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think Think think

Posted on March 5, 2016 at 6:15 AM

The AA  9" by 12" cards in the meetings are "Live and Let Live, Easy Does It, But For the Grace of God, think Think think, and First Things First, printed in Olde English calligraphy using red and black ink. They are familiar in AA rooms everywhere and part of literature kits for AA groups.  Some groups arrange and display the cards in this order, making a sentence with the first words on each card; Live easy but think first.  Sobriety or sober or recovery or recovered or AAized has alot to do with living and thinking... and gratitude too.

Occasionly, I have seen the think Think think card displayed upside down.., whadahay?

Where did the think THINK think come from?  My searching Searching searching of the origin of the slogan think Think think resulted in nothing certain. 

I have found and heard this possible history of think Think think.

In the 1940s, IBM was using the word THINK as a motto/slogan/logo for advertising and an AA member in New York decided to have Think printed at the bottom of some cards he was mailing to AA groups.  When he received his order back from his printer the word Think was printed upside down three times on the cards. He liked the way the mistake looked and mailed the materials the way they were.

The slogan caught on.  Think Think think was the AA slogan featured on the inside back cover of the February, 1957 Grapevine issue and became one of the 9" x 12" slogan cards in AA meetings.

All of this sounds plausible. :)

The Serenity Prayer was published in early Grapevine issues, which helped usher its use into the AA fellowship. The Serenity Prayer has been a regular part of the Grapevine magazine's format since July, 1967.

Coincidently, there is a story similar to the think Think think one above about the Serenity Prayer and it's AA origins at aa.org.

"Q. What are the origins of the Serenity Prayer?

A. It was debated for years who wrote the Serenity Prayer, and its origins are still somewhat murky, but it seems most likely to have been written by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, a well-known theologian who served for many years as Dean and Professor of Applied Christianity at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. G.S.O.’s Archives can provide more information about this prayer’s historical origins upon request.


Alcoholics Anonymous became aware of the Serenity Prayer in 1941, when it was discovered printed in the New York Tribune newspaper. Ruth Hock, AA’s first secretary and a non-alcoholic, was immediately taken with it. The headquarters staff thought of printing the prayer on a card to distribute to AA members.


On June 12, 1941, Ruth wrote Henry S., a Washington, D.C.-based AA member and printer by profession, saying:


“One of the boys up here got a clipping from a local newspaper which is so very much to the point and so much to their liking, that they have asked me to find out from you what it would cost to set it up on a small card, something like a visiting card, which can be carried in a wallet... here it is...would appreciate it if you would let me know right away.”


Henry answered back immediately and enthusiastically:


“...Your cards are on the way and my congratulations to the man who discovered that in the paper. I can’t recall any sentence that packs quite the wallop that that does and during the day shown it to the A.A.’s that dropped in and in each case have been asked for copies. I sent you 500 copies in as much as you didn’t say how many you wanted. If you need any more, let me know. Incidentally, I am only a heel when I’m drunk, I hope, so naturally there could be no charge for anything of this nature.”


Ruth responded again on June 17, and wrote:


“Your generous response to my request for the little cards is certainly much appreciated by us all up here. Glad so many of you down there liked it too, for it backs me up in my feeling that it really has ‘something.’"

As it turns out, the origin of the Serenity Prayer is also uncertain... :)

Back to the think Think think, right side up or upside down, what does it mean?

 The Alcoholic And Grandiosity

The alcoholic is a classic case of "an egomaniac with an inferiority complex." This apparent contradiction in terms comes from the fact that because the alcoholic has low self-esteem, they often feel the need to hide behind a mask of superiority. While they pretend to feel they're better than most people, what they really feel inside is utterly worthless. This is more or less applying the idea that "the best defense is a strong offense."

Of course they can't let anyone know that, so they rarely take the mask off. This tends to make them extremely critical of just about everything and everyone, and they act as if they should be in charge of running the entire universe. Ultimately, this grandiosity is the first obstacle in treatment that must be overcome to get an alcoholic to admit and accept that they are in fact an alcoholic and they need help. Before they get help and begin to start thinking clearly, alcoholics and addicts generally equate needing help with being weak. http://aa.activeboard.com/t35855183/the-alcoholic-and-grandiosity/


The alcoholic has three types of thinking, sober thinking, the positive thinking when applying the AA principles, and two types of inverted thinking;

conceited thinking;(the egomaniac) and discouraged thinking;(inferiority complex).

We get better as we grow the sober thinking and shrink the conceited and discouraged thinking.

Here is an explanation of think Think think by soberjulie. (located at  soberrecovery.com )

"Have you ever sneaked a couple of thinks?

Im laffin like a crazy girl over here.

This slogan, for me is simple.

The first think (a small one on the slogan poster) is allowed for yesterday....I pull out that think and use it to help others, when I need a remember when, I dont go back and marinate in yesterday...but sometimes I 'need' a small think in that department, lest I forget what got me here.

The last think (also a small one on the slogan poster) is for tomorrow. Yeah, I live in the moment, just for today and all that....but I have a mortgage payment due on Friday. Its okay for me to think about that and make sure the money is there. It is totally ok to make plans and set goals for myself that are not in today.

The middle think (the biggest one on the slogan poster) is for today.

It reminds me to live in the moment.

Today is all I really know that I have.


Just my interpretation."

Thanks soberjulie.

The Big Book, page 86, the second paragraph should also put the think Think think issue to rest. 

It says, “On awakening let us think about the 24 hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day.  Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonesty or self-seeking motives.  Under these conditions we can employ our faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use.  Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives."  1

"God.. Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

and Wisdom to know the difference."  Amen

from: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS(The Big Book) The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism - Third Edition - New York, 1976. Chapter 6 "Into Action", Page 86.

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Reply Pat P
10:29 AM on July 3, 2015 
Wallace Wattles wrote The Science of Being Great, in it he quoted Emerson and followed it up with Think Think Think. Early 1900's writer.
Reply Scott
5:28 AM on November 25, 2016 
"When God lets loose a great thinker on this planet, then all things are at risk. There is not a piece of science but its flank may be turned tomorrow; nor any literary reputation or the so-called eternal names of fame that may not be refused and condemned." - - Emerson.

17. Think! Think!! THINK!!!
Reply tom
4:17 PM on January 24, 2018 
1st think:" in thinking about are day we may face indecision" page 86 3rd paragraph, line 1 (self-will?)
2nd THINK: "we ask GOD to direct our thinking especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking (HIS-WILL). page 86, paragraph 2, line 3.
3rd think: "we ask GOD's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken"(action to do the inspiration). page 86, paragraph 1, line 12

3rd think:.
Reply Richard Williams
4:10 PM on April 26, 2019 
The Think think think sign is supposed to be upside down for humility and thinking is the problem... not drinking. Most these days have no clue what thats about and usually move the hang up and put it upright.
Reply Richard Williams
4:17 PM on April 26, 2019 
The original signs were in grapevine about a year ago and that was pointed out. I moved to north carolina and some old meeting here had no clue and it was right side up. I learned all this in Manhattan years ago where I got sober. "The problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind rather than in his body..."
"we are unable, at certain times to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago - we are without defense of the first drink" then is says that must come from a higher power...
All the usual examples... Honesty, Open mindedness, Willingness to change. Thinking is the problem and it won't work..