Choose Thinking: A Blog by Dan Gilbert

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

- Rudyard Kipling

November 30, 2016

What is Life’s Default Setting?

(As seen on


Just like the laws of physics, there are laws of the universe that apply to the natural state of ‘things’ when no recent thought, energy or attention has been invested into a situation. In other words, when something (anything) comes into your focus, either for the first time or for the first time in a long time, what is the chance the ‘thing’ is in outstanding, good or even average shape?

Almost never.

In fact, let’s be honest: the vast majority of the time “shit IS the default setting.


When was the last time that you zeroed in on a situation and everything was running incredibly smooth and working like a charm?

Why is that so rare?

Some of it is rational. The fact that you have not paid any attention to something in a long time, or ever, invariably means that it did not have your passion, urgency, deep attention and motivation. Because you are reading this blog, I’m fairly certain that just your involvement alone will improve the ‘thing.’ Your passion and drive for greatness in all that you do is going to act as a formidable force that will counter the natural state of chaos. The nearly infinite possibilities in any given situation of random outcomes outnumber the handful of outcomes that you would interpret as order or progress. There are so many more ways for things to be f’ed up than not f’ed up.

This rule of the universe also applies to that dreaded, most fearful of all states of being: the ‘status quo.’ One of the biggest deceptions in the world is self-inflicted by so-called ‘conservative’ people who, through their myopic lens, are only comfortable when everything remains the same, consistent and reliable. The vast majority of our planet lives in this fantasy state where they convince themselves that they must delay any decision until there is 100% certainty.

Those with the worst strains of this disease are known as ‘bureaucrats.’ ‘Status quo’ is their religion. They worship the ‘God of Sameness.’ But what they fail to understand is that everything in the universe is subjected to the laws of entropy. Without energy, determination or a counter to these powerful forces, the ‘status quo’ is meaningless. When everything is connected to everything else, you can’t leave one thing alone and expect it to remain the same.

The lesson here is this: when you accept the universal law that “shit is the default setting,” you will no longer feel a need to waste your valuable energy, focus and attention being frustrated by it. You will invest your time and attention in the far more productive approach of countering what is just the natural state of the universe: disorder.

Don’t fear change. Fear those who espouse the delusion of the status quo.

Official Dan Gilbert Headshot

Dan Gilbert is founder and chairman of Detroit-based Quicken Loans, the 2nd largest residential lender in the country. Dan is also majority owner of the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. One of Dan’s primary missions is transforming his hometown Detroit and 2nd home Cleveland, through investment into a wide range of businesses, real estate, philanthropy and leadership. Gilbert has moved and created nearly 17,000 full-time jobs in downtown Detroit over the past six years and employs nearly 3,000 in Cleveland. Gilbert’s portfolio of more than 100 affiliated companies employ more than 30,000 people across the country. To learn about Dan’s “ISMs”, unique philosophy and leading culture that drives success across Gilbert’s family of companies, click here:

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March 5, 2015

Statement On Detroit’s Hudson’s Site

DETROIT, Thursday March 5, 2015

We did not expect that an extensive report of an earlier design concept of the Hudson’s site would appear in the media. Since it did appear, we are releasing this more refined conceptual rendering looking north on Woodward Avenue near Gratiot. While we are excited about the direction of this concept, it is important to note that the design of the beloved Hudson’s site on Woodward Avenue in the heart of downtown Detroit is still evolving. All of us in our entire family of companies as well as our two architectural firms, NYC-based SHoP Architects and Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates are committed to getting this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right for the landscape and citizens of Detroit. It is critical that we remain extremely thoughtful in every aspect of this project—from the programming we include to the financing—and most importantly; the design and architecture of a building that will be standing as a one-of-a-kind, destination for current and future generations of Detroiters and visitors alike.

 We hope to announce the final design and details about the Hudson’s site project this calendar year. In the meantime, we have much work to do with public and private stakeholders. We are more than excited and feel fortunate that we have the opportunity to redevelop one of the key landmark locations in downtown Detroit. As we have stated in the past, our vision is to develop an iconic building that will have some ties to Detroit’s past, but more importantly, represent Detroit’s rebirth into a creative and high-tech future. We are determined to develop this property for the benefit and enjoyment of all Detroiters and visitors from everywhere. Everyone involved in this project is very passionate about it and we cannot wait to get to work.

(Click photo below for full-size image)


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November 7, 2014

Dan Gilbert’s Statement on Detroit Leaving Bankruptcy

DETROIT, November 7, 2014

Today marks a monumental day in Detroit’s history. Now that the slate is clean, it is time for all of Detroit to get back to business.

We must continue building the kind of environment that allows jobs and wealth to be created. At the end of the day, the only thing that will enable the city to be fiscally responsible and experience significant growth is to develop a positive climate that encourages innovation at all levels.

