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The Art of Possibility: Transforming Personal and Professional Life

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  4,361 Ratings  ·  546 Reviews
The Art of Possibility offers a set of breakthrough practices for creativity in all human enterprises. This inspirational book is a synthesis of Rosamund Stone Zander's knowledge of cutting-edge psychology and Benjamin Zander's experiences as the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Infused with the energy of their dynamic partnership, the book joins together Be ...more
ebook, 206 pages
Published September 28th 2000 by Harvard Business School Press (first published 2000)
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Mindi Vandagriff
This isn't just a standard self-help type book. It's a change-your-thinking-feel-good-book-written-for-an-educator's-ear-but-can-be-translated-into-everyone-around-you type book. Written through their own accounts and experiences, the Zanders give practical advice on how to, basically, live a fuller life. Their experiences in education, though not typical (Ben was an orchestra conductor and Ros, a therapist) speak volumes to educators alike and different. I am a fourth-grade teacher and where it ...more
Not sure how to describe this--scattershot? Uneven? Wonderful in parts?

I picked this up because I so enjoyed Benjamin Zander's TED talk, which you can watch here:

Who can resist a conductor who talks about "one-buttock playing"?

So Benjamin Zander is one coauthor, and his wife Rosamund Stone Zander is the other coauthor. He's a conductor/teacher/motivational speaker/humanitarian, and she's an "executive coach and family systems therapist." Fascinating comb
On my flights to Belgrade the past couple of days, I finished a great book that has been influencing my thinking in several areas. The book was a thoughtful gift from Gayla Nicholson, a board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Park County, Wyoming, a recent client.

I referenced portions of Ros and Ben Zander's 2002 classic, The Art of Possibility, in the closing keynote I gave at last week's Department of Education mentoring conference in Seattle, as it is so consistent with my framework for
Oct 26, 2012 Sherri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend the audio version of this because the authors' enthusiasm shines through as they read it, and because, they actually include classical music excerpts to fully elucidate their examples!

At the same time, however, I found myself wishing I had a digital or paper copy so that I could more easily highlight their words to come back to again and again.

The "practice" and the accompanying "rules" are inspiring, and definitely difficult to live by all the time (which is why they call it
Kevin Beasley
Mar 31, 2009 Kevin Beasley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

They stick to us like that glue that comes with packaged toys that you pull off one finger just to find it stuck to another. The more you try to discard it, the more it seems to hang on for its life. That’s how paradigms work, they just don’t want to die or be replaced. Paradigms are necessary storage spaces for our beliefs and attitudes, but they can also blind us and take away promise and hope for something better. When I accept my paradigms as the only way of life, not only I suffer
Jun 12, 2012 Kristi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a difficult time with this book for a few reasons. 1) many of the lessons were common sense...aka don't take yourself so seriously. 2) I felt like the authors bragged about themselves a bit much. I enjoyed the stories they told of other people, but not of themselves. 3) I saw hypocrisy in the book when Roz talks about moving on in one lesson & then brings up an instance where one of her teachers was always against her....isn't that playing the victim? Holding a grudge from when you wer ...more
Feb 18, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A standard self-help book. No new territory. I kept thinking, this sounds like Landmark psycho babble. Sure the end they acknowledge Landmark. For a really excellent book that does offer something, read "Strangers to Ourselves" by Timothy Wilson.
Jan 28, 2013 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The “Art of Possibility” was written by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. He is the founder and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a music professor (retired now, I believe) and she is a family therapist and landscape painter. It is a “how to” book on how to lift ourselves out of the difficulties we face on a daily basis and walk into a universe of possibility. The authors have not said anything that hasn’t already been said in hundreds of other books, but the way they e ...more
Jim Dooley
Jun 28, 2013 Jim Dooley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a conflicted rating here. The composition and the presentation of the book rates 4-stars, but the value of the material rates 5-stars. Not unlike Covey's 7 HABITS, seeing a live presentation of the material is more transforming and inspirational than it is in the written format.

