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The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life Paperback – September 24, 2002
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"As applicable in the workplace as in an intimate relationship." —The Boston Globe
"In the presence of either Zander, one's spirit soars. Now they reveal their secrets in a deeply satisfying book. I guarantee you'll be inspired." —Gail Sheehy
"The passionate energy permeating The Art of Possibility is a true force for every reader for self-development and life fulfillment." —Klaus Schwab, founder and president, World Economic Forum
About the Author
ROSAMUND STONE ZANDER is the author of The Art of Possibility (with Benjamin Zander) and Pathways to Possibility. Trained as a family systems therapist, she coaches organizations from the inside out. Ms. Zander has brought wisdom, humor, and enlightenment to people in a wide variety of settings, from school systems, hospitals, and corporations to the World Economic Forum.
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The Art of Possibility is full of examples to emphasize that life works better when you have a positive mental outlook. The authors tell a story of two shoe factory salesmen exploring new markets in Africa. After assessing the situation, both send telegrams:
SITUATION HOPELESS. STOP. NO ONE WEARS SHOES.
GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. STOP. THEY HAVE NO SHOES.
"The one who sees no shoes, all the evidence points to hopelessness. To his colleague, the same conditions point to abundance and possibility," say the Zanders. Through easy to understand examples like this the authors drive home their point. I also liked the stories the Zanders share from their professions. Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Rosamund Stone Zander (nickname of "Roz" in the book) has a private practice in family therapy.
The Art of Possibility is more than just pie in the sky optimism. The Zanders recommend a realistic approach to negative thoughts and feelings. Their approach "doesn’t mean you should drown out your negative feelings or pretend you like what you really can’t stand. It doesn’t mean you should work to achieve some 'higher plane of existence' so you can 'transcend negativity'," they feel. "It simply means, being present without resistance: being present to what is happening and present to your reactions, no matter how intense. The capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility."
Reading the book led me to challenge some of my limiting beliefs. "We can replace the narratives that hold us back by inventing wiser stories, free from childish fears, and in doing so, disperse long-held psychological stumbling blocks," say the Zanders. Perhaps our interpretations of the events in our lives do not match reality. "We see a map of the world, not the world itself," the authors feel.
The book is about 200 pages, written in 12 chapters for 12 different practices. Most of the practices are perspective-practices that try to trigger you into a different way of thinking about yourself and about the world. For example, the practice of "Giving an A" is the practice that asks to always look at people from their potential perspective and avoid judging them directly. Always give an A to people... think the best of them and that will get out the best of them.
All other practices are similar. I find them useful, yet at times native. However, they aren't very concrete and they all kinda relate is seeing the world from the perspective of... possibility.
As described above, this book is filled with rich, uplifting stories that help us look at our lives, both personal and professional under new paradigms. These paradigms will help unlock more potential as well as improve well being both physical and mental.
An inspiring and enjoyable read!
Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:
1- "The lesson I learned is that the player who looks least engaged, may be the most committed member of the group. A cynic, after all, is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again."
2- "We keep looking so hard in life for the "specific message," and yet we are blinded to the fact that the message is all around us, and within us all the time. We just have to stop demanding that it be on our terms and conditions, and instead open ourselves to the possibility that what we seek may be in front of us all the time."
3- "Now, in light of my "discovery", I began to shift my attention to how effective I was at enabling the musicians to play each phrase as beautifully as they were capable. This concern had rarely surfaced when my position appeared to give me absolute power and I had cast the players as mere instruments of my will."
4- "Humor can bring us together around our inescapable foibles, confusions, and miscommunications, and especially over the ways in which we find ourselves acting entitled and demanding, or putting people down, or flying into each other's throats."
5- "When one person peels away layers of opinion, entitlement, pride, and inflated self-description, others instantly feel the connection."
6- "The practice in this chapter is an antidote both to the hopeless resignation of the cow and to the spluttering resistance of the duck. It is to be present to the way things are, including our feelings about the way things are. This practice can help us clarifu the next step that will take us in the direction we say we want to go."
7- "There is viability, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine ow good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open" - Martha Graham
8- "Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again."
9- "Love is neither about self-determination nor sacrifice. It is a context in which two people build the life they want together. Strength and independence are qualities that can enhance a relationship."
10- "In the realm of possibility, there is no division between ideas and action, mind and body, dream and reality. Leaders who become their vision often seem uncommonly brave to the rest of us. Whether from the middle of the action, or from the sidelines, they are a conduit for carrying the vision forward."
11- "...A vision releases us from the weight and confusion of local problems and concerns, and allows us to see the long clear line."