"The Art of Possibility" was written by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and Rosamund Zander, who is a psychologist and painter. The two combined their unique professional and personal experiences to co-create a wonderful book outlining innovative paradigms to discover and embrace all the wonderful opportunities we have to create our most successful lives.
As a life coach I’d like to share just a couple of their incredible insights for leading a more meaningful and fulfilling life: giving an “A” and making a contribution.
"Giving an A"
On the first day of class at the New England Conservatory of Music, Zander announces to his class, “Everyone gets an A.” There’s only one condition – students have to submit a letter, written on that first day but dated the following May, that begins: "Dear Mr. Zander, I got my A because…" In other words, students have to define what will justify an A grade at the beginning of the course.
Or in Zander’s own words, "An A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into."
Most people recognize that the main function of grades is to compare one student against another. While this may make grading easier, it doesn’t provide any real indication of a student’s performance or progress. What would happen, however, if we embraced Michelangelo’s famous assertion that inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue - and we only need to remove the excess to discover the work of art within?
When this visionary concept is applied to the grading system, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s pointless to compare one student to another. Instead, all the energy would be focused on chipping away at the stone, getting rid of whatever is in the way of a person’s developing skills, mastery and self-expression.
Giving an A at the outset levels the playing field so that we can move away from a place of measurement. Suddenly, success is no longer a quantitative measurement – it’s a qualitative value. This new level playing field allows people to communicate freely and easily, uninterrupted by the anxiety and fear of failure. The grade is no longer an expectation, or obsession, to live up to. Rather, it becomes a possibility to live into, which is a much more powerful approach.
Zander then states that giving an A "invites and recognizes a universal desire in people to contribute to others, no matter how many barriers there are to its expression."
Making a contribution
Unlike success and failure, contribution has no other side. Wake up each and every day with the question: "How will I be a contribution today?" This will help you feel that every day you wake up, you’re making yourself a gift to others.
Declare yourself to be a contribution. Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. Rewards in the contribution game are of a deep and rewarding kind.
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