The basic premise of the book is as essential for everyone as it is for the apparent target audience of Leaders. When you make others aware that you truly see potential within them, they tend to rise to meet that p
MsSmartiePants the candy...
Tedious. Boring. Slow. Very simple and well known concepts are "rediscovered" by this husband and wife team. While I found them pleasant (they did the audio version of the book, which I usually prefer), listening to the first three CD's was an exercise in patience slogging through elementary concepts as I awaited the 'new' information.

When I questioned my own efforts for the fifth or sixth time, I decided that I'd heard enough. There were no 'new' discoveries hinted at. I found no good reason t
Jun 22, 2015 Melanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
Eh. I did take half page of notes as a read this book, so it does have some good thoughts. I also appreciated that many of the examples were taken from the world of music; so many examples in these types of books are taken from business, so a change was refreshing. All that being said, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. I can't really put my finger on it, but there was something about it that bothered me. The ideas and language were often too fuzzy, imprecise, a bit foofy.
My dad attended a business seminar by Mr Zander and loved it enough to buy the book. We still use some of the authors' catchphrases around the house ("Remember rule number 6!") The book contains a ton of good advice and inspirational stories. I particularly like how the authors admit their own shortcomings -- it's not all just Pollyanna optimism.

That said, it also does contain plenty of fluffy optimism and New-Agey talk of energy. "In the realm of possibility, there is no division between ideas
One of my yoga teachers highly recommended this book, as well as Benjamin Zander's TED talk on The Transformative Power of Classical Music. I'm not a huge fan of self-help books, but I loved his video so much that I just had to borrow the book.

The book is comprised of twelve lessons:
1. It's all invented
2. Stepping into a Universe of Possibility
3. Giving an A
4. Being a Contribution
5. Leading from Any Chair
6. Rule Number 6
7. The Way Things Are
8. Giving Way to Passion
9. Lighting a Spark
10. Being t
Jan 11, 2008 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
QUOTE: “….[I]nterpretations of the world vary from individual to individual and from group to group. This understanding may persuade us that by factoring out our own interpretations of reality, we can reach a solid truth. However, the term it’s all invented points to a more fundamental notion – that no matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. So, if there are absolutes, we have no direct access to their existence. The mind cons ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
This book is a therapy session for musicians or music lovers longing for a way out of destructive thought patterns and a me-vs.-them mentality -- wishing to achieve their full potential not just as musicians and teachers but as humans.

If that first sentence sounded like a bunch of new-agey crap to you, you're probably right. The stories and "evidence" in this book are at best, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-esque pap, and at worst, apocryphal. But it's the "practices" to this book that are key, and w
Feb 11, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
Inspiring book and ideas! Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and motivational speaker, teaches through music and emphasizes the importance of seeing and embracing the opportunities and possibilities in life!

He starts with this quote, "A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, 'SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES.' The other writes back triumphantly, 'GLORIOUS BUSI
Anthony Francalancia
Phil Jackson, former Los Angeles Lakers manager, once said, "always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart". This theme is idolized in the novel, "The Art of Possibility" by Elizabeth Zander, where she and her husband, Ben, explain how positivity and open-minded thinking can lead to endless opportunities to greatness.
Each chapter is dedicated to an idea that can help maximize one's possibility to achieve a successful job, relationship, or any vision imaginable. For example, a belief that i
Dec 04, 2010 Jaclyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again, I should have reviewed this book when I finished it in October. The specifics have become rusty as end of semester chaos envelops my brain. That said, I loved this book. It's not a perfect book, but this look at the immense possibility we have in our lives is great. I felt better about life with each subsequent chapter as Roz and Ben Zander explored different ways we can transform our personal and professional lives. It is a book that I will be picking up again come the end of grad s ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished the audiobook version of this book, which I highly recommend. Narration makes or breaks an audiobook for me and this one was MADE. It is read by Zander and his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, switching off parts. Many of the examples are from Benjamin Zander's experience as a conductor, and the audiobook adds the Mahler and Beethoven in the background to help bring a lovely depth of emotional experience to the anecdotes.

