This weekend, I finished a book from the 100 Best Business Books of All Time that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for about two years. The book is the The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.
Life is funny that way. About two years ago, while aimlessly wondering through my local bookstore, I picked up this book without knowing anything about it. And with that, I did nothing with it until now.
Yes, by some odd coincidence, the book has shown up on the list that I’ve been choosing my reading from. Go figure.
What a shame that such a beautiful book has been in my possession for this long, and I never took more than a few minutes to look at it. Regardless, I’m glad I was finally persuaded to pick the book up and read it.
Rosamund and Ben suggest that our lives are essentially created narratives or stories based on the assumptions we carry with us in life. Thus, we use our assumptions to limit our possibilities about where we can go or what we can achieve.
This book is about letting go of all of those assumptions.
Yes. Literally letting go of all the assumptions we carry about what reality is. Assumptions for example – of who we are. This can be difficult. When we reach adulthood, most of us feel we have a pretty good grasp on our identities and our possibilities. We know what we’re good at, and where we could use improvement. We, in turn, set limits based on these assumptions.
Rosamund and Ben suggest letting go of it all. They provide 12 steps or “practices” to guide us in opening-up our lives to a journey of unlimited possibilities.
Over the next few days, I’ll share a variety of the practices from this very important book.
Practice Number One – It’s All Invented
The book tells the story of a tribe who assumed the world ended shortly beyond the river where they lived. Once a visitor came, left, and crossed the river. He exceeded the distance of where they believed their world ended. The tribe could not see the man waving goodbye, even though he was still in sight.
The world we perceive is the one that’s been invented based on our beliefs, cultures, and upbringing, to name a few. Other people and other societies see an entirely different world.
The tribe couldn’t see the man in plain view simply because he was beyond the world they perceived and believed in. We would have seen him without issue.
We believe that we see everything with our own eyes, but what are we actually missing? What could we possibly see by abandoning those limiting factors?
I’ve heard the following story a thousand times and more recently Seth Godin shared the story during his presentation in Toronto. The story is also found in The Art of Possibility and again in Linchpin.
It goes something like this….
A man notices Pablo Picasso sitting next to him on a train. He couldn’t believe it. There he is. The master himself.
He approaches Mr. Picasso and their dialogue goes something like this….
Man: Mr. Picasso, it’s an honor to meet you. Your paintings are magnificent, but they do not offer a realistic interpretation of real life. Why don’t you make paintings that accurately show the world as it is?
Picasso sits quietly and then responds.
Picasso: May I ask what you think reality looks like?
Then man reaches into his wallet and pulls out a picture of his wife.
Man: Well, like this! This is my wife.
Picasso: Hmm.. But she is very small, and flat too!
Our possibilities in life are limited because we have invented a set of assumptions about how the world is. Imagine what we might see, if we were to remove those limiting beliefs and look out beyond them.