Although I’m a lover of music and studied piano for many years, I never heard of Benjamin Zander until I heard Erwin McManus quote him after attending the 2008 TED conference. Mr. Zander’s TED talk is inspiring and does a great job summarizing the major themes of his book, The Art of Possibility, written with his wife, Rosamund Stone Zander. It may seem strange that an orchestra conductor and a family therapist published a book with Harvard Business School, but Mr. Zander is widely sought by large corporations to share his insights on leadership and on life.
The Art of Possibility describes 12 practices for seeing the possibilities in the situations we face rather than slide down the downward spiral. The principles are illustrated with personal stories about music or counseling from each co-author. Business intelligence professionals that use SAP BusinessObjects will smile when they read about the second practice, which is learning to step out of the “world of measurement” and “stepping into a universe of possibility”. Of course, both terms measurement and universe are loaded terms. I especially hope that I can internalize the lessons of the fifth practice, leading from any chair.
I had been conducting for nearly twenty years when it suddenly dawned on me that the conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound. His picture may appear on the cover of the CD in various dramatic poses, but his true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful.” [emphasis mine]
Like Mr. Zander, I want my life to be about awakening the possibility in other people. But Mr. Zander cautions
Although the practices we offer here are simple, the are not easy… Our practices will take a good deal more than three minutes to master. Additionally, everything you think and feel and see around you will argue against them. So it takes dedication, a leap of faith, and yes, practicing to get them into your repertoire.
The Art of Possibility is a book that I will read again, hoping that I make its practices my own. A highly recommended book.