Book Review: The Art of Possibility by Ben Zander and Roz Stone Zander


The Art of Possibility

They say dynamite comes in small packages. It’s a cliché, but I couldn’t help thinking how true it is in this case. This unassuming little book with a matt yellow cover is a mere 200 pages yet it contains unparalleled wisdom that applies to large corporate entities or any relationship between two people. I received my copy as a graduation gift from a leadership programme for women in 2016. This copy was on my seat. There was another book being given out and in typical human fashion, I wanted the other book. Three years later I understood why I received this book as part of my journey. Serendipity meets synchronicity. I was blessed to meet one of the authors in person last year at our leadership conference. I had just joined a team led by Tshipi Alexander. The event was held at a venue in Marshalltown in the Johannesburg CBD on Alexander Street. A friendly old man who looked a lot like Bilbo Baggins from Lord of The Rings was wandering around just before the event, chatting to the guests. He even took a selfie with me. It turned out to be our keynote speaker: Ben Zander.

Ben Zander is the conductor of the world famous Boston Philharmonic Orchestra which performs to packed audiences. A classically trained musician and a phenomenally gifted teacher, not just of music but life, His effervescent larger-than-life personality is evident even in the book. Not only did he deliver a stirring address to the assembled crowd of bank managers on the key themes of his book, we were treated to a live one-on-one coaching session with a 15 year old cellist in the Youth Orchestra and then led in singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: Ode to Joy. In German. It was altogether a spontaneous, joyful and uplifting experience.

This book jointly written with his partner Roz Stone Zander, a psychologist and life coach will elevate your mind to think beyond the concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost and competition to a place where you can imagine and do the impossible. Ben and Roz have successfully conveyed, with elegant simplicity, through stories of their everyday lives: concepts of vision, purpose and teamwork in a way that academics, management consultants and writers of management tomes studied at universities have failed to do over decades. The reason for this is simple, they speak to your heart, they encourage you to think beyond the boundaries set by your mind about situations and give practical ways to practice this elevated thinking.

In my opinion, every leader should read this book. When we do, we will have less toxic and dysfunctional leadership, happier, more productive employees and organisations with a genuine purpose, working for the greater good of society, not just bonuses for the leadership and economic returns for shareholders. We can be and do better and the stories in the book prove that when we do better, everyone around us and the world at large is better off.

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