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293 of 307 people found the following review helpful
'. . . The objective of this book is to provide . . . the means to lift off from . . . struggle and sail into a vast universe of possibility.'
Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic and is well known for his orchestra's passionate performances. Rosamund Stone Zander is an executive coach, family therapist, and private practitioner who brings enormous psychological perspective to enhancing human behavior. They have written a fascinating book in which they alternate as voices in sharing principles and examples in the form of compelling stories.
They have striven to make what they share ' . . . simple, not easy.' The idea is to help you create in yourself and in others 'transformational' improvements.
They share a series of perspectives designed to improve your understanding of what and where the potential is.
First, humans tend to focus on very few things, missing most of what is going on around them. By shifting focus, you will see many opportunities for the first time. Much of this book is designed to do that for you. You will visit our old friend the nine dot square and be reminded that connecting all of the dots in four lines without lifting your writing instrument from the paper requires you to go outside the box that we mentally draw at the circumference of the dots. Be careful about your assumptions! They can fence you in!
Second, measurements can cause us to focus too narrowly on where we are today and encourage scarcity thinking -- the glass is half empty. The Zanders encourage thinking about the glass as half full, citing the well-known perspective of optimism as being empowering. This can help you 'step into a university of possibility.' I like to call this pursuing the ideal practice.
Third, if you assume that people will do well and help them see how they can, they will. Mr. Zander gives every student an A in his class, and simply requests that the student write a paper to tell what they will do to deserve the A. This gets the students focused on excellence, and takes away the tension that harms accomplishment.
Fourth, as a mindset, think of your role as 'being a contributor.' 'You are a gift to others.' How could that change what you do? As someone who thinks that way now, I find it a very useful perspective, and was glad to see it in the book.
Fifth, lead from any chair. This is a reference to involving everyone. Mr. Zander asks his players to write down how he could improve practices and peformances, and pays attention to the suggestions.
Sixth, follow rule number six. That rule is to 'lighten up.'
Seventh, be present to the ways things are. Many of us are disconnected from reality. By re-touching it, we can see more possiblities.
Eighth, give way to passion. Going with your strong feelings allows you to be more authentic, and to go to new heights of accomplishment.
Ninth, light a spark. See you role as creating a spark of possibility to be lit that others can see.
Tenth, be the board of the game you are playing. This makes it easier to see how you can make a difference.
Eleventh, create a vision that generates 'frameworks of possibility' for others. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous 'I Have a Dream' speech is cited.
Twelfth, tell the WE story. Focus on being inclusive and considering what is best for all. Move from I to We, as the Coda to the book encourages.
Each section has exercises you can use to deepen your understanding of the principles and to help you practice, in order to create greater skill.
The principles are similar to those in many other books about improving performance and creativity. What is different about the book are the unique ways that the principles are expressed, the exciting examples in beautiful stories from music and business that will be new to you (as they were to me), and the passion with which the Zanders write. I would love to hear them do this book on an audio cassette! Both do public speaking, so you may get a chance to hear them.
Can we ever get too many great inspirational stories and reminders to live up to our potential rather than our pasts? I don't think so. This book will reignite your passion for making a larger and more positive difference. It will make you more human as you do so.
After you have finished the book, consider where your passion, gifts, and influence can combine to all you to most effectively live these principles. Consider that as a calling for at least some of your leisure time. If you are lucky, you can find some way to make that a primary calling for your working hours, as well. But find that place, and spend as much time as you can there!
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119 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2001
My first impression upon picking up The Art of Possibility was that it would be "fluff." Wrong impression. Instead, this turned out to be a very powerful book that I'm glad to have read. The Zanders present a philosophy and strategy for seeing and living in our world from a standpoint of possibility rather than scarcity and restriction. They describe a set of practices that may sound trite from their chapter headings ("Giving an A") but which are backed up by lucid explanations and very moving anecdotes. (I don't usually go for books that rely so heavily on personal stories, but in this case they are quite inspiring and contribute significantly to the power of the book.)
The two authors come at the issues of leadership and personal growth from different perspectives: He from the point of view of an orchestra conductor, and She from that of a psychotherapist. Benjamin Zander fortunately does not try to make the threadbare comparison that being a conductor is like being a CEO; rather, he simply uses his personal experiences as a leader to help make his points with interesting examples related to his career as conductor.
It's a worthwhile read (and easy, too, at 200 pages) that at the very least is inspiring and enjoyable, but also likely to make positive changes in your life if you apply the practices the authors describe.
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
I bought this book on someone's recommendation, but it just sat on my shelf for a few months until Tom Peters mentioned the Zanders in one of his newsletters. I read his interview with them on his web site, went home, and read their book through in one sitting. It starts off unpromisingly: the first couple of chapters are brief and, I felt, rather platitudinous. But then the authors started illustrating their points with anecdotes, and it all became clear to me. Recognizing your assumptions and how they limit you, and being willing to expand your thinking beyond them to new possibilities, makes a major difference in how you deal with the challenges in your life. I also liked their positive approach -- too many of us get entrapped in "something's broken about me and I need to fix it." The Zanders are certainly not the first to articulate this point of view, but I felt that their illustrative examples made it much easier to understand. But you do have to THINK about what their stories imply; they don't give you "step 1, step 2" instructions on how to apply this philosophy to your own life. The book has already given me a different perspective on several aspects of my behavior that had been troubling me, and on that basis alone I'd recommend it to anyone.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2001
The Zander's redefine the way you look at things and view situations. I found the book to be a combination of art/creativity and psycho-analysis. Some of the principles I had a hard time really owning.
It reminds me a bit of Zen or Tao. Being in the present, not assigning blame, recognizing that is the way things are...
I couldn't read the book in one sitting. I found that it requires a lot of thought and reflection. Parts that I found inspirational were the white papers that were written by the musicians in response to a request from the conductor.
Some of the principles seemed to really line up well with the popular book from a few years ago "7 spiritual laws of success" by Deepak Chopra.
I would like to hear the authors read this as a book-on-tape, because I found myself thinking about things while I was trying to read. In a nutshell, the book says "put your life into a different playing field, Don't think win-win, think about making a contribution or about making a difference."
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
Although there were moments I was absolutely sucked into the book and inspired by the message, by the end I was ready for it to end. The opening chapter focuses on how reality is all made up and everything is subjective. I think anyone who has been to college will have heard these same arguments in about ten different classes - literature, psychology, sociology, and anthropology - and frankly, the book made it all sound very simplistic. They use a couple of scientific examples - and poof! They have a theory that serves as a basis for the rest of the book. It isn't very original or especially compelling.

