In the book The Art of Possibility, authors Benjamin and Rosamund Stone Zander offer a message of optimism, hope, and choices available to everyone to create a great New Year.
“This is a how-to book of an unusual kind. Find the right framework and extraordinary accomplishment becomes an everyday experience,” say the authors. Specifically, the book offers 12 practices that together create that very framework to bring new possibilities to life.
Here is a summary of topics and actions to consider:
- It’s all invented – believe it and you will see it.
“Einstein himself said it was nonsense to found a theory on observable facts alone [when] in reality the very opposite happens. It is theory which decides what we observe.” How is your mindset as you close out 2018 and look forward to 2019?
- A universe of possibility – embrace a view beyond the world of measurement.
The world of measurement is a filled with “assessments, scales, standards, grades, and comparisons. On our path to success we experience scarcities of time, money, power, love, resources, and inner strength. . . . [Conversely] the universe of possibility may be characterized as generative, or giving, in all senses of that word—producing new life, creating new ideas . . . contributing, yielding to the power of contexts.” For example, notice the areas in your life when measuring generosity becomes difficult yet feels immensely valuable.
- Giving an A – work to understand what each person has to teach.
“When we give an A [to another] we can be open to a perspective different from our own. For it is only to a person to whom you have granted an A that you will really listen, and it is in that rare instance when you have ears for another person that you can truly appreciate a fresh point of view.” Have you been listening to everyone as intently as you could?
- Being a contribution – contribute without worrying about success and failure.
“When I began playing the game of contribution, I found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one I was with; in fact, there was no “better.”” When you contribute without expectations, status roles fade and you begin to see others—and life itself—in a new light.
- Leading from any chair – step up no matter where you sit.
“A monumental question for managers in any organization to consider is: how much greatness are we willing to grant people?” In my view, everyone can choose to be Chief. Are you doing all you can to create environments where those Chiefs find it easy to emerge?
- Rule number 6 – lighten up.
Humor and laughter are perhaps the best tool we have to get over ourselves. No one should take themselves too seriously.
- The way things are – accept what is and clear away judgements.
“Mistakes can be like ice. If we resist them, we may keep on slipping into a posture of defeat. If we include mistakes in the definition of performance, we are likely to glide through them and appreciate the beauty of the longer run.” There is no growth without failure. Encourage others to push past their current discomfort whenever possible.
- Giving way to passion – let go, let flow, and channel energy.
“Notice where you are holding back and instead seek to shape the streams of passion all around you into a new expression for the world.” Pay attention to your emotions. They will show you opportunities that are everywhere.
- Lighting a spark – enroll others.
“Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.” Everyone can practice viral engagement. It starts with you.
- Being the board – take responsibility.
“When the way things are seems to offer no possibility; you can use our graduate course. In this practice, you rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played. The practice of being the board is about making a difference rather than gaining control.” Power is not obtained the way you think it is. It’s more about creating your life game than reacting to someone else’s game.
- Creating frameworks for possibility – establish a context for an “upward spiral.”
“First, make a new distinction in the realm of possibility that creates a powerful substitute for the current framework that is generating a downward spiral. Next, live it. Finally, continue to track what is on track and off track from your new framework.” Continually ask the crucial question: What is this for?
- Telling the WE story – sharing the things that connect us all.
This practice points the way to a kind of leadership based not on qualifications earned in the field of battle, but on the courage to speak on behalf of all people and for the long line of human possibility. Usually what we mean by the pronoun “we” is “you-plus-I.” So the question, “What shall we do?” generally leads to a compromise between what you want and what I want. It follows that each will both win and lose. It encourages us to exaggerate our positions and often to hold back some of the truth, while pushing us into offensive and defensive postures. Instead, the practice of WE assumes everything each of us thinks and feels has a place in the dialogue.
The bottom line of the book is, we dramatically increase our chances to bring new possibilities to our lives when we have the right framework. In my view, we also have a powerful compass to guide us.
Wishing you a 2019 full of possibilities.
I was fortunate to hear Ben Zander speak at a large corporate meeting about a decade ago. He was amazing. I could see many of the upper managers resisting his suggestions, despite the fact that they invited him to speak. Fortunately, my boss embraced them and transformed our group into one of the best I have ever worked in.
If you haven’t heard of Zander or read his book, you need to! And, I hope you have the courage to embrace something outside your comfort zone that will forever change your work environment.
Thank you for sharing your framework for success.