have learned in fourth grade. Without fail, I always went down on the first word.
One Friday, though, Bobby Farmer, whom everyone acknowledged as the smartest kid in our class, had to spell “agriculture” as his final word. As soon as the teacher pronounced his word, I thought, I can spell that word. Just the day before, I had learned it from reading one of my library books. I spelled it under my breath, and it was just the way Bobby spelled it.
If I can spell “agriculture,” I’ll bet I can learn to spell any other word in the world. I’ll bet I can learn to spell better than Bobby Farmer.
Just that single word, “agriculture,” was enough to give me hope.
The following week, a second thing happened that forever changed my life. When Mr. Jaeck, the science teacher, was teaching us about volcanoes, he held up an object that looked like a piece of black, glass-like rock. “Does anybody know what this is? What does it have to do with volcanoes?”
Immediately, because of my reading, I recognized the stone. I waited, but none of my classmates raised their hands. I thought, This is strange. Not even the smart kids are raising their hands. I raised my hand.
“Yes, Benjamin,” he said.
I heard snickers around me. The other kids probably thought it was a joke, or that I was going to say something stupid.
“Obsidian,” I said.
“That’s right!” He tried not to look startled, but it was obvious he hadn’t expected me to give the correct answer.
“That’s obsidian,” I said, “and it’s formed by the super-cooling of lava when it hits the water.” Once I had their attention and realized I knew information no other student had learned, I began to tell them everything I knew about the subject of obsidian, lava, lava flow, supercooling, and compacting of the elements.
When I finally paused, a voice behind me whispered, “Is that Bennie Carson?”
“You’re absolutely correct,” Mr. Jaeck said and he smiled at me. If he had announced that I’d won a million-dollar lottery, I couldn’t have been more pleased and excited.
“Benjamin, that’s absolutely, absolutely right,” he repeated with enthusiasm in his voice. He turned to the others and said, “That is wonderful! Class, this is a tremendous piece of information Benjamin has just given us. I’m very proud to hear him say this.”
For a few moments, I tasted the thrill of achievement. I recall thinking, Wow, look at them. They’re all looking at me with admiration. Me, the dummy! The one everybody thinks is stupid. They’re looking at me to see if this is really me speaking.
Maybe, though, it was I who was the most astonished one in the class. Although I had been reading two books a week because Mother told me to, I had not realized how much knowledge I was accumulating. True, I had learned to enjoy reading, but until then I hadn’t realized how it connected with my schoolwork. That day—for the first time—I realized that Mother had been right. Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement. I did not have to be the class dummy anymore.
For the next few days, I felt like a hero at school. The jokes about me stopped. The kids started to listen to me. I’m starting to have fun with this stuff.
As my grades improved in every subject, I asked myself, “Ben, is there any reason you can’t be the smartest kid in the class? If you can learn about obsidian, you can learn about social studies and geography and math and science and everything.”
That single moment of triumph pushed me to want to read more. From then on, it was as though I could not read enough books. Whenever anyone looked for me after school, they could usually find me in my bedroom—curled up, reading a library book—for a long time, the only thing I wanted to do. I had stopped caring about the TV programs I was missing; I no longer cared about playing Tip the Top or baseball anymore. I just wanted to read.
In a year and a half—by the middle of sixth grade—I had moved to the top of the class. Unfortunately, I had not been content just to read and to learn. I also felt I had to let everyone else in the world know how brilliant I had become. At the time, I honestly believed that I knew more than any of the other kids in my classroom. I thought I was brilliant; actually, I was quite obnoxious.
This important fact did not start getting through to me until I was in the ninth grade. One day I asked one of my classmates, who had never treated me well no matter how hard I tried to be friendly, “Why are you so hostile? Why do you hate me?”
Book Review by kent
I recently got in on the Ben Carson craze and decided to pick this book up for my Kindle. Being one who is always trying to improve himself, I like what the book’s description was telling me; only the book description tells about half the story.
The first two chapters are really great. They suck you in and give you an idea into what Carson is looking to do with the book. However, roughly 52%-54% of the book is devoted to people Carson has met over his life and he writes of their amazing lives and/or abilities. This is where, I think, the book was misleading.
I believe it to be misleading, because, even though I expected some autobiographical information to help make points on his THINK BIG philosophy, I wasn’t expecting a book where a little more than half of it is an acknowledgment. I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, and I’m glad Carson doesn’t think that he did it all on his own, but I never got the impression that he would spend so much time covering these other individuals that are very vague in helping to make points on his THINK BIG philosophy.
What do I mean by vague? He starts off the book describing these individuals without diving into without describing what he believes THINK BIG is to his audience. Several times I read, “*INSERT NAME*, who thinks big…,” and I was left wondering what it meant, in Carson’s definition, to THINK BIG. I think it would have been more appropriate to describe what THINK BIG is followed by talking about the other individuals. This would help to drive home points better and it would be clearer how these individuals thought big in Carson’s definition.
The second half of the book is where it’s really at! That’s where Carson starts diving into his THINK BIG philosophy and each letter in THINK BIG stands for something different. Here is what they stand for:
I found his philosophy to be refreshing, because he adds elements that I have not, or rarely, have heard of from other successful individuals in trying to describe their philosophy on success. (The best one, I still think, is Napoleon Hill in his book, “The Law of Success,” which I recommend to everyone!) Not to mention Carson’s philosophy is one of the more practical philosophies in attempting to live a fulfilling life.
All-in-all, the book was a bit misleading, because more than half was devoted to other individual’s stories that I did not think would be present. The book also suffers a bit from the organization. If Carson was adamant about adding the stories of those individuals in this book, he should have clarified what THINK BIG was before telling their stories; I think that would have made his points stronger and clearer. I ended up skimming two chapters until I ended up at the part of the book where I wanted to be: Carson describing his THINK BIG philosophy.
Once you get to his philosophy, that’s where the book really shines! I still would recommend this book to anyone looking to better him/herself and/or to figure out how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life; I would simply skip over the first half of the book and dive right into his philosophy. I would also recommend the Kindle edition as it only costs about $6.
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Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984 at the age of 33, making him the youngest major division director in the hospital’s history. He has written and published nine books, four of which were co-authored with Candy, his wife of 40 years. Dr. Carson was the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal. In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. U.S. News Media Group and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership recognized Dr. Carson as one of “America’s Best Leaders” in 2008. In 2014, the Gallup Organization, in their annual survey, named Dr. Carson as one of the 10 Most Admired Men in the World.
Dr. Carson and his wife are co-founders of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. In addition, Dr. Carson is now the Honorary National Chairman of the My Faith Votes campaign and continues to work tirelessly for the cause of the American people.
Originally published: 1992
Genres: Biography, Autobiography