Practice #12: Kumbaya

Hands of the world. (n.d.) smray. Source: media.photobucket.com

Hands of the world. (n.d.) smray. Source: media.photobucket.com

Zanders’ advice for helping us achive the possible is bookended by this final thought: Why have enemies? Be a “WE” as they phrase it. Don’t be a “you and I” be a “WE.” They go from the macro to the micro and back in a few pages. Israel and Palestine. USA vs. the Terrorists. You and your spouse. Your child and you. Your employer and you. Nelson Mandela and his Truth and Reconcilliation Commision are offered to the reader as a perfect example of the “WE” mindset. Is life really about justice? Is it really about revenge? Retribution? Or, is life about LIVING? Mandela realized that what South Africa needed the most was to get on with the living as a nation, as a “WE.” I don’t believe that Mandela thought justice unnecessary, or sub-human. I believe that he was smart enough to realize that the kind of “justice” that would occur would only be a setback to his long term vision for South Africa.

The Zanders’ obviously yearn for a world in which we can all live with the “WE” mindset, and it is a goal I believe is worth trying to achieve. That being said, I marvel at the way we try to achieve it. I’ve alluded to this in previous post, but I’ll say it again: We will never have world peace if we aren’t at peace with the person sleeping next to us at night. We can’t achieve world peace if we can’t put aside our differences with our mother or father, brother or sister, neighbor or co-worker. Peace has to start on a local scale. Like really local, like inside of yourself. I know (and am related to) people that aren’t even at peace with themselves. How can we expect to accomplish peace on such a grand scale with division in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities? It reminds me of a motto about winning that our wrestling team had when I was a freshman: “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Substitute the word “WE” for “me” and you’ll be close to what the Zanders are getting at.

Source:

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.

Practice #11: Envision

Optimism. (n.d.) Source: aviary.com

Optimism. (n.d.) Source: aviary.com

It seems to me after reading this far in “The Art of Possibility” each practice has the same profound message: Be positive, live, dream! I believe that one can truly begin to live once one has mastered the principles laid out in this book. A life lived under the storm clouds of doubt, self-pity, and self-constructed barriers is no life at all, and certainly not one that God wishes us to live. God did not bless us with the gifts we all have so we could all run around and try to figure out how to limit ourselves. Yet it is our fallen nature to do just that. I think the devil loves for us to walk around in a pessimistic fog because it prohibits the very thing that the Zanders are advocating: Living a life full of joy to such an extent that it benefits not only you, but everyone around you. Imagine the possibilities if one in 100 lived this way. Speaking for myself, I impact over 100 students a day. And though impacting them, I impact my students’ parents and perhaps even my students’ future children! And that’s only the students in my life. I still have all of my co-workers, church members, and neighbors. 1 in 100 can make a big difference! Can you be 1?

In general I am an optimistic person. Still, sometimes those self-imposed barriers stand proud and strong. This book is helping me improve slowly by forcing me to confront issues I perhaps wasn’t even aware that I had.

Anywho . . .back to practice #11. As I read though the chapter, my mind kept wanting to apply the principle to my choirs. We can let many things distract from the ultimate business of making beautiful music. ”

“I don’t want to sit by her.”
“I don’t like this music.”
“My head hurts.”
“My boyfriend dumped me”
“My voice is changing.”
“My parents are splitting up.”
“My friend died.”

True. But why are we here? We’re here to make beautiful music. We’re here to let music make a difference in our lives and in the lives of the audience. If we truly believe that our task is a worthwhile one, we can’t let anything stand in the way of it. As long as you have a voice, there is NOTHING that can stop you from accomplishing that!

Source:

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.

Practice #9: Sign Me Up

close-up of a man sitting on a couch holding a shoebox (n.d.) Clara Griffin. Source: fotosearch.com

close-up of a man sitting on a couch holding a shoebox (n.d.) Clara Griffin. Source: fotosearch.com

The Zanders give multiple examples to illustrate practice #9, which they call enrolling. They advise not to take “no” personally and view it fatalistically. Instead they encourage the reader to interpret “no” a different way. This other way is the same way that my manager trained her salesmen to think about “no” when I worked at Nordstrom selling mens shoes (which was such an awesome job, by the way). No simply means one of two things. One: “I’m not convinced” and Two: “Not right Now.” In a way I see a pretty good connection with the practice of giving everyone an “A”. The process looks like this: No one in their right mind would not want to own a sweet pair of shoes. If they are unwilling to buy these shoes, it may be because they don’t understand the value of sweet shoes. This I can fix by enrolling this person. It also may be that they can’t afford these sweet shoes, which I cannot fix by enrolling. However, if I do enroll this person, it may be that when they CAN afford some sweet shoes, they will come back to me and get them. Enrolling is basically selling people. Enrolling is easy if you are passionate about something as the Zanders obviously are. I am passionate about shoes. Very. I enroll people into buying sweet pairs of shoes all the time, and I haven’t sold shoes in years. It’s something I do naturally because of my passion.

Teachers need to have this skill of enrolling as much as anyone, if not more, because we have what our students need. If my students are less than thrilled to sing the music I pick out for them, its because I haven’t enrolled them. Enrolling them is (theoretically) easy to do because I am passionate about what I teach, which is something not everyone can say, unfortunately. If they aren’t on board, it is my fault not theirs. Let the enrolling begin!

Source

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.

