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The Art of Possibility:

Transforming Professional and Personal Life

by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

After finishing this book in October of 2022, I wrote,


"Wow! Another great five-plus-stars book. The Zanders bring access to the world of possibility through very specific, actionable approaches that can work for us 'common people' in our everyday life."


My clippings below collapse a 218-page book into 13 pages, measured by using 12-point type in Microsoft Word.

See all my book recommendations.  

Here are the selections I made:

BEN: “Waiter,” I said, in an exuberant mood, “I have a perfect life, but I don’t have a knife.”


Our premise is that many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view.


It’s All Invented A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES


All the manifestations of the world of measurement—the winning and losing, the gaining of acceptance and the threatened rejection, the raised hopes and the dash into despair—all are based on a single assumption that is hidden from our awareness. The assumption is that life is about staying alive and making it through—surviving in a world of scarcity and peril. Even when life is at its best in the measurement world, this assumption is the backdrop for the play, and, like the invisible box around the nine dots, it keeps the universe of possibility out of view.


In fact, we are saying that, on the whole, you are more likely to extend your business and have a fulfilled life if you have the attitude that there are always new customers out there waiting to be enrolled rather than that money, customers, and ideas are in short supply. You are more likely to be successful, overall, if you participate joyfully with projects and goals and do not think your life depends on achieving the mark because then you will be better able to connect to people all around you. On the whole, resources are likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and you take more risks. You may give away short-term profits in pursuit of a bigger dream; you may take a long view without being able to predict the outcome. In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.


True scarcity and scarcity-thinking are different phenomena as well. There are regions of the world where resources are locally scarce, where people lack for their most fundamental needs. However, scarcity-thinking is an attitude as prevalent among the well-heeled as among the down-at-heel, and remains unaltered by a change in circumstances. It is a fatalistic outlook, as profiled by the English economist Thomas Malthus in his 1798 “Essay on the Principle of Population” that predicts that supplies—which appear fixed and limited—will eventually run out. This attitude prompts us to seek to acquire more for ourselves no matter how much we have and to treat others as competitors no matter how little they have.


You look for thoughts and actions that reflect survival and scarcity, comparison and competition, attachment and anxiety. Notice that the question is not, “Are my thoughts . . .” which is a question of assessment, but, “How are my thoughts . . .” which is a true inquiry.


“Each student in this class will get an A for the course,” I announce. “However, there is one requirement that you must fulfill to earn this grade: Sometime during the next two weeks, you must write me a letter dated next May, which begins with the words, ‘Dear Mr. Zander, I got my A because . . . ,’ and in this letter you are to tell, in as much detail as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade.”


In writing their letters, I say to them, they are to place themselves in the future, looking back, and to report on all the insights they acquired and milestones they attained during the year as if those accomplishments were already in the past. Everything must be written in the past tense. Phrases such as “I hope,” “I intend,” or “I will” must not appear. The students may, if they wish, mention specific goals reached or competitions won. “But, “I tell them, “I am especially interested in the person you will have become by next May. I am interested in the attitude, feelings, and worldview of that person who will have done all she wished to do or become everything he wanted to be.” I tell them I want them to fall passionately in love with the person they are describing in their letter.


Next May Dearest Teacher Mr. Zander; I received my grade A because I worked hard and thought hard about myself taking your class, and the result was absolutely tremendous. I became a new person. I used to be so negative person for almost everything even before trying. Now I find myself happier person than before. I couldn’t accept my mistakes about a year ago, and after every mistake I blamed myself, but now, I enjoy making mistakes and I really learn from these mistakes. In my playing I have more depth than before. I used to play just notes, but, now, I found out about the real meaning of every pieces, and I could play with more imagination. Also I found out my value. I found myself so special person, because I found out that if I believe myself I can do everything. Thank you for all the lessons and lectures because that made me realize how important person I am and also the clear reason why I play music. Thank you, Sincerely, Esther Lee


Small wonder that I approach each class with the greatest eagerness, for this is a class consisting entirely of A students and what is more delightful than spending an afternoon among the stars? Most members of the class share this experience, and some even report that as they walk down the corridor toward the classroom each Friday afternoon, the clouds of anxiety and despair that frequently shadow a hothouse American music academy perceptibly lift. When I come to your class, Ben, I feel the glow coming as I walk down the corridor, and by the time I’ve arrived—I’ve arrived happy and excited and ready to go. —Carina


In fact, I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say, “How fascinating!” I recommend that everyone try this.


