Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 11

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Eleventh Practice: Creating Frameworks for Possibility

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss how we can invent and sustain frameworks that bring forth possibilities. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Roz and Ben suggest that there are three steps to the practice of framing possibility are:

  1. Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility: a powerful substitute for the current framework generating the downward spiral.
  2. Enter the territory. Embody the new distinction so that it becomes the framework for life around you.
  3. Keep distinguishing what is “on the track” and what is “off the track” of your framework for possibility.

When we distinguish our framework’s on-track vs. off-track notions, we focus on maintaining the framework’s clarity. Being “off-track” often tells us that the possibility we had defined is absent, forgotten, or has never been clearly articulated.

A vision is a powerful framework to take an organization’s operations from the downward spiral into the arena of possibility. However, a vision is not a mission statement, as they are not interchangeable.

Roz and Ben believe that a vision becomes a framework for possibility when it meets specific criteria.

  • A vision articulates a possibility.
  • A vision fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind, a passion with which any human being can resonate. Yet, it is an idea to which no one could logically respond, “What about me?”
  • A vision does not refer to morality or ethics; it is not about the right way of doing things. It cannot imply that anyone is wrong.
  • A vision is a picture of all time, using no numbers, measurements, 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 a past in need of improvement. Instead, it gives over its bounty now.
  • A vision is a long line of possibilities 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 realizing the vision disappear.

The practice of framing possibility calls upon us to use our minds to think about the contexts that govern us. It trains us to be alert to the danger that unseen definitions and assumptions may covertly chain us to a downward spiral.

We can define new frameworks for the possibility of bringing out the part of us that is most contributory, unencumbered, and most open to participation.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 10

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Tenth Practice: Being the Board

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss the concept of being the board on which the whole game is being played. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

The concept of “Being the Board” allows us to move the problematic aspect of any circumstances from the outside world to inside the boundaries of ourselves. By redefining the board and boundaries, we choose to take accountability for our circumstances. Taking responsibility helps us discover new possibilities and strengthens us at no one’s expense.

There are two parts to mastering this practice. The first part is to declare: “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.” The second part deals with unwanted circumstances, and we need to ask ourselves, “How did this get on the board that I am?”

Roz and Ben further phrase the first part of the practice as this. “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 someone assumption I have made is the source of my difficulty.”

By taking accountability as the framework of our circumstances, this approach opens the possibility of a graceful journey. Grace comes from owning the risks we take in a world, by and large, immune to our control. Gracing ourselves with responsibility for everything that happens in our life can leave our spirit whole and allow us free to choose from possibilities.

When unwanted things happen to us, the second part of the practice allows us to dig deeper into our preconceived notions and assumptions up to that point. By asking the question, “How did this get on the board that I am?” we will bring to see the obvious and more subtle contributions of our calculating self, our prior experience, or earlier decisions that landed us where we are.

In the world of measurement, we live in the illusion that we have only ourselves to rely on. That illusion amplifies our need for control. When unwanted things happen, and we lose that control, we look for ways or things or people to blame.

Instead of gaining control over every aspect of our lives, the practice of being the board is about making a difference. We are no longer concerned that the other people examine her assumptions; instead, we see that the “stumbling blocks” that stand in our way are part of us. Only we can remove those “stumbling blocks.”

Furthermore, the practice launches us on a journey of transformation and self-development that calls for courage and compassion. We relinquish our claim for “fairness” or “justice” in favor of the riches that possibility can offer. The rewards from the journey are self-respect, deep connection with others, and a straight route to making a difference.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 9

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Ninth Practice: Lighting a Spark

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss the concept of Enrollment. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Enrollment 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.”

We need sparks to light a fire that can propel us toward a universe of possibilities. Fortunately, our universe is alive with sparks. We have an infinite capacity to light a spark of possibility at our fingertips. Our passion, instead of fear, is the igniting force. Abundance, instead of scarcity, is the context.

The practice of Enrollment is about giving ourselves as a possibility to others and being ready, in turn, to catch their sparks. Roz and Ben offer the following 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 us up.
  4. Have no doubt that others are eager to catch the spark.

Roz and Ben offer another way to think about Enrollment.

“The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate. Enrollment is that life force at work, lighting sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions. Sometimes the sparks ignite a blaze; sometimes they pass quietly, magically, almost imperceptibly, from one to another to another.”

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 8

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Eighth Practice: Giving Way to Passion

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss what it means to give way to passion. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

In the universe of possibility, vibrancy and energy surround us. Yet, while the universe is sparking with generative power, how do we tap into the source? Where can we find an electric socket for vitality?

One way to find the energy is to recognize that vital, expressive energy flows everywhere. Such energy is the medium for the existence of life. The choice of participating in that vitality lies within ourselves.

Very often, our consciousness tells us a different story. The world comes to us with numerous boundaries and constraints. Culture has taught us to strictly operate within limits, stay in our lanes, and not compare apples and oranges. Yet our minds and bodies are perfectly capable of suspending an edge once we know how and where the lines are drawn.

Roz and Ben suggested that we take the following two steps to enable the practice of giving way to passion.

  1. Notice where we are holding back and let go. Release those barriers of self that keep us separated and in control. Let the vital energy of passion surge through us and connect us to all beyond.
  2. Participate wholly in the universe of possibility. We should allow ourselves to be a channel to shape the stream of passion into a new expression for the world.

When we are looking for an electric socket for possibility, one way is to let go of the edges of ourselves. Then, when we actively participate by finding our tempo and leaning our bodies to the music, we might be able to gain access to the energy of transformation.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 7

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Seventh Practice: The Way Things Are

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss how to be present with the way things are, including our feelings about how things are. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

There are two typical reactions to the way things are. One is the hopeless resignation, and the other is the spluttering resistance from us. Neither extreme is practical, so we need to find a way to take us in the direction we say we want to go.

