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Make the Impossible Possible: One Man's Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary Hardcover – December 31, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Community activist and MacArthur fellow Strickland explains the jazz expression tell your story as playing that doesn't just display your virtuosity, but also gives the audience a glimpse of your soul. He succeeds in doing just that. We get the virtuosity: he was an African-American kid from Pittsburgh's inner city who at 19 established what became Manchester-Bidwell, the now famous arts and job-training center for disadvantaged kids and adults. And we get the soul: he was spurred on by a mother who taught him to polish a wood floor until it gleamed no matter what was going on in the streets outside; an art teacher who believed in the aimless boy; a classroom where coffee brewed, jazz played softly, and he had the transformative experience of throwing his first clay pot. It's the American dream with a twist: for Strickland, it was never about shedding his past and getting ahead but about following his bliss and making a difference. Which is not to say the skilled fund-raiser isn't savvy. He touts the value of a Brooks Brothers suit and knowing the right people. Unfortunately, we don't learn how Strickland's philosophy of making the impossible possible applies to his—or our—personal lives. (Dec. 31)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Acclaim for Make the Impossible Possible

“Passionate. Inspirational. Hopeful. Optimistic. Powerful. Compelling. And most important— it works . . . Here is the cure to what ails this country. Take it home. Read it. Then live it.” —Alan M. Webber, founding editor, Fast Company magazine

“Bill Strickland is a genius, because he sees the inherent genius in everyone. Bill’s ability to inspire hope is powerful, universal, and world changing. Make the Impossible Possible will show you how you can achieve even your wildest dreams. Bravo!”
—Jeff Skoll, first president of eBay, founder and chairman, Skoll Foundation

“I have lived a jazz life for the better part of my 95 years, but it was not until I read Bill’s book that I truly understood the influence that jazz has had on my success.…Kudos to Bill who has not only put into words what I have always felt in my heart, but who has also laid out a path that others can follow.”
— John Levy, NEA Jazz Master, manager of Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, and many others.

"We often hear the word inspire, likely allowing it to pass and not sink in our psyche.
However we often will never forget things that inspire us. A visit to see Bill Strickland's concept in Pittsburgh was one of those events for me. Now you can read about how he was driven to build it.” —Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Steelcase, Inc.

“Are you yearning to pursue what others say is an unrealistic or impractical dream? This is the book for you. By telling his remarkable story, Bill Strickland shows us that an impossible notion is just an idea nobody had the guts to try.  With great flair and amazing range—you'll read about jazz, pottery, airplanes, even orchids!—he reveals how each of us can change our part of the world. Like the man who wrote it, this book is inspired and inspiring.” —Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of A Whole New Mind

“Bill Strickland could sell anything . . . Read this book and you'll understand why he is such an inspiration to practicing and aspiring entrepreneurs.” —James Heskett, Harvard Business School

"This is a provocative tale of meaning and substance about Bill Strickland's life and endeavors. At its heart, it's a story about greatness -- and the relentless pursuit of making the world a better place. One person. One town. One moment at a time. As we read it, it's humbling -- could we ever dare attempt something as profound as Bill has? His message on this point is quite clear: Within each of us is this greatness to be unleashed."
- Keith Yamashita, Chairman, Stone Yamashita Partners

“One of the most innovative social enterprise thinkers I have ever met. The ‘Strickland’ thought process is that of a highly trained jazz musician, coupled with a keen business sense . . . He is definitely one of my major heroes.”
 —Quincy Jones

“The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is a testament to the power of the arts to transform children’s lives. Its students learn much more than how to shape clay, take pictures, and appreciate jazz. They leave the Guild knowing that they have the potential and tools to become successful and productive citizens.”
—Hillary Rodham Clinton

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; First Edition edition (December 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385520549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385520546
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Before purchasing this book, I was lucky enough to hear Bill Strickland speak at a conference luncheon in Chicago. Prior to the speech I had never heard of the guy, and therefore didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't imagine I'd witness possibly the best, most uplifting speech I've ever heard in my life. When Strickland mentioned in his talk that he had a book being released, and that he wanted his book to zoom to No. 1 on the best-sellers list, I sat in my chair with the immediate thought that I'd be more than obliged to help him out with his goal. Frankly, the more people who know about this man and his message, the better off the world will be.