So when this young student raised up his hand quite enthusiastically, of course I called on him. “In Taiwan,” he explained, I was Number 68 out of 70 student. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A. Very confusing. I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68, but Mr. Zander says I am an A student . . . I am Number 68, but Mr. Zander says I am an A. One day I discover much happier A than Number 68. So I decide I am an A.


It is not in the context of measuring people’s performance against standards that we propose giving the A, despite the reference to measurement the A implies. We give the A to finesse the stranglehold of judgment that grades have over our consciousness from our earliest days.


The practice of giving the A allows the teacher to line up with her students in their efforts to produce the outcome, rather than lining up with the standards against these students. In the first instance, the instructor and the student, or the manager and the employee, become a team for accomplishing the extraordinary; in the second, the disparity in power between them can become a distraction and an inhibitor, drawing energy away from productivity and development.


Here is a letter from a man who heard about the practice of the A, gave way to the power of music, and transformed his life, all in the space of an afternoon.


My Dear Benjamin Zander, You have just completed a presentation to the leadership of the North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System. I “should” be immediately returning to my job as one of the System’s Vice Presidents (such a fancy title, no?), but not without first sitting down and briefly telling you of how your words, energy, and humour affected me this day. I am the man who approached you and told you of my emotional “reunion” with my father through your presentation. He was Swiss-German, and throughout my adult life I have struggled to explain to myself why, in the 25 years that he was with me, he could never, even once, say to me “I love you.” Oh, we did many things as a family, and I suppose his “teachings” in the form of admonishments have always remained with me, though softened, as I had the joy of becoming a father myself to 5 beautiful children. You told us, as you were about to play Chopin, to use the time to reflect on someone no longer in our lives. I thought about my father and again about that nagging question which I could never answer—why couldn’t he say “I love you”?


And then, as if delivered by a bolt of lightning, I recalled an incident that occurred between us at least 45 years ago. I was an asthmatic child, and on so many evenings could not run to the door (as instructed to do by our mother) to say hello to my father and give him a hug and a kiss when he came home late each evening from the hotel kitchens. I would instead remain upstairs, bedridden, gasping for every breath, waiting expectantly for Father to come upstairs and just say hello to me and maybe, just maybe, for the first time, say “Hello, Jeanot, I love you.” But those words never came. And then, as I listened to your music, the memory came back of an evening, more than 45 years ago, when I was again sick, and Father came upstairs. But this evening was different. He sat next to me on my bed and, as I was sitting upright and struggling for the next breath, he began gently stroking my hair for a period of time that I wished would have lasted an eternity. Today, as you played us the Chopin, tears came to my eyes. It struck me that while Father could not say these words, “I love you,” they were expressed even more poignantly in the gentle stroking of a little boy’s hair by his father’s powerful hands. I recall that as he sat with me my asthma attack subsided. I had completely forgotten that incident. I must have buried it in my own desire to perhaps keep my father at a distance, to continuously prove either that I was unlovable, or that he was just a cold s.o.b. who only knew work, work, and more work. But not so.

The drive to be successful and the fear of failure are, like the head and tail of a coin, inseparably linked.


They goaded me on to unusual efforts and caused me, and those around me, considerable suffering. Of course, the surprising thing was that my increasing success did little to lessen the tension.


Until the splash of cold water. My second wife walked away from the marriage midstream. At the same time she asserted—though at first I did not listen—that we would always be in relationship, and that it was up to us to invent the form. Clearly the family had not been thriving under the arrangement we’d had. “Let’s invent a form,” she said, “that allows us to contribute to each other, and let’s set a distance that supports us to be fully ourselves.” Going down for the second time, I understood and grabbed...


I settled on a game called I am a contribution. Unlike success and failure, contribution has no other side. It is not arrived at by comparison. All at once I found that the fearful question, “Is it enough?” and the even more fearful question, “Am I loved for who I am, or for what I have accomplished?” could both be replaced by the joyful question, “How will I be a contribution today?” When I was a boy playing the dinner table game, and later an adult playing the success/fai...