The calculating self faces such experience and asks, “Why hang around and feel like a sucker?” The central self will expand and develop with each new experience. First, the central self asks, “What is here now?” Next, it will immediately ask, “What else is here now?”

Being present with the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in a resigned manner. It does not mean we should drown out our negative feelings or pretend we like the situation. It also does not mean we should do something dramatic to transcend the negativity.

Being present means acknowledging the situation and working with what we have. When we practice being present without resistance, we are freed to turn to the follow-on question, “What do we want to do from here?” When we start to ponder such a question, pathways and possibilities begin to present themselves.

The practice of being with the way things are calls upon us to distinguish between our assumptions, our feelings, and the current realities. When we encounter difficult situations, we must be clear about the circumstances. There are four things to watch out for:

  1. Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing “Shoulds”
  2. Being with the Way Things Are by Closing the Exits: Escape, Denial, and Blame
  3. Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing Judgement
  4. Being with the Way Things Are by Distinguishing Physical from Conceptual Reality

One potential trap when practicing being with the way things are is the downward spiral talk. The downward spiral talk stands for a resigned way of speaking that excludes possibilities. Many roadblocks and obstacles along the way are just present conditions. One way to counter the downward spiral talk is to ask, “Are we describing the way things are accurately?”

Being with the way things are calls for an expansion of ourselves. We start from what is, not from what should be. We can learn to deal with contradictions, painful feelings, and fears without fleeing or blaming. We can also learn to look past the obstacles or present conditions and focus on the next step that can lead to the place where we would like to be.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 6

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The 6th Practice: Rule Number 6

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss what Rule Number 6 is. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.’

In our “measurement” world, we develop a persona, a part of ourselves, that can help us survive in the competitive environment. That persona is a “calculating self,” trained to adapt our behaviors to react to the measurement-heavy surrounding. This “calculating self” is concerned for its survival in a world of scarcity.

Our “calculating selves” teach us to be more powerful as judges. When we start judging everything around us, we form opinions and assumptions that might be right or wrong. Unfortunately, when we interact with the world with only our calculating self, it is easy to fall into operating under a false set of assumptions. Rule Number 6 can help us recognize our calculating self in action.

Our calculating self comes with layers of opinion, entitlement, pride, and inflated self-description. When we peel away those layers, others can instantly feel the connection. By applying Rule Number 6, we can reveal our calculating self and make a way to allow our central self to shine through.

Unlike the calculating self, the central self is neither a pattern of action nor a set of strategies. Instead, our central self is a term we use to embrace the remarkably generative, prolific, and creative nature of ourselves and the world. From the perspective of the central self, life moves with fluidity like a constantly varying river, and so do we.

When we operate with the central self in the driver’s seat, we are more confident that we can deal with whatever comes our way. We see ourselves as permeable rather than vulnerable. We are more open to influence, to the new and the unknown. We are also under no illusion that we can control every aspect of our surroundings. We join rather than resist the flow of possibility.

When we practice Rule Number 6 and lighten up our childish demands and entitlements, we are better positioned to cooperate with others to reap the benefits of the universe of possibility.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 5

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Fifth Practice: Leading from Any Chair

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss the act of leading from just about any position or level within the team or organization. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Great leaders care about the engagement level of the team members. Most leaders act from a position of authority and channel their power to direct others for results. Thoughtful leaders are constantly seeking information about the team’s engagement. They want more information and more relationship.

Capable leaders also know that they will not be correct all the time. Everyone makes mistakes and tries to minimize them, so hopefully, others will not notice them. Great leaders own their mistakes by acknowledging their missteps and openly discussing them with those people who are impacted by the events.

Great leaders know that their true power comes from their ability to make other people powerful. Thoughtful leaders will allow others to play the leadership role on various occasions. A monumental question for leaders in any organization to consider is: How much greatness are we willing to grant people?

A great conductor in an orchestra does not make a sound. His power comes from making other people in the orchestra powerful. A leader’s job is to awaken possibilities in other people.

When a leader helps others realize the power they have within, his team members’ eyes light up and become engaged. They can be sitting quietly on the edge of any chair and listening. But, they are also observing with commitment and fully prepared to take up the baton when the time calls for someone to step up.

Roz Zander and Ben Zander on The Art of Possibility, Part 4

In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

The Fourth Practice: Being a Contribution

In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss the concept of playing a contribution game rather than a success/failure game. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Too often, we treat life as a series of success/failure games. We notice mostly the obstacles and constraints in our lives. We warn others about the limitations of having too much to do, having too little time, not enough resources, and quality too hard to measure, just to name a few.

While we play the game of success/failure, we judge ourselves based on other people’s standards. We would often ask the questions of “Is it enough?” or “Would I be loved for what I have accomplished?” We desperately seek reassurance from others about our value and place in life.

Another angle to consider is exploring the possibility of playing a game of contribution. The contribution game is not about attaining other people’s standards or judgment. Instead, we hold ourselves accountable to the joyful question of “How will I be a contribution today?”

By switching the focus from a success/failure orientation to a contribution orientation, we can shift the context from survival to one of opportunity for growth. Ben suggests we take the following two steps for practicing:

  1. Declare ourselves to be a contribution.
  2. Throw ourselves into life as someone who makes a difference. Also, we embrace the reality that we may not understand how or why.

Naming oneself and others as a contribution produces a shift away from self-concern and engages us in a productive relationship with others. Rather be overly concerned with the superficial measurements of being cheap, good, and fast, we ask more questions like “Who is it for?” and “What is it for?”