google-site-verification: google273ec274f5c4e39a.html , Review of The Art of Possibility
  • Jennie Antolak

Review of The Art of Possibility

Authors: Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Book Review Written By: William Rees



It is said that once you learn a foreign language it makes it exponentially easier to then learn a second foreign language - and then a third, and so on and so on.

That idea popped into my head early on in reading The Art of Possibility, for there were so many reminders in its pages of concepts I had already come upon in previous book report texts, or in discussions at Learning Journeys classes, or in my own curious life.

The truth of these epic but ephemeral ideas and their application to life become exponentially clearer and more comfortable to me as my learning advances!

Key Point 1: GIVING AN A

The idea of a music instructor automatically giving every one of his students an A grade is certainly bold and intriguing. A terrifically big, bold idea indeed - but filled with what, and for what purpose?

The warm invitation for partnership and possibility that supports Benjamin Zander’s big, bold idea is so powerfully positive I think it may have forever changed the shape or size of my soul!

Mr. Zander isn’t gifting his students an A merely to relieve them of the stress of achieving that top mark, so that they are able to get down to the business of risking and failing and growing and expressing. It’s so much more than that.

In Mr. Zander’s approach to labeling each and every one of his pupils as an A Student there are echoes of the sentiment, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.” But that popular sentiment has its eyes set on human imperfection, on forgiveness, and on individuality.

Mr. Zander’s A’s for All approach sets its sight higher: on potential and on collaboration. Yes, everyone hopefully is doing the best they can in any situation - but what might the automatic honor, empowerment, and commitment to fully contributing to one other at an A-grade level create for us all inside a classroom, on a stage, in any and every relationship and environment?

To introduce yourself to each person in your life as someone who considers them a vital A-grade level contributor invites us all to think of ourselves and each other as incredibly more powerful than we typically ever dare to.

Key Point 2: BEING A CONTRIBUTION

(I’m realizing that although Rosamund Stone Zander’s name is on the front cover of the book in a font 3 or 4 sizes larger than her husband’s, its Benjamin’s voice and tales that stand out boldly for me.)

Like many, little Benjamin Z. grew up tethered to the quest for success and distracted by the rattling risk of failure. He astutely realized that no amount of success ever brought him to a haven of peace or satisfaction. There was always another farther off marker of success to trudge toward; always another performance, critic, or orchestra who may consider his day, his work, or his output as a failure by some externally invented metric.

Benjamin Zander packed up the pieces and the board of the game called Success & Failure and invented an all new game called I Am A Contribution. The rules are simple and there are never losers in this game. Each act and every move is performed as a contribution and in Zander’s game every player is therefore rewarded each time he takes his turn.

No matter the setting, the table, the players at the board - with contribution as the main motivation and goal Zander is now always playing exactly where he should play and with exactly whom he should be playing! His game is free and readily available - we can all play it every day in our own lives.

Key Point 3: GIVING WAY TO PASSION / LIGHTING A SPARK

The Zanders speak of an energy in the world that we are programmed to draw from and generate with, yet so often we are unaware of this force or where to locate it.

Sometimes we think we have ideas where we will find it, where we should find it. But it’s like unpacking your electric razor in a foreign hotel and realizing your razor’s plug can’t and won’t fit into the strange formation of holes in the strange outlet.

We think if we plug into an outlet a certain appliance our parents advised us to plug in, or to plug our career into an outlet society said would be wise for us to plug into that we will find this precious energy and it will move and empower us.

Other times we know what we need to plug in, and we know just where to go to access the energy it needs. But it feels too powerful, too kinetic. To imagine a life truly and fully fueled by that energy strikes us as selfish or risky or terrifying. So, we yank our cord out of the outlet, separate ourselves from its power, and turn slowly back to the less kinetic voltage of a less appropriate source.

We then quietly hum at a weak currency for decades, for lifetimes as the wires in our souls weaken and fray.

