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

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…

Posted by: in ISMs | Comments (9)


  • Comment by Jason Schmitt — January 4, 2013 @ 4:04 pm:

    Yes. Well said. Positivity brings with it more positivity: like attracts like. And progress often begins with positive emotions. Glad this ISM addition didn’t affect the pumpkin carving.

  • Comment by Nick — April 2, 2013 @ 9:19 pm:

    This article says it ALL. I sit here and work harder and think harder than anyone I know. I don’t sleep…I passout because of my drive to achieve to my goals. I just don’t think some get it. The world is filled with people who stopped believing…that don’t challenge themselves…that when they hit the roadblocks they can’t overcome, BUT like you said when you make the shift…you see the whole world from a different angle or through another lense. It’s powerful and sometimes lonely but understand its PRECIOUS! Thanks for the words of encouragment.

  • Comment by Kimberly Novotney — April 18, 2013 @ 10:44 am:

    Thanks for these words, Mr. Gilbert. I am working very hard to start up a business and your insights are extremely valuable. Often, it isn’t clear where the money will come from or if the financing will go through, but I believe that pushing forward at all costs is the one true activity any entrepreneur must understand….keep imagining and make it happen.

    All the best, Kim Novotney, Cleveland Ohio

  • Comment by monika hardy — April 23, 2013 @ 1:10 pm:

    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.

    or.. perhaps..
    1. people don’t believe it’s legal to think for themselves
    2. in or current zombie sate – we experience too much time lapse between figuring out what matters to a us (everyday), and finding our (local) people (everyday)

    imagining – a narrative for 100% of humanity – embedded in disruptive sustainability…

  • Comment by Dani Perenchio — August 9, 2013 @ 1:15 pm:

    I say yes…I have the drive and passion and ideas to reach out to and help the neighborhood residents of Detroit like they have helped my family since my Father worked with them as a salesman for Barney Brack Co. delivering beauty supplies. He was able to raise 9 children because of their unfailing trust and loyalty to him and I am ready to help you serve them.

  • Comment by L. D. Wrice — August 20, 2013 @ 3:22 pm:

    “…thinking is hard. Thinking is work. Thinking is a choice.”

    This is very true. Once you have control over your mindset, the skies the limit. In today’s society, it seems that there is not much time to spend time on what really matters. To tell someone to sit and think DEEPLY is like asking them to prepare a full course meal after a long day’s work! But in order to be GREAT, you MUST take time out for yourself. Spend time with your MIND! When you do that, GROWTH COMETH!

    The “YES BEFORE NO” concept here made me do a DOUBLE TAKE! Many of us are conditioned to set our boundaries and learn how to say NO. But I liked the way you used YES with CURIOSITY. I never realized it, but many of the opportunities I took was out of curiosity and the fact that the person(s) who approached me believe that I could perform the projects successfully.

    Anyway, thanks for being such a phenomenal leader. It’s great to receive something from your leader encouraging you to BE BETTER. DO BETTER. BE GREAT!

    Now that’s AWESOME!

  • Comment by Kareese Watson — September 4, 2013 @ 11:38 am:

    A Young Detroit Professional, starting with a “Yes before No”mindset, inspired by Dan Gilbert.

    It brought tears to my eyes as I read a blog article written by Dan Gilbert entitled, “Greatness in 2013”. The reason it touched me the way it did is because I have been contemplating reaching out to Dan Gilbert all year to inquire about partnering up with him to help people in a great way. And to come across this article at this time in my life, is very crucial.

    In the article he states, “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.” Here I am a 26-year old single mother in Detroit who has had a remarkable amount of hardships come my way and still strive for the best that I can be and do for my child, and I finally read something from a prestigious person who understands that there are GREAT people that may not have it all together but they KNOW that they possess great strategic ideas.

    I have recently become an employee within Downtown Detroit. I see so much change and innovation within my city, that it drives me everyday. I even have a bumper sticker on my car that states, “Detroit Moves Me”, that I purchased from the Detroit Art Shoppe. The newness that Dan Gilbert has brought and rearranged in Detroit is very inspiring as well as motivating. I hope that he gets a chance to read this and see how he has inspired me. I would like to sit down with him and share an idea as to how I can help to ENHANCE Detroit as he has. I choose the word enhance because it means to intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of. I truly believe that Detroit has a lot of creative and innovative Natives, and all we have to do is enhance what we already know we are capable of doing. Thanks Dan and everyone else who believes in the positive individuals of this great city!!!

  • Comment by Eddie — September 17, 2013 @ 10:38 am:

    Motivating and always inspiring Mr. Gilbert – Thank you!
    BTW: I achieve greatness each day. I pay the price every day and so does my family because they believe in me. I have some ideas for Detroit and your company that will allow for some of my dreams to come true and I will continue to work at trying to share one of those ideas with you Mr. Gilbert soon. I will push forward each day because it will be good for you, for Detroit and yes it’s also going to be good for me.

  • Comment by buddy — January 30, 2014 @ 1:21 pm:

    Yes! Awesome! Thanks, Dan!

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