People who actively work on understanding themselves might not
Aleisha Z Coleman
Jan 19, 2009 Aleisha Z Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: most adults
Recommended to Aleisha Z by: another DI find!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The authors' professional experience range from conducting world class orchestras to pyscho-therapy to leadership workshops. They offer some great techniques for working in groups. I especially like the approach of "Giving Everyone an A" where you ask the class/team to envision the end of the class/project. Each member is asked to write a letter explaining why they received the A, i.e. what did they do that was outstanding. Then each moves forward to live that plan they outlined. Another nice te ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it first came out, back in 2000. It was so fantastically inspiring that I bought a second book --- and lent them both to friends in Houston. When I read it again in 2011 --- a borrowed book from the university library, it was as if I was reading it for the first time. I have changed. So the way I read and interpret has changed as well. During my years studying at conservatory, one of my teachers played a video of Benjamin Zander talking to Fortune 500 executives. You can vi ...more
David Williams
Apr 13, 2011 David Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I worked with Ben for several years, bringing his talks to British audiences, and I produced a video 'Benjamin Zander: Conducting Business' (now sadly unavailable) which brought many of the stories in this book to life through Ben's inspirational ways of working with business audiences and musicians directly. Ben's wife Rosamund was kind enough to act as 'first reader' for the facilitator's guide to my video, and I returned the favour for the first draft of this book, so I have to declare my bia ...more
Aug 16, 2014 Clara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Benajmin Zander's TEDx speech is what made me choose this book. I usually buy my books on Kindle, but this one I thought it's worth to have it as a hard copy to easily return to it.

As I expected, it is extremely inspirational. Full of stories ,it opens your eyes to see beyond what's obvious, and look at the things from the perspective that everything is possible. For a long time I was upset that perception is reality and many times people don't see you as you are. Now I realize that this can be
Aug 11, 2011 Lauri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I put off reading this book for several months, once I finally started it, I really enjoyed it. It is not your average "self-help" or enlightenment book, since it was written by the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and his wife, a therapist; rather, it gives you a different way to view and interact with the world and other people. One of the ideas I liked best in the book was the suggestion that you go into situations ready to "give everyone an A". You'll have to read the ...more
When I inherited my current office, the former occupant left this book on the shelf. One day I picked it up, and I read it during breaks and while riding various shuttles.

This self-help book is a collaboration between Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, and his wife Rosamund, a psychologist. It prescribes some Zen-like ideas for transformational living, and the ideas are well illustrated with some delightful stories. For example, there's the story of "Giving an A" in which Be
Apr 25, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeff by: Brad
A number of years ago, I really enjoyed Benjamin Zander's TED Talk about classical music (, so much so that I made it required watching for my kids! So I was interested in Ben and Ros' book about attitudes and possibility, and I really enjoyed the 12 simple tactics they share to help shape how we can approach life in a positive manner every day. It was a short, easy read, with lots of little gems that ended up in my highlights reel.
Steve Newman
I was encouraged to read this book by my manager. Rather than being written by business mangers, it is written by creative professionals and reads as such. Rather than being prescriptive and direct it has a tendency to wander through examples that relate to the points being made. If you are a right brain thinker (like myself) the book is difficult to relate to because it is overly fluffy, optimistic (love and everyone getting along) figure too much into the theories of developing vision and buil ...more
Henna Pääkkönen
This book gives guidance on how to transform the learnings from a philharmonic orchestra conductor and his psychotherapist wife into self development and into more powerful leadership practices by transforming challenges into opportunities.
This is one among many such leadership/self development line of books on the market, however this one appealed to me thanks to the orchestra/leadership analogy. Having personally played in an orchestra as the second/third violin, I could identify myself with m
Mar 06, 2014 Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Art of Possibility was revitalizing for my sense of ambition and purpose. I would highly recommend this for anyone struggling to make sense of interpersonal relationships and how they impact our perceptions of the universe. Author Benjamin Zander makes it clear from the beginning that "it is all invented" and we have the power to change the course of our lives in powerful and unexpected ways simply by our methods of accepting the energy, good or bad, that surrounds us during our daily lives.
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“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.” 26 likes
“How often do we stand convinced of the truth of our early memories, forgetting that they are assessments made by a child? We can replace the narratives that hold us back by inventing wiser stories, free from childish fears, and, in doing so, disperse long-held psychological stumbling blocks.” 19 likes
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