The Zanders invite us to recognize where and when we hold back from life’s full currency and encourage us to plug into it firmly, so that we can participate fully in who we are meant to be and add whatever light or sound or beautiful utility we are meant to contribute to this world.

Favorite Passage:

Back to the Giving an A approach - one of Zander’s students explains his reaction to this grading approach beautifully, in broken English.

“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 student. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A…

I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68 but Mr. Zander says I am an A student….

One day I discover much happier A than Number 68. So, I decide I am an A.”

(I can’t even type this student’s quote without getting choked up like the resident cry baby I am!)

Zander describes how so many influences on how we value or perceive ourselves are invented, external constructs. So why not invent evaluations that fortify, fuel, and free us instead of ones that intimidate us and weigh us down?

Application to Life Coaching:

Right off the bat, at some (hopefully) early point in my coaching partnership with my clients I would want every one of them to be able to authentically re-imagine themselves like Benjamin Zander’s student from Taiwan did.

I want them to leave our sessions and live their life within the serene but invigorating power of “So I decide I am an A.” As a coaching student, I’m going to scan for models and tools that could yield this realization or conjure up a new tool tailored for that specific exploration.

I also am struck by how the Giving an A approach impacts not just the person who adopts it internally, but each other person around them. It brings to mind the Circles of Support model - who are the Nurturers, the Warriors, the Spiritual Supporters in a client’s life? Who else might a client want to Give an A to in order to profoundly change their life and their world?

And finally, piggybacking off that use of partnership is the glorious lesson from Being a Contribution. So much of life and even life-coaching can (understandably) be a very navel-gazing and self-focused endeavor. Conversations focus on success and failure, on fear and courage. On accomplishments, achievements, growth, setbacks. Important topics and important opportunities for growth, certainly.

Yet what if life and the life coaching journey was freed from some of that self-oriented heaviness to a perspective that centered (often) around the idea of contribution? What peace or power might a client be able to summon to reach their goals when colored through the bright hues of contribution?

What if the metrics for success weren’t solely dates or figures or completed tasks, but powerful contributions? How might that metric powerfully impact a client’s journey?

It is said that once you learn a foreign language it makes it exponentially easier to then learn a second foreign language - and then a third, and so on and so on.

That idea popped into my head early on in reading The Art of Possibility, for there were so many reminders in its pages of concepts I had already come upon in previous book report texts, or in discussions at Learning Journeys classes, or in my own curious life.

The truth of these epic but ephemeral ideas and their application to life become exponentially clearer and more comfortable to me as my learning advances!

Key Point 1: GIVING AN A

The idea of a music instructor automatically giving every one of his students an A grade is certainly bold and intriguing. A terrifically big, bold idea indeed - but filled with what, and for what purpose?

The warm invitation for partnership and possibility that supports Benjamin Zander’s big, bold idea is so powerfully positive I think it may have forever changed the shape or size of my soul!

Mr. Zander isn’t gifting his students an A merely to relieve them of the stress of achieving that top mark, so that they are able to get down to the business of risking and failing and growing and expressing. It’s so much more than that.

In Mr. Zander’s approach to labeling each and every one of his pupils as an A Student there are echoes of the sentiment, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.” But that popular sentiment has its eyes set on human imperfection, on forgiveness, and on individuality.

Mr. Zander’s A’s for All approach sets its sight higher: on potential and on collaboration. Yes, everyone hopefully is doing the best they can in any situation - but what might the automatic honor, empowerment, and commitment to fully contributing to one other at an A-grade level create for us all inside a classroom, on a stage, in any and every relationship and environment?

To introduce yourself to each person in your life as someone who considers them a vital A-grade level contributor invites us all to think of ourselves and each other as incredibly more powerful than we typically ever dare to.

Key Point 2: BEING A CONTRIBUTION

(I’m realizing that although Rosamund Stone Zander’s name is on the front cover of the book in a font 3 or 4 sizes larger than her husband’s, its Benjamin’s voice and tales that stand out boldly for me.)