When I began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, 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.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you are a gift to others.


WHEN, IN THIS BOOK, we refer to various activities of life as “games,” we do not mean to imply that these activities are frivolous or make no difference. We are simply pointing to the fact that any accepted model for doing things comes with an implicit set of rules, and that these rules govern our behavior just as surely as the rules of baseball govern the movements of the players on the field.


The practice of this chapter is inventing oneself as a contribution, and others as well. The steps to the practice are these: 1.  Declare yourself to be a contribution. 2.  Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. The contribution game appears to have remarkable powers for transforming conflicts into rewarding experiences.


“There is no such thing as bad weather,” he used to say, “only inappropriate clothing.”


Rule Number 6 Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so g—damn seriously.’” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?” “There aren’t any.”


No matter how confident or well-positioned this adult self appears, underneath the surface it is weak and sees itself as marginal, at risk for losing everything. The alertness to position that was adaptive at an earlier time in an individual’s life—and in the history of our species—is still conceptually operative in later years and keeps signaling to the self that it must try to climb higher, get more control, displace others, and find a way in. Fortunately, the perception of what “in” is, and where it is located, is likely to vary between individuals and groups. Long after any real vestiges of childhood threats remain, this built-in alarm system exaggerates danger in order to insure its life.


How do we learn to recognize the often-charming, always-scheming, sometimes-anxious, frequently conniving calculating self? One good way is to ask ourselves, What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled? The answer to this question will clue us in to the conditions our calculating self finds threatening or even intolerable, and we may see that our zeal to bring about change may benefit from a lighter touch. The intolerable condition may be a place or a situation, but very often it is another person.


I presented this game to one of the accomplishment groups after we had been working together for several months, and I gave them the choice, collectively, to fill out the phrase, so they could set the ante for themselves. Together they decided that “sex” was the only word in the entire English language worth putting in the blank. So, “Have the Best Sex Ever” became the game of the week.


One member of the group was not happy about the choice, although she went along with the others. June had left her husband, Mark, earlier in the year after a long struggle to change him.


Ann was warming to the game in her relationship with Joe, while June described herself as a royal pain, protesting that the instruction to “Have the Best Sex Ever” was both immoral and entirely unsuitable for a woman in her position. “But Ann kept reminding me that our agreement was at the very least to give the game a try, whether we were successful or not. I hadn’t yet imagined who would be my partner, because I thought my husband was the last man on earth I would go near. But I was shocked to discover that as soon as I really let myself think about it, I knew he would be the one.”


June looked around, with a mischievous smile, “We’re all in agreement, aren’t we, that Mark has a narcissistic personality disorder, and will never change?” No one knew what to say. June laughed. I realized I had been taking myself pretty goldarn seriously. “Why can’t you have the Best Sex Ever with a self-centered guy?” I said to myself. “Lighten up.”


Through all my nervousness I had to laugh. Here I was, a once-decisive woman who had had the courage of her convictions to leave her husband—a man beyond repair—now bringing flowers to the scoundrel’s door. What a drama! Then we were both laughing and throwing caution to the winds. The evening we spent together was like a week’s vacation, but it was also like coming home.


Someone asked, “But isn’t it important to make some decisions about people’s behavior, to set boundaries and stand firm for what you believe?” I answered, “Of course, but do you think that is what June was doing? I think she was hurt, plain and simple, as Mark overlooked her time and time again. And instead of revealing her hurt, she built up a case that Mark was dangerous, although he wasn’t a danger in any real sense at all. I think she felt more powerful as the judge, but the diagnosis she assigned to him stuck, and from there arose a story of a guy no one in their right mind could tolerate. When she asked herself, “What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled?” June recognized her own calculating self in action. She stopped taking herself and her story so seriously, and suddenly was able to distinguish her husband from the diagnosis she had given him.”


June added, “You know, I realized after that one amazing evening I could have walked away from the marriage, and Mark and I would have stayed the best of friends. I could have said, ‘I’d rather not,’ without feeling resigned or embattled. I finally had a choice.”


