The Art of Possibility
by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
Reviewed by Nan Kuhlman
The Art of Possibility, by husband and wife Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, entices us and teaches us with its title. Who doesn’t wish for more possibilities in life? At the same time, calling possibility “an art” reveals the important truth that it isn’t something that just comes naturally. It requires us to practice seeing the world around us in a different way.
The Zanders share 12 principles or practices, showing us that this world works best when “we’re all in this together,” than when it’s “every man for himself.” Rosamund Zander, a family therapist and painter, writes from a psychologist’s point-of-view, while her husband, Benjamin Zander, conductor of The Boston Philharmonic, provides illustrations with real-life stories.
One principle is that of viewing yourself as a contribution. This practice encourages you to put forth your best, most passionate effort, seeing yourself as making a difference, however imperfectly, rather than evaluating yourself as a success or failure. When we’re less worried about perfection, we’re more likely to be more fully engaged with others in accomplishing a goal that will be beneficial to everyone.
Another principle, “Leading from Any Chair,” highlights the value of cooperation. Benjamin relates the story of allowing orchestra members to voice their opinion about how a particular piece should be expressed, even to the extent of allowing them to conduct the orchestra, in an effort to encourage cooperation and learning from each other. He asks, “How much greatness are we willing to grant people?”
The Art of Possibility advocates cooperating with and encouraging others and thinking from a “we” perspective rather than an “I” perspective. “Look for shining eyes,” Benjamin writes, “What am I doing that keeps them from shining?”
While these principles are not necessarily new, they are expressed with balance and in a grace-filled manner. If anything, they remind us of the way that Christ expresses himself through our humanity and in our interactions with others, if we just let him.
Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility, Penguin, 2002.