Like many, little Benjamin Z. grew up tethered to the quest for success and distracted by the rattling risk of failure. He astutely realized that no amount of success ever brought him to a haven of peace or satisfaction. There was always another farther off marker of success to trudge toward; always another performance, critic, or orchestra who may consider his day, his work, or his output as a failure by some externally invented metric.

Benjamin Zander packed up the pieces and the board of the game called Success & Failure and invented an all new game called I Am A Contribution. The rules are simple and there are never losers in this game. Each act and every move is performed as a contribution and in Zander’s game every player is therefore rewarded each time he takes his turn.

No matter the setting, the table, the players at the board - with contribution as the main motivation and goal Zander is now always playing exactly where he should play and with exactly whom he should be playing! His game is free and readily available - we can all play it every day in our own lives.

Key Point 3: GIVING WAY TO PASSION / LIGHTING A SPARK

The Zanders speak of an energy in the world that we are programmed to draw from and generate with, yet so often we are unaware of this force or where to locate it.

Sometimes we think we have ideas where we will find it, where we should find it. But it’s like unpacking your electric razor in a foreign hotel and realizing your razor’s plug can’t and won’t fit into the strange formation of holes in the strange outlet.

We think if we plug into an outlet a certain appliance our parents advised us to plug in, or to plug our career into an outlet society said would be wise for us to plug into that we will find this precious energy and it will move and empower us.

Other times we know what we need to plug in, and we know just where to go to access the energy it needs. But it feels too powerful, too kinetic. To imagine a life truly and fully fueled by that energy strikes us as selfish or risky or terrifying. So, we yank our cord out of the outlet, separate ourselves from its power, and turn slowly back to the less kinetic voltage of a less appropriate source.

We then quietly hum at a weak currency for decades, for lifetimes as the wires in our souls weaken and fray.

The Zanders invite us to recognize where and when we hold back from life’s full currency and encourage us to plug into it firmly, so that we can participate fully in who we are meant to be and add whatever light or sound or beautiful utility we are meant to contribute to this world.

Favorite Passage:

Back to the Giving an A approach - one of Zander’s students explains his reaction to this grading approach beautifully, in broken English.

“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 student. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A…

I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68 but Mr. Zander says I am an A student….

One day I discover much happier A than Number 68. So, I decide I am an A.”

(I can’t even type this student’s quote without getting choked up like the resident cry baby I am!)

Zander describes how so many influences on how we value or perceive ourselves are invented, external constructs. So why not invent evaluations that fortify, fuel, and free us instead of ones that intimidate us and weigh us down?

Application to Life Coaching:

Right off the bat, at some (hopefully) early point in my coaching partnership with my clients I would want every one of them to be able to authentically re-imagine themselves like Benjamin Zander’s student from Taiwan did.

I want them to leave our sessions and live their life within the serene but invigorating power of “So I decide I am an A.” As a coaching student, I’m going to scan for models and tools that could yield this realization or conjure up a new tool tailored for that specific exploration.

I also am struck by how the Giving an A approach impacts not just the person who adopts it internally, but each other person around them. It brings to mind the Circles of Support model - who are the Nurturers, the Warriors, the Spiritual Supporters in a client’s life? Who else might a client want to Give an A to in order to profoundly change their life and their world?

And finally, piggybacking off that use of partnership is the glorious lesson from Being a Contribution. So much of life and even life-coaching can (understandably) be a very navel-gazing and self-focused endeavor. Conversations focus on success and failure, on fear and courage. On accomplishments, achievements, growth, setbacks. Important topics and important opportunities for growth, certainly.

Yet what if life and the life coaching journey was freed from some of that self-oriented heaviness to a perspective that centered (often) around the idea of contribution? What peace or power might a client be able to summon to reach their goals when colored through the bright hues of contribution?

What if the metrics for success weren’t solely dates or figures or completed tasks, but powerful contributions? How might that metric powerfully impact a client’s journey?

It is said that once you learn a foreign language it makes it exponentially easier to then learn a second foreign language - and then a third, and so on and so on.

