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Book Summary – The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

The Art of Possibility - Book summary

When you’re stuck with a seemingly-impossible problem, the best way to get unstuck is to shift your perspective. The authors, Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander, are a conductor and therapist respectively. In this book, they combine their skills, knowledge and experience into 12 practices that you can use to see new possibilities and bring them to life. In The Art of Possibility summary, you will learn these possibility principles and how to apply them to transform your results and relationships.

Mastering The Art of Possibility

Your perspectives shape your possibilities. To reconstruct how you perceive the world, you must first be willing to challenge your beliefs and assumptions, and to keep applying these 12 practices until the new ways of thinking and behaving become intuitive to you.

We’ll now outline the 12 possibility practices. For detailed tips and insights for each of these practices, do check out our full 15-page version of The Art of Possibility summary.

The Art of Possibility Summary_12 Possibility Practices Synopsis

1. Realize that Everything is Invented

Everything we know about the world around us is actually filtered through our mental stories. You pick up selective info about the environment via your 5 senses => your brain interprets the info => you have a conscious experience. By the time you’re conscious of something, your brain has already gone through a complex process of info-selection, cue-matching and story-telling.

Check out our full summary (with pdf/mp3 text, infographic, and audio files) to find out why human perceptions are so flawed/limited and how you can break out of your self-imposed frames/boxes to see new possibilities. The Art of Possibility Summary_Practice #1

2. Move from Scarcity to Abundance

We live in a “world of measurement” where everything is evaluated against goals, standards, and comparisons. All human struggles—including our fears, doubts and disappointments—are built on the hidden assumption that we must fight to survive in a world of scarcity and danger. This practice is about shifting to an abundance-mindset and tapping into an infinite universe of possibilities.  Get the full summary bundle to learn the difference between scarcity and scarcity-thinking, and how to let go of the need to constantly judge and measure everything.

3. Gift an A

We tend to grade people (literally or mentally) and use that grade to define their abilities/potential. When you give others an “A” as a gift (not because they’ve met a certain standard or expectation), it opens up a new world of possibilities for yourself and others to achieve what previously wouldn’t have been possible.

4. Be a Contribution

Most of us are constantly judging everything we do as a “success” or “failure”. This practice is about transforming your struggles into fulfilling experiences, by focusing on your contributions instead. Use the simple steps outlined in our complete 15-page summary to start making that shift!

5. Lead from Any Position

This practice is about finding and unlocking the hidden passion and commitment that exists in every person, rather than assume that your approach/standards are the best. See new possibilities emerge when you apply this practice at home and at work.

6. Lighten Up

We tend to look for external threats when in reality, it’s our own fears, views and positions that truly stand in the way of our rewarding experiences. Learn the difference between your “calculating self” vs your “central self”, and why problems/issues may magically melt away when you simply lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself and your situation.

7. See the Way Things Are

Have you ever felt resigned that there’s nothing you can do because “that’s just the way things are”? This practice is about becoming present to (i) what’s truly happening and (ii) your own reactions to them, so you get clear on your circumstances and what you can do to move toward your desired outcomes. More details in our complete summary–on how to discern between facts, feelings and assumptions, and shift from downward spirals to possibility talk.

8. Flow with Passion

When we see the objects/people around us as separate entitles, it creates artificial barriers that don’t truly exist. Find out how you can give in fully to the creative energy waiting to be expressed through you!

9. Ignite the Spark

It’s untrue that you can only persuade others through manipulation or some form of exchange. This practice is about enrolling people by igniting their imagination and bringing out their passion.

10. Be the Chess Board

This practice is about shifting your perspective so you can see your own role in a particular situation. Stop trying to control all the chess pieces and the moves; be the board that accommodates all possible moves, so you see things more objectively and can take enlightened actions.

11. Create Possibility Frameworks

This practice is about breaking downward spirals, and instead generating options by (i) restructuring meaning, (ii) developing visions and (iii) creating environments that support possibilities.

12. Focus on WE

Most of the time, we think of “we” as “You + I”. The parties are seen as separate entities with irreconcilable differences. The WE practice is about (i) identifying what connects people, (ii) listening/looking out for what emerges and (iii) jointly defining what WE want and what’s the best thing to do for US.

Getting the Most from The Art of Possibility

The authors’ goal is to equip you with alternative perspectives and approaches, so you can face any challenge in life, and design the stage upon which you’d express yourself and discover life’s unlimited possibilities. If you’re ready to step into a new world of possibilities, do get our full summary bundle which includes one-page infographic in pdf, a 15-page text summary in pdf, and a 25-min audio text summary in mp3.

The Art of Possibility summary - book summary bundle

For each of the 12 practices briefly outlined above, you can find stories, letters and reflections in the book. You can purchase the book here, or visit for more details.

About the Authors of The Art of Possibility

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life is written by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund S. Zander.

Benjamin Zander has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since 1979, and has appeared as a guest conductor with various orchestras around the world. He taught at the New England Conservatory in Boston and runs a music program at the Walnut Hill School. Zander began composing at age 9 and trained as a cellist with Gaspar Cassado. He received a degree from London’s University College and pursued postgraduate studies at Harvard/New York. Zander is also speaks widely on leadership and creativity. In 1999, he received the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum for his contribution to crosscltural understanding.

Rosamund Stone Zander is an executive coach and family systems therapist who has developed models/programs for leadership, relationship, and effective action. She holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College, did her graduate studies at the Bank Street College of Education, and has an M.S.S. from Boston University’s School of Social Work. She is currently in private practice.

The Art of Possibility Quotes

“All of life comes to us in narrative form; it’s a story we tell.”

“The frames our minds create define—and confine—what we perceive to be possible.”

“A monumental question for leaders in any organization to consider is: How much greatness are we willing to grant people?”

“The capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility.”

“The more attention you shine on a particular subject, the more evidence of it will grow.”

Click here to download The Art of Possibility summary & infographic

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