Like his speaking style, Strickland's words on paper are fairly plainspoken and to the point. He's accomplished some amazing things and is a beacon of inspiration, but onstage and in book form, Strickland won't necessarily wow you with dazzling buzz words or an excitable manner. Thankfully, he steers clear of religion and the clichéd "10 Steps" a person needs to follow in order to become an overnight sensation. Instead of rehashing the usual banter, Strickland tells the story of his life. He believes people need to follow success on their own terms, using their heart and mind as a guide. In this world of high-strung, fake, successful know-it-all types who believe they have all the answers, I frankly find Strickland's laid-back persona very refreshing and appealing. To be honest, while watching him talk and after reading his book, I couldn't help but wish that more people like Strickland would get into politics or even run for president.

So what is Strickland's main message?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bill Strickland first got my attention when I read an article where he said he saw no difference between artists and entrepreneurs. My thoughts exactly. It wasn't until someone alerted me to this amazing autobiography, that I learned the story that led him to that wise observation.

Strickland's turning point began the moment he followed his teenaged curiosity into Frank Ross's art classroom and was invited to try his hand at throwing a pot. In this calm and inspiring classroom, Strickland realized that life had much to teach and he became an enthusiastic learner. Like a true creative student, he was influenced by a wide array of people and things. Frank Lloyd Wright, jazz and orchids all become part of this story. Happily, he passes on what he learned along with this fascinating story of starting small and dreaming big.

This is the best kind of story...the kind that shows what can happen when we refuse to give up on our wildest dreams. Unlike many success manuals, there's nothing sappy about Strickland's path from ghetto kid to community force for good. He won't tell you how to make a million dollars, but he will show you how to find your own path and purpose. In our information-drenched world, it's also wonderful to read a story that shows us that inspiration matters every bit as much as information. Bill Strickland is a man worth knowing.
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Format: Hardcover
I had seen Bill Strickland speak and was absolutely blown away. This book hits me the same way. Here is a man who, through hard work and an unbridled passion, has empowered thousands of people to create better lives for themselves, many of whom were the discarded and disenfranchised of our poorest neighborhoods. I can just imagine what our leaders in companies, government and schools if they could harness just a fraction of Strickland's beliefs and leadership practices. And it is my belief that, by reading this book, you will change your life, and in the process, change others along the way.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have found yourself far enough down a path of curiosity to be reading a review of this book, waste no more time, and buy it or borrow it now. Bill Strickland is an artist extraordinaire, and his medium is life. Yes, Frank Ross, a high school ceramics teacher, turned a desperate street kid into an inspired and aspiring student by introducing him to pottery, which gave him direction and a dream. But the unrelenting pursuit of his passions, and the commitment and creative energy he has used to fuel that dream have woven a moving story of such power, emotion, and soaring success as to place him in the rarified air of any of the great artists of our time.

He shows how focusing on a life based on responsibility and passion can bring real purpose and help "understand what genuine success really means". And if this guy is anything, he is successful. Wow. The list of accolades he has compiled is stunning. How about honorary doctorates from ten separate universities? When you read the story of the creation and history of his Manchester Bidwell Corp., you start to see why. Youth and adults with little to hope for, denied their dreams, often unemployed and financially desperate are finding hope here, growing award-winning orchids in the inner-city, discovering possibilities in a world-class arts center and learning the soul of jazz through the Grammy Award winning MCG jazz program, to mention just a few of his accomplishments. Bill's recipe for a gourmet life is on display daily in the classrooms of Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and in the centers he is starting to replicate around the country and the world. He is showing people how to build meaningful lives, and it works.
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