I am certain Detroit and Detroiters will bring their best game and show the rest of the world what we are capable of achieving. There is no doubt that if we work together and open ourselves up to the creative ideas and exciting opportunities all around us, Detroit will inspire people from within and beyond its borders to transform our city into one of the biggest success stories of the 21st century.


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October 9, 2014

Updated Rock Ventures Statement On Wayne County Jail Situation


We appreciate the Commission’s interest and openness in seeking the best outcome for the criminal justice complex. This is a very challenging situation that has been handed to the Commission.

Detroit is at a critical and monumentally important juncture at this point in time here in late 2014. We are coming out of bankruptcy while investment, interest and enthusiasm in downtown is at a 60-year peak.

Detroit has made some very short-sighted important decisions that have caused negative repercussions and cut off untold opportunity for many decades.

If we could have the decision back of locating the RenCen along the river (with a massive berm in front of it in the pre-GM days) versus in the heart of downtown, would we take it back?

If we could have the decision back of locating the casinos in three spread out locations versus lining them up on Woodward or the river so their impact would have been more significant in the surrounding area and district, would we take it back?

If we could have the decision back of building the People Mover 25 feet up in the air with a one-way loop versus a grade-level, curb-side, two-directional mass transit system, would we take it back?

For that matter, if we could take back the decision to tear out one of the country’s most robust streetcar systems in the 1950s would we take it back?

If we could take the decision of creating a barrier in the form of I-375 that tore apart the core of the city versus keeping it at grade, as is currently being intelligently considered, would we take it back?

And if we could take back the decision to tear out the vibrant Black Bottom neighborhood that once thrived in the path of I-375, would we take it back?

Critical decisions like the location of the jail cannot be measured solely by numbers on today’s spreadsheets. They must be measured through the prism of what opportunity, vision and ultimate value would be created in an alternative scenario. Keep in mind that no major decision related to land use in a busy thriving and growing urban core can be made in a silo without understanding how one big piece of the puzzle fits with all of the other pieces.

Whether Rock Ventures or another party ultimately develops the Gratiot site is not important. What is important is that we get it right for all of Detroit – its citizens, businesses and community.

We believe that all stakeholders need to be involved and accountable in identifying the best outcome and we look forward to being a part of that process.

Ultimately, the right solution will responsibly balance the needs of the county and its constituents with the economic  development and job creation opportunities that this important gateway to downtown represents.  We remain convinced that the correct solution does not include a new hulking jail on the Gratiot site.  This decision is too important to the future of our city, county and region to miss another opportunity to do the right thing.

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September 11, 2014

Rock Ventures Statement On Wayne County Jail Situation

The prospect of building a brand new 400 million dollar jail as the ‘welcoming’ structure at the gateway to downtown just off the busiest freeway exit into our urban core at the very same time Detroit’s center is undergoing an unprecedented positive transformation should outrage every single citizen, business and government official of our great city. At the exact moment we finally have the momentum and scale to overcome decades of decline as well as the increasingly inaccurate image and perception of Detroit being a crime-ridden decaying city, it is unfathomable there is even a thought of continuing on with a project that would put a massive county jail at the foot of the entry to downtown.

This critical land must be developed into uses that are consistent with a city that is on the rise and creating the environment to attract brain-economy companies and the kind of high-wage jobs that these businesses produce as well as residential and commercial projects that accompany this kind of growth.

Detroiters deserve better than local leaders moving forward with a short-sighted reckless plan because it may be viewed as an easier path at this point in time. Let me not mince words: Building this jail at this crucial location would be nothing short of an unmitigated disaster that will echo with negative implications for downtown and the city for decades to come. There are several well-thought out alternatives that are light years better for Detroit and Wayne County that over the long run will also be economically favorable as well. It’s a new day in Detroit and it is time we start learning from some of the senseless and illogical bad decisions of the past by not repeating them. It is clear that locating a major brand new jail at the foot of the busiest gateway to downtown Detroit would rank among this region’s worst decisions of all-time. All of us: The county, city, state, business community and citizens must come together and do much better than implementing a long-term abhorrent plan for the gateway to downtown Detroit.

Dan Gilbert
Rock Ventures

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July 15, 2014

I’m Hoping It’s ‘Smart’ to Invest in ‘Genius’

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January 14, 2014

Snow, Creativity & The Fresh Start of 2014…#1 of 99

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January 4, 2013

Greatness in 2013

Yesterday, I sent out the note below in an email to more than 10,000 of our team members throughout our family of companies. Enjoy! -Dan G.

Welcome to 2013. It’s a year. But it’s also a place. A place where you will be spending another 361 days beginning today and ending next December 31st. So, since you are going to be here anyway, why not be the best possible __________________ you can be?! (Fill in the blank yourself).

