Passion and Possibility

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of Eye –
And for an Everlasting Roof –
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest-
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands –
To gather Paradise –

Emily Dickinson’s poem opens Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility:Transforming Professional and Personal Life. He’s a conductor and she’s a therapist. The book is published by the Harvard Business School Press – indicating this is no ordinary self-help or creativity book.

I read th Art of Possibility when it came out in 2002. LOVED it. Even gave it as gifts to a few people.

Then yesterday the video of Ben Zander’s talk at the TED conference (3/2008) was finally uploaded to the TED site so non-attendees could watch it. I was so moved and inspired that I hauled the book off the shelf and have been re-reading it.

First. You. Must. Watch. The Video of his talk. The subject is ostensibly about getting everyone to recognize that they love classical music. And he achieves that goal with his Chopin demo.

But more than that his talk is about possibility – and how the vision of possibility can transform your life. His own transformation came in the 80’s when he realized that the conductor doesn’t make a sound. For his power, he depends on his ability to make other people powerful. It’s like chiseling away the marble to reveal the statue of David within.

My job was to awaken possibility in other people. How do you know you’re doing it? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. If they’re not shining, ask yourself, who am I being that their eyes are not shining?? As a parent you can ask yourself the same question if your children’s eyes arent’ shining.

When you can see possibility and believe in it passionately, you can move mountains:

The mark of a leader is that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a dream…. but on second thought, I’m not sure if they’re up to it…”

Lucky for me, the Art of Possibility is littered (alitered?) with a plethora of plummy p-words: perfect, perception, perspective, peril, prejudice, pattern, posture, profits, population, pain…. (for starters), so I shall be touching on some of their pointers in the coming couple of weeks.

Second. Read. The. Book. Let’s talk about it.

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