Friday, May 11, 2012

Week 2 Reading: The Art of Possibility in Application

I do not think the book addresses how to bend the world to your will or even about what to do when the world around you opposes your vision of what could be. I think it’s about how to take control of your life and shape (not bend) the world to your vision of what could be within the realm of your influence. So far, I’m enjoying the book and will more than likely read it again at a more leisurely pace.

Amazingly enough I encountered a situation on the day of this entry in which I was able to share the Zanders’ enlightened wisdom by consulting a former student. I had responded to a phone message in my office to return a call to one of the school districts I served. The voice on the other end answered with the standard polite greeting of the office title, her name, and “may I help you”. I thought I recognized the secretary’s name but thought to myself, “Nah! This couldn’t be one of my former students who I taught in middle school and now working at a district office. I’m not that old!” Well, it was and she recognized my name and voice. After addressing the business of the call, she politely asked me if I minded if she asked me some questions about career, being successful, and the disillusion of education as a means to “get ahead”. She expressed how disappointed she was that after receiving her bachelor’s degree, her masters, work experience in many human-service related areas, and a minimum wage salary, she has nothing to show for it. She did not feel successful. Having read the first few chapters of The Art of Possibility, I asked her by whose standards did she feel unsuccessful? I explained to her as Zander puts it, that her thoughts and actions…where reflections of the measurement world. I explained to her that that meant she was living up to the standards of the world and not hers.

In the “Giving an A” chapter Zander gives account of his use of the giving an “A” to a group of music students at the beginning of the course and tells them to earn it they must explain in writing how they earned the “A” as if they were telling it in the future. The simple psychology of that says that by imagining, seeing, or projecting yourself into success will cause you to establish a focused goal in which to work toward. Using Zanders section titled “The Practice”, I asked the young lady the questions more or less and she came up with her own conclusions. She was not focused, she had not really set goals for herself, and no one ever told her that she could set her own level of success. In other words she had no one to give her an “A” so she could move to the next level. She did tell me that it was because of my influence in teaching computers that she went on to get her B.A. in Computer Science. If I remember I did her an “A”.

I could go on about that conversation with my former student but then this entry would be so long my readers might not come back. By the way, I’m passing her off to be mentored by some successful women I know and I recommended “The Art of Possibility” for her to read.


  1. Hmmmm.... looks like there's some "echoing" going on with your entry.... almost like any good song there are parts that require repeating.... anyway, thanks for relating the story of your former student and how appropriate the book was to her situation and image of what "successful" means. thanks.

  2. I feel so bad for the students that are coming out into our current employment climate. I know of people in similar situations like your former student. To be able to reframe your view: that's so much easier said than done, but it's still a needed message. Thanks for sharing about your encounter.

    The "Giving an A" message was powerful to me. I come out of a culture and family environment that sets impossibly high (and sometimes even unspoken) standards. Such a poisonous environment breeds failure and worse: the fear of failure. The way you described "Giving an A" is so empowering. More instructors need to learn how to empower their students like you.

  3. Bill,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post this week on the opening chapters of The Art of Possibility. I think that your observation that the book is really more about shaping the world to your vision than it is about bending reality is right on point.

    I suspect that the feelings aroused in your former student are, unfortunately, quite common among new college graduates. I consider myself very lucky that I found teaching—a career that I find very gratifying—early in life. Many friends my age feel lost in the jobs that they do every day, feeling that they are somehow missing out on something greater. While some of their discontent might genuinely come from dissatisfaction, I imagine that much of it originates with a sense of insecurity, a sense that they have failed according to some standard that they, ironically, had no part in creating. It sounds as though you and your former student had a really productive conversation; I hope that it reached her.