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The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life Paperback – September 24, 2002
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The lure of this book's promise starts with the assumption in its title. Possibility--that big, all-encompassing, wide-open-door concept--is an art? Well, who doesn't want to be a skilled artist, whether in the director's chair, the boardroom, on the factory floor, or even just in dealing with life's everyday situations? Becoming an artist, however, requires discipline, and what the authors of The Art of Possibility offer is a set of practices designed to "initiate a new approach to current conditions, based on uncommon assumptions about the nature of the world."
If that sounds a little too airy-fairy for you, don't be put off; this is no mere self-improvement book, with a wimpy mandate to transform its readers into "nicer" people. Instead, it's a collection of illustrations and advice that suggests a way to change your entire outlook on life and, in the process, open up a new realm of possibility. Consider, for example, the practice of "Giving an A," whether to yourself or to others. Not intended as a way to measure someone's performance against standards, this practice instead recognizes that "the player who looks least engaged may be the most committed member of the group," and speaks to their passion rather than their cynicism. It creates possibility in an interaction and does away with power disparities to unite a team in its efforts. Or consider "Being the Board," where instead of defining yourself as a playing piece, or even as the strategist, you see yourself as the framework for the entire game. In this scenario, assigning blame or gaining control becomes futile, while seeking to become an instrument for effective partnerships becomes possible.
Packed with such examples of personal and professional interactions, the book presents complex ideas on perception and recognition in a readable, useable style. The authors' combined, eclectic experience in music and painting (as well as family therapy and executive workshops) infuses their examples with vibrant color and sound. The relevance to corporate situations and relationships is well developed, and they don't rely on dry case studies to do it. Indeed, this book assumes the emotional intelligence and desire to engage of its reader, promising access to the rewards of that door-opening notion--possibility--in return. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a lively, sensible manual for turning life's obstacles into possibilities, the Zanders introduce various "tools" for transformation, drawing on their extensive experiences with musicians, students and patients in therapy (Rosamund is a psychotherapist and painter; Benjamin is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic). In a chapter entitled "Giving an A," for example, Benjamin relates a classroom technique that allows students to envision their own futures: all students in his class receive an A if they write him a postdated letter relating "the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade." Other chapters emphasize practices such as thinking in terms of making a personal "contribution" rather than stark "success or failure"; "lightening up" in order to see a problem from a new perspective (e.g., a patient of Rosamund's was able to have a sensual experience with her husband even though she was angry at him); and reassessing "frameworks for possibility" (e.g., a teacher shaved her head in order to "reframe the meaning" of a hairless class member who had leukemia). The authors' emphasis on "practice," the importance of "flow" and the joy in creation and expression is apt and often truly inspiring. Although not groundbreaking, the Zanders' suggestions constitute sound, practical advice that has much in common with Zen concepts of holism, balance and grace.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.