That idea popped into my head early on in reading The Art of Possibility, for there were so many reminders in its pages of concepts I had already come upon in previous book report texts, or in discussions at Learning Journeys classes, or in my own curious life.

The truth of these epic but ephemeral ideas and their application to life become exponentially clearer and more comfortable to me as my learning advances!

Key Point 1: GIVING AN A

The idea of a music instructor automatically giving every one of his students an A grade is certainly bold and intriguing. A terrifically big, bold idea indeed - but filled with what, and for what purpose?

The warm invitation for partnership and possibility that supports Benjamin Zander’s big, bold idea is so powerfully positive I think it may have forever changed the shape or size of my soul!

Mr. Zander isn’t gifting his students an A merely to relieve them of the stress of achieving that top mark, so that they are able to get down to the business of risking and failing and growing and expressing. It’s so much more than that.

In Mr. Zander’s approach to labeling each and every one of his pupils as an A Student there are echoes of the sentiment, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.” But that popular sentiment has its eyes set on human imperfection, on forgiveness, and on individuality.

Mr. Zander’s A’s for All approach sets its sight higher: on potential and on collaboration. Yes, everyone hopefully is doing the best they can in any situation - but what might the automatic honor, empowerment, and commitment to fully contributing to one other at an A-grade level create for us all inside a classroom, on a stage, in any and every relationship and environment?

To introduce yourself to each person in your life as someone who considers them a vital A-grade level contributor invites us all to think of ourselves and each other as incredibly more powerful than we typically ever dare to.

Key Point 2: BEING A CONTRIBUTION

(I’m realizing that although Rosamund Stone Zander’s name is on the front cover of the book in a font 3 or 4 sizes larger than her husband’s, its Benjamin’s voice and tales that stand out boldly for me.)

Like many, little Benjamin Z. grew up tethered to the quest for success and distracted by the rattling risk of failure. He astutely realized that no amount of success ever brought him to a haven of peace or satisfaction. There was always another farther off marker of success to trudge toward; always another performance, critic, or orchestra who may consider his day, his work, or his output as a failure by some externally invented metric.

Benjamin Zander packed up the pieces and the board of the game called Success & Failure and invented an all new game called I Am A Contribution. The rules are simple and there are never losers in this game. Each act and every move is performed as a contribution and in Zander’s game every player is therefore rewarded each time he takes his turn.

No matter the setting, the table, the players at the board - with contribution as the main motivation and goal Zander is now always playing exactly where he should play and with exactly whom he should be playing! His game is free and readily available - we can all play it every day in our own lives.

Key Point 3: GIVING WAY TO PASSION / LIGHTING A SPARK

The Zanders speak of an energy in the world that we are programmed to draw from and generate with, yet so often we are unaware of this force or where to locate it.

Sometimes we think we have ideas where we will find it, where we should find it. But it’s like unpacking your electric razor in a foreign hotel and realizing your razor’s plug can’t and won’t fit into the strange formation of holes in the strange outlet.

We think if we plug into an outlet a certain appliance our parents advised us to plug in, or to plug our career into an outlet society said would be wise for us to plug into that we will find this precious energy and it will move and empower us.

Other times we know what we need to plug in, and we know just where to go to access the energy it needs. But it feels too powerful, too kinetic. To imagine a life truly and fully fueled by that energy strikes us as selfish or risky or terrifying. So, we yank our cord out of the outlet, separate ourselves from its power, and turn slowly back to the less kinetic voltage of a less appropriate source.

We then quietly hum at a weak currency for decades, for lifetimes as the wires in our souls weaken and fray.

The Zanders invite us to recognize where and when we hold back from life’s full currency and encourage us to plug into it firmly, so that we can participate fully in who we are meant to be and add whatever light or sound or beautiful utility we are meant to contribute to this world.

Favorite Passage:

Back to the Giving an A approach - one of Zander’s students explains his reaction to this grading approach beautifully, in broken English.

“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 student. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A…

I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68 but Mr. Zander says I am an A student….