Fine, if the child thinks there is such a thing as “not belonging,” so he can shriek and wail at the first hint of being forgotten at the grocery store. Fine, if he should think that he needs to be stronger or smarter than others to stay alive, so he will exercise mind and body, resist drowning, and get to the food first. However, the central self knows that “not belonging” and “being insufficient” are thoughts both as native to us and as illusory as Santa Claus. It understands that the threatening aspects of what we encounter are often illusions that do not bear taking seriously. It sees that human beings are social animals; we move in a dance with each other, we are all fundamentally immeasurable, we all belong.


What freedom! Unencumbered by the obstacles that the calculating self tackles daily, the central self can listen in innocence for who we are, listen for the whole of it, inquire into what is here. 


But the central self is open and aware because it need only be the unique voice that it is, an expression that transcends the personality that got it out of childhood alive.


A young man goes to see his rabbi. “Rabbi,” he asks, “you told us a story—something to do with praise?” The rabbi responds, “Yes, it is thus: when you get some good news, you thank the Lord, and when you get some bad news, you praise the Lord.” “Of course,” replies the man, “I should have remembered. But Rabbi, how do you actually know which is the good news and which is the bad news?” The rabbi smiles. “You are wise, my son. So just to be on the safe side, always thank the Lord.”


Among all the complexities that keep us from being present to things the way they are, one of the most potent is the confusion between physical reality and abstractions—creations of the mind and tongue. Language is replete with a variety of “things” that have no existence in time and space but seem as real to us as anything we own—“justice,” for instance, or “aesthetics,” or “zero.” Using these concepts, we can accomplish what we could not otherwise. They are tools that allow us to count, to learn from others, to establish guidelines for behavior. They permit us to traffic with the future and the past. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these “things” refer only indirectly to phenomena in the world. What they point to is not made up of matter. These abstractions are purely inventions of language.


“He doesn’t communicate with us; he’s put up an impenetrable wall that excludes us from his life.”


Both parents turned toward their son and waited. The boy said nothing. “You see?” said his father, and went on to elaborate the image; the boy had closeted himself, and the father wanted more of something—more information, more contact.


Every bit of communication from then on related to the “wall”; every silence was evidence of its enduring presence.


How life-giving a tiny shift in speaking could become. Imagine this conversation: “Are you willing to pretend that there is a wall between us?” the father asks, and, if the boy agrees, they dismantle the wall in play, where it belongs. Perhaps the young man suggests another metaphor, that he feels “invisible” to his parents. Startled, the adults begin to put their attention on the boy-in-the-flesh in the room with them, with whom real relationship can grow. Imagine that the father begins a conversation with, “Son, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” or “Son, what about this whole situation makes you the most angry?” or “Son, I’m about to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before.” The boy looks up at his father, and they have taken their first steps on a journey of possibility.


Why does it spiral downward, why do things tend to look more and more hopeless? For the same reason that red Dodge pickups seem to proliferate on the highways as soon as you buy one and that pregnant women appear out of nowhere approximately eight months before your baby is due. The more attention you shine on a particular subject, the more evidence of it will grow. Attention is like light and air and water. Shine attention on obstacles and problems and they multiply lavishly.


The practice of the way things are is a reality check on the runaway imagination of the calculating self. It’s like the world-weary policeman saying, “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” Radiating possibility begins with things as they are and highlights open spaces, the pathways leading out from here.


Then the obstacles are simply present conditions—they are merely what has happened or is happening. The father in our story might say, “I have not inquired about my son’s life, and he is not volunteering any information,” and he would be describing present conditions in the family. He might add: “I am afraid I don’t know the right questions to ask, and it irritates me that he doesn’t come to me to talk,” and he would still be describing the way things are. The father would then be able to see the obvious: tha...

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BEING WITH the way things are calls for an expansion of ourselves. We start from what is, not from what should be; we encompass contradictions, painful feelings, fears, and imaginings, and—without fleeing, blaming, or attempting correction—we learn to soar, like the far-seeing hawk, over the whole landscape. The practice of being with the way things are allows us to alight in a place of openness, where “the truth” readies us for the next step, and the sky opens up.


