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01.2008 The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

By Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

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.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • spande2 January 2, 2008, 9:47 am

    It sounds like a great book, Alison. Right now, though, I’m trying to finish reading my dad’s personal history, Glenn Beck’s “An Inconvenient Book”, “The House of Seven Gables” and “Mere Christianity”. Then there are the read aloud novels the girls and I are working on. (Currently, “Abel’s Island”.) We have started way too many books this year and we’re trying to finish everything we’ve started. So far we’ve finished “The Forgotten Carols”, “A Christmas Carol”, “The Children of Noisy Village” and numerous picture books. We’re trying to finish the one I said we’re working on and then “Jane of Lantern Hill”, then “Hitty: Her First Hundred Years”. After we finish all of those, we’ll be caught up and I’ll buy this book. I just wanted you to know it is on my list. 🙂

  • spitfire January 2, 2008, 7:29 pm


    I read this book several years ago (published in 2000) after a friend, who happens to be a psychologist as well, recommended it. As I recall, I found it very easy to read & extremely intriguing. Particularly from the standpoint of the marriage & partnership of the authors, one (Benjamin) a conducter for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra & the other (Rosamund) a skill psychotherapist & artist. I found the fusion of their two worlds & along with their insights to be unique & refreshing. It is a good read for anyone & especially for anyone whose mind is open to change. Good pick, I will probably re-read it at your prompting. Have to dig it out of the stack of books to be shelved!!!

  • Lewis_Family January 3, 2008, 5:45 pm

    What is the difference between a phantom user and a guest user?

  • Alison Moore Smith January 3, 2008, 10:52 pm

    A guest is someone who isn’t logged in–they also may not even be registered, they’re just lurking. A phantom user is someone who is registered and logged in, but selected the option that their name not show up when they are online.

  • Lewis_Family January 4, 2008, 3:04 pm

    Interesting 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith January 7, 2008, 4:49 pm

    Kristen, of course this is optional reading! Enjoy the other books you’ve got. I’m getting a hoot out of “An Inconvenient Book.” I’m on the chapter about oil right now. Fits right in with the conservation thread, below.

    I just ordered this month’s book a few minutes ago. But all who are reading, please jump in with some ideas presented! I’d love to get started thinking about it. I’ve been really working on my goals this week and am excited for “the possibility” for 2008 to be a year of serious change in my life.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2008, 11:01 am

    Started reading this last night. Got a little bogged down in the introduction, but the last bit is worth a read.

    Now I’m in the first chapter that discusses perception. Some good insights.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 21, 2008, 11:06 pm

    Comments on the following quotes?

    …no matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. So, if there are absolutes, we have no direct access to their existence. The mind constructs. The meanings our minds construct may be widely shared and sustaining for us, but they may have little to do with the world itself. Furthermore, how do we know?

    The frames our minds create define–and confine–what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.

  • Lewis_Family January 22, 2008, 10:10 am

    This book just did not pick up huh… Must be all the effort is being put forth into resolutions instead of reading 😉

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2008, 5:44 pm

    Posted By: Lewis_FamilyThis book just did not pick up huh…


    So far, I’m fining the book interesting but unnecessarily obtuse. I’m finding Rosamund much more readable than Benjamin.

  • Lewis_Family January 23, 2008, 12:52 pm

    Sorry, to clarify I meant that nobody is really taking time to discuss it, I don’t know if they are reading it, but in past book clubs you have doen I notice more traffic and comments. That was what I meant by my comment.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 24, 2008, 1:42 pm

    OK, so who recommended this book? It was one of you, and I can find out! There should be at least TWO of us slogging through it!

    Now that I’ve said that, once I got past the intro and the first two explanatory chapters, I’m quite enjoying it. I’m on “Giving an A.” Anyone else?

  • Alison Moore Smith January 28, 2008, 10:50 pm

    FYI, I’m still reading and quite enjoying the book now. Now whoever recommended it and isn’t here, you just ‘fess up now. I can hunt you down!

  • SilverRain January 29, 2008, 4:48 am

    I recommended it. I was looking forward to reading it. Now that it happened, I have other things on my mind right now.


  • Alison Moore Smith January 29, 2008, 9:12 am

    Well, Silver, if you have any input, I’d love to hear it. I’m kind of wandering around alone in here! 😥

  • SilverRain January 29, 2008, 5:26 pm

    I’ll try to get to it, Alison. I promise.

  • Lewis_Family January 29, 2008, 5:32 pm

    Two more days until the month is over and then a new book…. :devil:

  • davidson January 29, 2008, 10:15 pm

    Have you decided on a new book? I have another idea, which is JUST an idea, and I’m still open to suggestion. In honor of the prophet, how about Gordon B. Hinckley’s biography? And although The Coming of the Lord by Gerald Lund is a doctrinal book, it had me right on the edge of my seat all the way through it. (I only fell off once.)

    You know, I tried. I guess I’m just not intelligent enough. I didn’t want to admit that, but hey. I didn’t really get what they were trying to say in the book for this month, so I gave up.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 31, 2008, 1:48 am

    FWIW, Sam just finished the book (he’s ahead of me) and really enjoyed it.

    davidson, how far did you get? Skip the first couple of chapters. Slow going there.

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