Do you want to achieve greatness this year? Do you really? What is greatness to you? It can’t be just OK. It certainly can’t be mediocrity. And it can’t even be good. Good is good. But great is GREAT. And greatness is rare. It stands out. Greatness is obvious to anybody who comes across it because it is not something that they see every single day. Greatness is defined through its own prism. You just know it when you see it. There are no doubts. It’s not a kinda/sorta type of thing. You don’t argue with people about it. Greatness is one of those things that most people will say that they want, but only very few are willing to pay the price to achieve it.

magnitudo se ipsa cognoscit; “greatness knows itself”

And the price for greatness is very high.

How could it not be? How could something so rare, so impactful and so valuable not have a high price to achieving it? I believe that every single one of us has the potential to be great at something or even several things.

So why don’t more people achieve greatness? Because they either don’t believe that they can ever achieve it and/or they are simply not willing to pay the high price tag that comes along with it.

I made a decision over the holidays to motivate as many people as I can to achieve greatness. I am looking for people who have big ideas and visions of things and are also motivated enough to pay the price to turn those dreams into reality. People who simply will not STOP when the inevitable roadblocks, challenges and horizontal gravity gets in the way of their mission.

This is hard stuff. Very hard stuff.

You say you want greatness? But what are you willing to pay for it?

To be great at something you have to embed yourself in the mission. You have to nearly be possessed by the calling. You have to know in your heart of hearts that you WILL achieve the picture in your mind that you can see so clearly. You have to sacrifice. Time is the most valuable thing of all and without investing a large portion of your valuable time, greatness will not happen.

But the price of greatness is more than time. You have to also choose to do the hard thinking that greatness requires of you. Not just random, once-every-so-often thoughts, but deep thinking. And thinking is hard. Thinking is work. Thinking is a choice.

You must create and innovate to achieve greatness. And this is the hardest and most elusive part.

Where does creativity and original thought come from?

It comes from a mind that sees no boundaries. Sees no barriers. Sees no reasons why something cannot be done. Creativity comes from the part of you that sees and knows how to take what already is in this world and melds it with your thoughts producing something completely new and original.

I heard someone recently say that it is no coincidence that we start kindergarten using a set of 64 colorful crayons and graduate with one sharpened #2 pencil. You see, somewhere along the way we were taught that big dreams, visions and those crazy thoughts in our mind are for young kids not the real world where reality is beige and gray, steady but boring.

Only one small problem with that thinking: It’s WRONG.

Look around you. Really look. Pause. Take a moment and see all of the possibilities. See all of the crayons that are actually still there. I hope and want all of you to achieve your vision of greatness in something this year. It doesn’t matter what it is because once you have crossed the chasm into the land of possibility you aren’t going to come back. And then your dream will turn into beliefs. And your beliefs will evolve into knowing. And once you know, then it is only a matter of time before they become real.

This brings me to the introduction of our first new ISM in more than five long years. You know we take these things seriously. Our ISMS are the core beliefs that guide us like a compass and serve as our philosophy and the foundation that firmly sits under our strategy, tactics and decision-making.

Our ISMS are WHO we are. And what we do is secondary to who we are.

This new ISM has shown itself over time and it became very clear to me that it covers a belief and philosophy that our other ISMS do not.

To create, to innovate, to begin the process of putting new and original thought into play we must accept the concept of:

“Yes Before No”

The Definition

New Dan Gilbert ISM: Yes before NoIt’s critically important that we live the culture of Yes. This does not mean that every single idea, question, suggestion or recommendation will ultimately be met with a big thumbs up. But it does mean that we respond to all curiosity with the mindset of Yes first.

Our bias is to the Yes side of life. This is in stark contrast to the all too common approach of NO being the automatic reaction to any expression of an inquiring mind.

Just because saying NO is easier.

The status quo is not our favorite state. We live in the land of growth, possibilities, ideas, innovation, positive impact and results. And the only path to that place is through openness to the unknown… So Yes before no. And no only if we have done the work and exhausted all the potential of Yes first.

So there you have it folks. We are on a journey together to achieve numerous examples of greatness in 2013 and beyond. I have no doubt that the things we can achieve are only limited by the size of the dreams we choose for ourselves and all of the people around us. It will not be easy. It will require thought, dedication and time… fueled by creativity and innovation.

And you need to start off with a “Yes before No” mindset.

Just imagine what can be and make it so…

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December 3, 2012

27 Things I've Learned in 27 Years

For Quicken Loans’ 25th anniversary in 2010, I shared “25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years” with you here on my blog. Two years have passed and I have since revisited my list of lessons about business and life.

Today, I present to you a new and improved list, filled with things I’ve learned over the past 27 years.


