How to Stir Blood

How to Stir Blood

“Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

This powerful quote is from Daniel Burnham, the man who planned Chicago and several other major cities. During his time the field of urban planning did not exist. Some say he invented it. Many believed Burnham’s ideas were impossible.

But Burnham believed in big plans. He declared that Chicago should be a city where every citizen is within walking distance of a park. He envisioned it “Paris on the Prairie”.

Thinking big is scary. Small goals are safe. But they don’t stir men’s blood (or women’s for that matter!)

When it is first introduced, people will rally around a huge goal that will propel them to excellence. They are excited, motivated and ready to go. But then, slowly, fear starts creeping in.

The excuses come out. “We just have to wait until we get X piece of equipment to do that.” “Once we get someone hired into X position we will tackle that.” And before you know it, the big, scary goal is gone and they settle into small, safe thinking.  They settle for mediocrity. 

Unfortunately, the more they settle for mediocrity, the more they convince themselves it is excellence. Good becomes good enough, and the decree of “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” takes over.


Don’t let “realistic” keep you from dreaming big. I was with a group last week brainstorming how to inspire new long-term care leaders to embrace culture change. This was our first meeting and we had one ground rule: Nothing is impossible and everything is on the table for discussion! 

I’m not sure we ever would have touched on some topics had we not been freed from the usual, “realistic” thinking. We decided if a regulation was in our way, we would change it; if funding was needed, we would find it.

Make a commitment to stop allowing fear to run your organization. Fear of regulators, lawsuits, and the unknown all creep into the big dream and try to shrink it to something more practical and safer.  Don’t allow that to happen!

Establish the initial steps.  Big change can overwhelm, leading to no change.  The important thing is to take some action and move towards the dream.

Get out and find out what is going on in cutting edge organizations around you. Not only will they inspire you, but you will also gain a support system for when your motivation is running low.

Make big plans…create the magic that will stir blood!


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