If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility? —SØREN KIERKEGAARD, Either/Or


Enrollment is the practice of this chapter. Enrolling is not about forcing, cajoling, tricking, bargaining, pressuring, or guilt-tripping someone into doing something your way. Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.


So, the practice of enrollment is about giving yourself as a possibility to others and being ready, in turn, to catch their spark. It is about playing together as partners in a field of light. And the steps to the practice are: 1.  Imagine that people are an invitation for enrollment. 2.  Stand ready to participate, willing to be moved and inspired. 3.  Offer that which lights you up. 4.  Have no doubt that others are eager to catch the spark.


Being the Board


WHEN the way things are seems to offer no possibility; when you are angry and blocked, and, for all your efforts, others refuse to move or cooperate, to compromise, or even to be halfway decent; when even enrollment does not work and you are at your wit’s end—you can take out this next practice: our graduate course in possibility. In this one, you rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played. You move the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world inside the boundaries of yourself. With this act you can transform the world.


Imagine this scenario: a car waits peacefully at a red light; another barrels up behind and smashes into its rear. The driver of the second car, it turns out, is intoxicated and unlicensed. Who is at fault? According to the law, there is no doubt: the drunken driver is 100 percent at fault. However, in this chapter, we are introducing the notion of responsibility of a different kind. This new kind of responsibility is yours for the taking. You cannot assign it to someone else. It is purely an invention, and yet it strengthens you at no one’s expense.


Ordinarily we equate accountability with blame and blamelessness, concepts from the world of measurement. When I blame you for something that goes wrong, I seek to establish that I am in the right—and we all know the delicious feeling of satisfaction there. However, inasmuch as I blame you for a miserable vacation or a wall of silence—to that degree, in exactly that proportion, I lose my power. I lose my ability to steer the situation in another direction, to learn from it, or to put us in good relationship...

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Let’s get back to the peaceful, law-abiding driver. To apply the practice of being the board, that driver, even from her hospital bed, will cast a wider framework around events than one ordinarily does in the world of fault and blame. She might begin with the thought, “Driving is a hazardous business: Every time I step into a car I am at risk. While usually I can count on other drivers to be awake, aware, and law-abiding, there is always the chance, the chance, that one of them may fall asleep, drink too much alcohol, have a sudden seizure, or simply be young, angry, and...

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So the first part of the practice is to declare: “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.” This is perhaps the most radical and elusive of all the practices in this book, and it is also one of the most powerful. Here is another way of saying it: “If I cannot be present without resistance to the way things are and act effectively, if I feel myself to be wronged, a loser, or a victim, I will tell myself that some assumption I have made is the source of my difficulty.”


In the legal sphere, fault and blame play an important role. The law-abiding driver is entitled to sue the perpetrator to cover his losses, however they be construed. But we are talking about access to possibility, not to victory or remuneration. Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.

Afterward, someone associated with the orchestra asked me in a hushed voice, “Would you like to know who came in early in the Mendelssohn?” Whether it was the slightly conspiratorial nature of the question that put me off, or whether it was that such a question was in disturbing contrast with the spiritedness of the music that we had just performed, I found myself saying, “No” abruptly, and then adding, “I did it.” Not literally, of course. I didn’t actually play the violin. But in that moment, in the context of the great music we had just made, it seemed absurd to me to consider handing out blame. It could only divide us, and for what? Certainly that player would never again come in early in the Italian Symphony, nor, perhaps, from this time on, make the mistake of a premature entrance in any performance. And I myself would know to be especially careful in guiding the orchestra through those eleven steps whenever I conducted that passage again. There was absolutely no gain to blaming anyone, and a real cost in terms of the blow to our integrity as a group. Besides, I know full well that every time I step onto a podium, I take a risk that things won’t turn out exactly as I anticipate them in my ear—but then, there is no great music-making without such risk taking.


I think, in retrospect, that my “I did it” response represented even more than that—I was saying that I was willing to be responsible for everything that happened in my orchestra. In fact, I felt enormously empowered and liberated by doing so.