One day I discover much happier A than Number 68. So, I decide I am an A.”

(I can’t even type this student’s quote without getting choked up like the resident cry baby I am!)

Zander describes how so many influences on how we value or perceive ourselves are invented, external constructs. So why not invent evaluations that fortify, fuel, and free us instead of ones that intimidate us and weigh us down?

Application to Life Coaching:

Right off the bat, at some (hopefully) early point in my coaching partnership with my clients I would want every one of them to be able to authentically re-imagine themselves like Benjamin Zander’s student from Taiwan did.

I want them to leave our sessions and live their life within the serene but invigorating power of “So I decide I am an A.” As a coaching student, I’m going to scan for models and tools that could yield this realization or conjure up a new tool tailored for that specific exploration.

I also am struck by how the Giving an A approach impacts not just the person who adopts it internally, but each other person around them. It brings to mind the Circles of Support model - who are the Nurturers, the Warriors, the Spiritual Supporters in a client’s life? Who else might a client want to Give an A to in order to profoundly change their life and their world?

And finally, piggybacking off that use of partnership is the glorious lesson from Being a Contribution. So much of life and even life-coaching can (understandably) be a very navel-gazing and self-focused endeavor. Conversations focus on success and failure, on fear and courage. On accomplishments, achievements, growth, setbacks. Important topics and important opportunities for growth, certainly.

Yet what if life and the life coaching journey was freed from some of that self-oriented heaviness to a perspective that centered (often) around the idea of contribution? What peace or power might a client be able to summon to reach their goals when colored through the bright hues of contribution?

What if the metrics for success weren’t solely dates or figures or completed tasks, but powerful contributions? How might that metric powerfully impact a client’s journey?

It is said that once you learn a foreign language it makes it exponentially easier to then learn a second foreign language - and then a third, and so on and so on.

That idea popped into my head early on in reading The Art of Possibility, for there were so many reminders in its pages of concepts I had already come upon in previous book report texts, or in discussions at Learning Journeys classes, or in my own curious life.

The truth of these epic but ephemeral ideas and their application to life become exponentially clearer and more comfortable to me as my learning advances!

Key Point 1: GIVING AN A

The idea of a music instructor automatically giving every one of his students an A grade is certainly bold and intriguing. A terrifically big, bold idea indeed - but filled with what, and for what purpose?

The warm invitation for partnership and possibility that supports Benjamin Zander’s big, bold idea is so powerfully positive I think it may have forever changed the shape or size of my soul!

Mr. Zander isn’t gifting his students an A merely to relieve them of the stress of achieving that top mark, so that they are able to get down to the business of risking and failing and growing and expressing. It’s so much more than that.

In Mr. Zander’s approach to labeling each and every one of his pupils as an A Student there are echoes of the sentiment, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.” But that popular sentiment has its eyes set on human imperfection, on forgiveness, and on individuality.

Mr. Zander’s A’s for All approach sets its sight higher: on potential and on collaboration. Yes, everyone hopefully is doing the best they can in any situation - but what might the automatic honor, empowerment, and commitment to fully contributing to one other at an A-grade level create for us all inside a classroom, on a stage, in any and every relationship and environment?

To introduce yourself to each person in your life as someone who considers them a vital A-grade level contributor invites us all to think of ourselves and each other as incredibly more powerful than we typically ever dare to.

Key Point 2: BEING A CONTRIBUTION

(I’m realizing that although Rosamund Stone Zander’s name is on the front cover of the book in a font 3 or 4 sizes larger than her husband’s, its Benjamin’s voice and tales that stand out boldly for me.)

Like many, little Benjamin Z. grew up tethered to the quest for success and distracted by the rattling risk of failure. He astutely realized that no amount of success ever brought him to a haven of peace or satisfaction. There was always another farther off marker of success to trudge toward; always another performance, critic, or orchestra who may consider his day, his work, or his output as a failure by some externally invented metric.

