Monday, October 19, 2009

Week 4 Reading: The Art of Possibility, Chapters 7-12

Chapter 7: The Way Things Are
I think that one has to stay away from stasis and always try to avoid being comfortable. If you constantly try to reach outside of your comfort zone, you will find that you will remove a lot of fear that controls your decision making process. I think that you will find that if you constantly push yourself, you will find more successful outcomes in your professional life and more happiness and contentment in your personal one. I think that this is what Zander is trying to point out in this chapter.

Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in the resigned way of the cow. It doesn’t mean you should drown out your negative feelings or pretend you like what you really can’t stand. It doesn’t mean you should work to achieve some “higher plane of existence” so you can “transcend negativity”. It simply means, being present without resistance: being present to what is happening and present to your reactions, no matter how intense (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 8: Giving Way to Passion
In this chapter, Zander uses the example of the “one-buttock pianist” as someone that is not fully engaged in what they are doing. I think that, after a while, a lot of us engage in a sort of “auto-pilot” when we are doing our jobs. What Zander wants us to try and do is envision the opportunity that we encounter everyday in our lives. See every moment as one that can lead to greater things, making impacts in other people’s lives while striving to move ours forward. If you notice the more successful people in the world, such as Steve Jobs, you’ll notice that their enthusiasm and energy levels are a lot higher than a lot of people’s.

The order and predictability that civilization strives for supports us to get on with the things that matter to us, like starting companies, guiding our children, studying the stars, or composing symphonies. Yet, because the straight edged organization or our cities and towns – as well as many aspects of our daily lives – tends to mirror our perceptual maps, urban life may magnify the boundaries that keep us in a state of separateness (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 9: Lighting a Spark

I think that this chapter stresses the idea that “there is no passion on paper”. This is a very important lesson for us as instructors to learn. As we move further toward virtual classrooms and online delivery systems, we must not lose the interactivity of one to one with our students. You still need to emotionally engage your students to “light the spark” as Zander puts it. I like the metaphor that Zander uses of the spark, helping us to spread the “fire of possibility and opportunity” to others around us.

Enrolling 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 (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 10: Being the Board

The main thing that I liked about this chapter was how Zander tried to convey that we have no control over the past and we shouldn’t let the past have control over us. Taking responsibility for the outcome of your own life is very important. Instead of always playing the victim when you ask yourself “why me?”, take the opportunity to see what you can take from this experience. Not every time will be a happy opportunity or experience, but it will add to your journey in life.

Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 11: Creating Frameworks for Possibility

Zander uses the example of the child going through chemotherapy in this chapter as a good example of creating a framework for possibility. After the teacher shaved her head, she removed the negative aspect from the “framework” of the classroom. Once that negativity was removed, the students treated the child who had undergone chemotherapy differently (in a positive light). Zander also touches on the idea of one’s vision and bringing that vision to fruition. The vision is a “long line of possibility that radiates outward” (Zander, 2000).

The foremost challenge for leaders today, we suggest, is to maintain the clarity to stand confidently in the abundant universe of possibility, no matter how fierce the competitions, no matter how stark the necessity to go for the short-term goal, no matter how fearful people are, and no matter how urgently the wolf may appear to howl at the door. It is to have the courage and persistence to distinguish the downward spiral from the radiant realm of possibility in the face of any challenge (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 12: Telling the WE Story

I liked the concept that Zander presented in this chapter. We are all comprised of common threads that combine us and bring a commonality to the table that we sometimes forget. When we remove the negativism from our lives, the stumbling blocks that prevent us from fully realizing our potential, we can move forward, both as individuals and as a people. The best way I can visually express this is from the Jodie Foster movie “Contact”. Without ruining the story, Jodie’s character must construct a transportation device that transports her to another place. In addition to building the device, she places some “safety devices” that she feels will add to the design (but they were not in the original schematics). When she uses the device, the “safety devices” prevent it from functioning properly. Suffice it to say, the “safety devices” that we place in our own live prevent it from functioning properly as well.

The WE story defines a human being in a specific way: It says we are our central selves seeking to contribute, naturally engaged, forever in a dance with each other (Zander, 2000).


All in all, this was an amazing book and one of my favorites from the entire program. I think it should be required reading for everyone, not just in our program, but in other programs of study. The principles that Zander presents in this book are simple, but very effective and can be transferred to almost any situation. There are some new attitudes that I will take from this book and try to incorporate into my own life experiences.

Look around. This day, these people in your life, a baby’s cry, an upcoming meeting – suddenly they seem neither good nor bad. They shine forth brilliantly as they are. Awake restored! the dream revived (Zander, 2000).

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2000). The art of possibility. New York: Penguin.

1 comment:

  1. I too like how the common treads are seen in our world. Zander reminded me that we do all have something in common. Further this chapter catapulted me into thinking about how if we all stopped blaming each other and stopped being so negative that we (as a whole) do something great. Of course we can do great things in our household, schools, and communities, however I dare to think bigger – I dare to dream globally! If we would all just work together, WE could create wonderful things. Now who will start this?

    Even though I felt the book was like a self-help book, I also agree that this is one of the best books in the EMDTMS program.