-Dan G.


Don’t get distracted by people who want you to review the receipts for the paint brushes. Your job is to paint.


Building anything great is messy.


The one who tells you there is food on your face is your friend.


The price of knowing is often way too high.


Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. (Thanks Albert E.!)


Spreadsheets are for measuring the past, not the future. Remember, 57.392% of statistics are made up on the spot.


The more you give, the more you get. It’s as simple as that.


Winning on the hard stuff does not make the easy stuff easy.


It’s not so frickin’ funny when it’s you, is it?


There is no better joy than helping people around you go to levels higher than they ever thought they could.


Working longer hours does not automatically make you more successful. Working smarter does.


People who are constantly negative, pessimistic and cynical are not spewing their venom towards you or your ideas. They are talking about themselves. Never forget that.


The little things DO matter. Especially to people.


Think big, huge, large, enormous, immense, jumbo, walloping, gigantic, king sized, mammoth, massive, thundering. You have to think anyway… so why not?


Try to please everyone all of the time, and you will end up pleasing no one most of the time.


Be curious.


Any ounce of energy you spend regretting mistakes you made in the past is taking away energy you need from doing things right in the present.


Nothing great and long-lasting is built overnight, but you MUST take the first step NOW.


Appreciate everything.


Light yourself on “fire,” and many people will join your mission.


I never learned anything talking.


Thinking (going deep) about problems, challenges, new ways of doing things and creativity is one of THE hardest things you will ever do. It also will bring you the finest results.


There is always a way to turn a problem into an opportunity. Find it.


Some people WILL NEVER get it. Get them out of your team, club, house, life, etc… and both of you will be happier.


If you believe tomorrow will be even more exciting than today, then you have discovered what passion really means.


Nothing clarifies like clarity.


When you love what you do, there is no such thing as “work.”

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August 19, 2011

An Idea to Get Our Economy Moving Ahead Quickly

I believe there is a quick, easy, no-brainer initiative that both Republicans and Democrats could get behind and would have an immediate significant and positive impact on the U.S. economy, create millions of jobs and have zero negative effect on the federal budget.

We are currently in a state where cash is at an all time high on the balance sheets of U.S. corporations, banks and a smaller amount of individuals.  But for various reasons, including unstable markets, fears of a double dip recession, and general economic uncertainty, this capital is not being actively invested to grow the economy and create jobs.

In addition, the returns on this capital are, ironically, also at historical lows due to the unprecedented low interest rate environment and fearful investment climate that exists today.

So, we have enormous amounts of capital sitting on the sidelines providing almost no return, in a significantly challenged economy that is in dire need of job-producing capital investment.

The Proposal

Congress passes and the president signs a bill reducing the capital gains tax to 0% on any new capital investment beginning immediately and made through the end of 2012, with certain important stipulations (which I will explain in a moment), if the investment is held for two years or longer. It would not matter how long after the two year holding period the investor realized profits on his investment for the 0% tax rate to apply to the gain as long as the investment was made after the enactment of the legislation and is this type of investment:

  1. All NEW capital investment made by corporations, partnerships and individuals for newly issued shares of stock in both private and public companies (including start-up businesses) after the enactment of the capital gains legislation.
  2. All NEW investments made by corporations, partnerships and individuals purchased after the enactment of the new capital gains legislation for all new capital assets.
  3. All NEW construction real estate, both commercial and residential by corporations, partnerships and individuals developed after the enactment of the new capital gains legislation.
  4. All NEW capital improvements made by corporations, partnerships and individuals to existing real estate, both commercial and residential, made after the enactment of the new capital gains legislation.

The 0% capital gains rate would NOT apply to:

  1. The sale of any stock, bond, etc. (private or public) that existed prior to the enactment of the new capital gains tax.
  2. The sale of any capital asset, including real estate, that existed prior to the enactment of the new capital gains tax.
  3. Any and all capital gains realized on any asset purchased prior to the enactment of the new capital gains legislation and sold after the enactment of the new legislation.

In other words, this special capital gains tax rate would only apply to new job-producing investments made after the enactment of the legislation. It would not apply to gains on investments that were made prior to the enactment of the legislation.

It would also not apply to the mere exchange of capital assets that existed prior to the enactment of the legislation, but were both purchased and sold after the enactment of the legislation or purchased before and sold after the new legislation.

This simple approach highly incentivizes the movement of the enormous amount of dead capital from the sidelines into the economy in the form of desperately needed new job-producing long-term capital investment with no negative effect on the federal budget and without any windfalls to those who only trade existing capital assets.

Seems like a win all around and one both Democrats and Republicans can get behind in a bi-partisan manner that would also have the residual effect of boosting confidence in Washington, which is as desperately needed as new job-producing capital investment is needed in the economy.

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