Benjamin Zander packed up the pieces and the board of the game called Success & Failure and invented an all new game called I Am A Contribution. The rules are simple and there are never losers in this game. Each act and every move is performed as a contribution and in Zander’s game every player is therefore rewarded each time he takes his turn.

No matter the setting, the table, the players at the board - with contribution as the main motivation and goal Zander is now always playing exactly where he should play and with exactly whom he should be playing! His game is free and readily available - we can all play it every day in our own lives.

Key Point 3: GIVING WAY TO PASSION / LIGHTING A SPARK

The Zanders speak of an energy in the world that we are programmed to draw from and generate with, yet so often we are unaware of this force or where to locate it.

Sometimes we think we have ideas where we will find it, where we should find it. But it’s like unpacking your electric razor in a foreign hotel and realizing your razor’s plug can’t and won’t fit into the strange formation of holes in the strange outlet.

We think if we plug into an outlet a certain appliance our parents advised us to plug in, or to plug our career into an outlet society said would be wise for us to plug into that we will find this precious energy and it will move and empower us.

Other times we know what we need to plug in, and we know just where to go to access the energy it needs. But it feels too powerful, too kinetic. To imagine a life truly and fully fueled by that energy strikes us as selfish or risky or terrifying. So, we yank our cord out of the outlet, separate ourselves from its power, and turn slowly back to the less kinetic voltage of a less appropriate source.

We then quietly hum at a weak currency for decades, for lifetimes as the wires in our souls weaken and fray.

The Zanders invite us to recognize where and when we hold back from life’s full currency and encourage us to plug into it firmly, so that we can participate fully in who we are meant to be and add whatever light or sound or beautiful utility we are meant to contribute to this world.

Favorite Passage:

Back to the Giving an A approach - one of Zander’s students explains his reaction to this grading approach beautifully, in broken English.

“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 student. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A…

I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68 but Mr. Zander says I am an A student….

One day I discover much happier A than Number 68. So, I decide I am an A.”

(I can’t even type this student’s quote without getting choked up like the resident cry baby I am!)

Zander describes how so many influences on how we value or perceive ourselves are invented, external constructs. So why not invent evaluations that fortify, fuel, and free us instead of ones that intimidate us and weigh us down?

Application to Life Coaching:

Right off the bat, at some (hopefully) early point in my coaching partnership with my clients I would want every one of them to be able to authentically re-imagine themselves like Benjamin Zander’s student from Taiwan did.

I want them to leave our sessions and live their life within the serene but invigorating power of “So I decide I am an A.” As a coaching student, I’m going to scan for models and tools that could yield this realization or conjure up a new tool tailored for that specific exploration.

I also am struck by how the Giving an A approach impacts not just the person who adopts it internally, but each other person around them. It brings to mind the Circles of Support model - who are the Nurturers, the Warriors, the Spiritual Supporters in a client’s life? Who else might a client want to Give an A to in order to profoundly change their life and their world?

And finally, piggybacking off that use of partnership is the glorious lesson from Being a Contribution. So much of life and even life-coaching can (understandably) be a very navel-gazing and self-focused endeavor. Conversations focus on success and failure, on fear and courage. On accomplishments, achievements, growth, setbacks. Important topics and important opportunities for growth, certainly.

Yet what if life and the life coaching journey was freed from some of that self-oriented heaviness to a perspective that centered (often) around the idea of contribution? What peace or power might a client be able to summon to reach their goals when colored through the bright hues of contribution?

What if the metrics for success weren’t solely dates or figures or completed tasks, but powerful contributions? How might that metric powerfully impact a client’s journey?


William Rees is a talented person and student in our coaching certification here at Learning Journeys. The book review above was an assignment for class. Thank you William for sharing your insights.

We are proud partners with Minneapolis Community & Technical College. If you work for an organization that offers tuition reimbursement this is your opportunity to tap into this available and complete your coaching certification. Classes are offered every month. Register online to get started today. For questions about registration, classes and more please contact Jennie Antolak, MA, MCC.




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