Another problem was that almost all the real life examples Zander uses are about orchestra. I appreciate music, but I wished there could be more variety. I got sick of the repetition. Worst of all, almost all of Zander's personal stories are about times he did something amazing. At first I was impressed, but after a while, it sounded egotistical. He should have incorporated more examples from everyday people and avoided focusing on his own life so much. When the authors started suggesting solutions for ending terrorism, I was done. It was too over-the-top, too simplistic.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2010
I had to read this book for a course I took. I thought it was interesting although I didn't really feel like it spoke strongly to me. I also saw Ben deliver his presentation at a corporate retreat - entertaining for sure.

However, I recently witnessed Mr. Zander and his wife's behavior towards another passenger in the first class cabin of an airline. They were rude, self centered and generally uninspiring. The book and the message have now lost all meaning to me.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2004
In a glut of books on personal improvement, this is a breath of fresh air. Many of the illustrations were drawn from the world of classical music, and as a musician/lawyer, I found them particularly relevant and interesting. Nothing trite here, just great thoughts and useful examples that you will find nowhere else. When I read the book for the first time, I wondered whether a non-musician would be able to relate to a description of a Mahler symphony or Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. However, I used one of the examples in a recent speech to real estate professionals, and found that they were very interested in hearing about a string quartet (some probably for the very first time). The event made me realize that I love books that take me into a world in which I have never been, and I think many others have the same desire. So if you are not a musician, read this book, because you will be transported into the mind of a musician and the world of classical music. If you are a musician, you'll find yourself agreeing out loud with the musical examples.

This is not to say that the other examples are not relevant and interesting - they are, and they avoid the well-worn roads. I believe this husband and wife team have more to say, and I'm looking forward to their next books.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2000
Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and also presents leadership workshops widely in the business community. Rosamund Stone Zander is a family systems therapist in private practice. This unlikely combination of authors for a business text has written a refreshing and hopeful guide to personal and organizational transformation that results in innovative leadership. The book outlines twelve practices that anyone can use to create new possibilities in any situation. The Zander's wide personal experience illustrates each practice with unforgettable stories.
"Standard social and business practices are built on certain assumptions-shared understandings that have evolved from older beliefs and conditions. And while circumstances may have changed since the start of these practices, their continued use tends to reconfirm the old beliefs. For this reason our daily practices feel right and true to us, regardless of whether they have evolved to keep up with the pace of change. In just such a way a business culture arises and perpetuates itself, perhaps long after its usefulness has passed.
"This book offers practices that are transformational-practices that may feel `illogical' or counterintuitive to our normal understanding of how things operate. The purpose is to initiate a new approach to current conditions based on uncommon assumptions about the nature of the world. . ." p. 4
For anyone wishing to have fun, be creative and change their life and the life of organizations, the book is a must read. Practical, passionate and provocative, the book is for those who want to get more joy, fulfillment and pleasure out of life and be a contribution to the whole community of creation.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2002
Having been brought up in the north of England where stoicism is still more highly prized than emotional candour, I have always been suspicious of "self-help" books. Consequently when a collegue gave me a copy of The Art of Possibility, I approached it with some cynicism, or at least with scepticism.
I need not have worried because this is in no way a self-help book. Readers will find no quick fixes or tricks here, and so it is bound to disappoint those seeking psychological sticking-plasters (as we can see in a review below). Rather the Zanders offer sets of practices - "possibilities to live into" - which, due to the way society has conditioned us, are extremely demanding to put into practise. Each idea is illustrated with real life accounts from the Zanders to demonstrate the idea in action. Most impressive is the willingness and honesty with which the Zanders discuss their own faults and mistakes. This rather proves the point that the ideas they propose are in no way easy to perfect, in this less than perfect world. Just as in learning a musical instrument, or acquiring a new skill there are no shortcuts. However, as with most worthwhile skills, the effort is more than repaid by the consequences of living into possibility.
The greatest compliment that I can pay the Zanders is that I have read and re-read the book many times, and practice it every day. I can't claim to be successful, but in the attempt have created waves that continue to open up possibilities I would not have considered possible before I read this book.
I highly recommend The Art of Possibility to anybody seriously seeking to release their full potential from the control of our human conditioning.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2002
I purchased my first copy of "The Art of Possibility" after attending a Boston Philharmonic concert. After the concert, the authors were promoting their book. At one point, while I was uncertain, they offered to buy it for me and told me how important reading the book would be. Well, I am writing to tell you that that it has had a profound effect on me and I am thankful for their persistence. I have already purchased more than 10 copies for friends and business associates. I am thankful to the Zander's for sharing their stories with their readers. It is a timeless book that touches the very essence of being a human being and how to see things in a new light. I look forward to reading their next book!
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