And Roz said, “You can always grace yourself with responsibility for anything that happens in your life. You can always find within yourself the source of any problem you have.” “But that’s ridiculous!” I protested. “I couldn’t have stopped her from walking out, and anyway I have too many things to think about, I can’t be responsible for everything every player does. I have a concert to prepare. . . .” “Hold on,” she said, “I’m not suggesting you blame yourself instead of Cora. This is a way of thinking that has nothing to do with blame at all.” And she went on to explain the distinction. I saw a completely new possibility and went to my desk to begin a letter. Cora had been a member of the Friday class, so she knew about the formulation of giving an A and writing a letter dated the following May. This was what I wrote to her: 


October 6 Dear Cora, I’ve decided to write you a letter like the one I asked each person in the Friday class to write to explain why they got an A this year. Here it is: May 18 Dear Cora, I got my A because I finally broke the cycle of lashing out at people when they didn’t do exactly what I wanted them to do. I came to see that when I got angry with people or became sarcastic, it was like wiping them out, and our relationship never fully recovered. It was hard for me to “get” that what I wanted was not necessarily what they wanted. For example, if we were preparing an important and difficult concert and players didn’t come to a rehearsal or came late, I would be disappointed and angry because I thought that they should care as much about the project as I did and let nothing stand in the way of being there. Now I see that in a volunteer orchestra whose players have many other commitments, I cannot assume that everyone’s priorities are exactly the same as mine. I have come to realize that people will do what they want to do—which means that sometimes they will come to rehearsals and sometimes they won’t—and I must respect their decisions. And if in my view they fail to adequately inform me of their intentions, I now ask them politely, to please, in the future, leave a message on the voice-mail, or inform the personnel manager directly, so that we can have some idea in advance of what to expect. 


I see that conducting the BPO is an enormous privilege and that with it come certain risks: for instance, that I will not always have a full orchestra at important rehearsals. I know now that while I will do what I can to see that every chair is filled, I will accept the fact that this will not always be the case. I have come finally to the realization that relationships with my colleagues, players, students, and friends are always more important than the project in which we are engaged; and that indeed, the very success of the project depends on those relationships being full of grace. I have also realized that so... (less)

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As a result of this breakthrough, I have a happier life, and so do the people with whom I interact. Even the music sounds better. So I think I really deserve the A. Thank you, Cora, for being brave enough to guide me to this realization. I have known it for a while, but last night I really got it, that it is more important to make this breakthrough than to persuade, cajole, threaten, bribe, or charm you ba...

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A vision becomes a framework for possibility when it meets certain criteria that distinguish it from the objectives of the downward spiral. Here are the criteria that enable a vision to stand in the universe of possibility: •  A vision articulates a possibility. •  A vision fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind, a desire with which any human being can resonate. It is an idea to which no one could logically respond, “What about me?” •  A vision makes no reference to morality or ethics, it is not about a right way of doing things. It cannot imply that anyone is wrong. •  A vision is stated as a picture for all time, using no numbers, measures, or comparatives. It contains no specifics of time, place, audience, or product. •  A vision is free-standing—it points neither to a rosier future, nor to a past in need of improvement. It gives over its bounty now. If the vision is “peace on earth,” peace comes with its utterance. When “the possibility of ideas making a difference” is spoken, at that moment ideas do make a difference. •  A vision is a long line of possibility radiating outward. It invites infinite expression, development, and proliferation within its definitional framework. •  Speaking a vision transforms the speaker. For that moment the “real world” becomes a universe of possibility and the barriers to the realization of the vision disappear.


Inside of the framework of a vision, goals and objectives spring from an outlook of abundance. A goal—even the goal “to be Number One in office design in America”—is invented as a game to play. Games call forth a different energy than the grim pursuit of goals in the downward spiral.


Under a vision, goals are treated as markers thrown out ahead to define the territory. If you miss the mark—“How fascinating!” Neither you nor the vision is compromised. In the pursuit of objectives under a vision, playing is relevant to the manifestation of the possibility, winning is not.


Remember how we used to dream as children of the delicious freedom and power of being grown-up? And somehow the dream vanished along the way, and we were energized only here and there by a job well done, a spirited gathering, or an occasional week in the sun? Now that we know it’s all invented, let’s revise this story. Let’s just say that somewhere along the journey we carried too much, or slipped too often, or heard too many voices in our head, and wandered off the track. The possibility we saw so clearly as children got lost in the downward spiral, and we forgot the promise of our birth.

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