Practice #3: Assume the Best

grade A. (n.d.). Source: www.wales.nhs.uk

grade A. (n.d.). Source: http://www.wales.nhs.uk

As I read through this third chapter in The Art of Possibility, I was almost moved to tears twice. I don’t know if I was just having one of those days, or what, but this chapter really touched me, impacts me still, and I hope will continue to impact me and my teaching for years to come. This longest chapter so far attempts to convince us not only to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but to actually give everybody we encounter an A, just as we would give our students an A when they met all of the assignments expectations. Only in this book, Mr. Zander actually gives all of his students A’s before their first week of class is over. Mr. Zander found that once his students knew they had the grade in the bag, they were free to really experiment with their musicianship while playing, which in turn led them to much greater expression than they ever would have achieved. Removing the threat of failure freed the students. I was so inspired by this story that I have decided to do the same thing for my incoming 8th graders (a class that as 6th and 7th graders was the hardest to teach for a number of reasons).

Forgiveness. (n.d.) Source: dlibrary.acu.edu.au

Forgiveness. (n.d.) Source: dlibrary.acu.edu.au

There were two very touching stories in the book, both involving bitterness toward fathers. One involving a girl and one involving a boy. Both of them were free from the pseudo-hatred they felt for the fathers by allowing themselves to assume the best of their fathers and then reevaluating their relationships with them based on the new assumption. Both were enabled to overcome their bitterness and sense a new-found love from their now deceased fathers. The other part of the chapter that made me emotional was re-experiencing the somewhat traumatic life of Gustav Mahler. I love Mahler’s music and am sometimes strangely ashamed to derive so much enjoyment from his work, which is so good largely as a result of the painful experiences he endured throughout his life.

Giving an A to others is very much in the same vain with the Biblical expression of love. The Church could use a little bit more of it. Even in my own church I am at times left wondering “Man, where is the grace, people?” Christians are told to love one another in this assuming-the-best-of-each-other kind of way (I Corinthians 13). We are also told to love our enemies in this manner, and are told that this kind of love for one another is the truest form of expression of our love for Christ. I don’t want to come across as a “God is love” flower child kind of a believer, but love is given a preeminent place in scripture for a reason. As the Apostle Paul says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Sources:

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.

Practice #2: Forget Measuring!

The Zanders use chapter 2 to convince the readers that we are indeed slaves of the measuring stick. There are always standards that we compare ourselves to. Wether it is GPA in school, money, recognition or awards, or our own personal measuring sticks that only we know about, we constantly try to measure up. The message of our authors? Forget all of that! Imagine the freedom you would have if you weren’t constrained by such obsessions? How much more creative would your thought process be if instead of trying to measure up, you just lived? Just wake up and breath the air in and LIVE. It is a blessed experience, and one which I am fond of having. I choose to rarely ascertain how well I am meeting particular standards in favor of just being/living/whatever you want to call it. There seem to be plenty around me who do the job for me anyway. It’s not that I don’t have goals. I have many of them. I just don’t let them ruin my life, that’s all. I know that if I just live everyday to its fullest and do what I am happiest doing, I will meet all of those goals. I haven’t really failed yet. I’ve made mistakes and have figured out how NOT to accomplish my goals, but I’ve never really failed.

measure. (n.d.). Source: clickmailmarketing.com

measure. (n.d.). Source: clickmailmarketing.com


This outlook is particularly important to those of us in the Christian faith. We all know of, and perhaps are or have been, people for whom the faith is one gigantic measuring rod. They measure themselves everyday, of course finding out that they can never really measure up. One of three things happens to people like this. Some get fed up with it all and fall away. Some realize that if they only would have paid attention a long time ago they would’ve heard or read multiple scriptures indicating that it is impossible for us to measure up, which is why we need Christ (there are none righteous, all have fallen short of the glory of God, etc.). The third group? Well, the word Pharisee comes to mind. I have found it helpful to walk in reliance on the Spirit of God to “light my path,” as the Psalm says, and to help me do the best I can at everything I do. Those of you who know me, which is pretty much anybody who is reading this, know that I am nowhere close to measuring up to God’s standards. But thank God that Christ has given me the freedom to live with my eyes focused on him instead of the measuring rod!

Sources:
Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.

New Book: The Art of Possibility

Cover art. (2000). Source: www.intropsych.com

Cover art. (2000). Source: http://www.intropsych.com

It’s like The Power of Positive Thinking on steroids. I have read three chapters of the book so far and eagerly anticipate the rest of it. The chapters are short and easy to navigate (unlike Convergence. Short chapters = Good. Its like having short quests in World of Warcraft. Seriously who has 2 to 3 hours to try and beat the Deadmines?

The authors determine to teach the reader 12 practices “for bringing possibility to life.” (Zander & Zander, 2002). Chapter 1 illustrates for us the way our mind frames in our circumstances in a way that may not necessarily represent the entire truth or the whole picture. Our brains become wired to think in certain ways, and those habits may not lead us to the solutions we need when confronted with obstacles. To prove this phenomenon to their readers, the authors challenge them to complete the nine-dot puzzle.

07ninedot. (n.d.) Source: www.intropsych.com

07ninedot. (n.d.) Source: http://www.intropsych.com


The challenge is to “join all nine dots with four straight lines, without taking pen from paper.” (Zander & Zander, 2002)

If you cannot complete the task, which my wife and I both failed to do, it is because your brain has inserted extra instructions into those expressly written above. I’ll allow you to figure out exactly what that is, but the point is our minds are very adept at misconstruing bits of information together to from an impression that is not completely true. When faced with seemingly unsolvable problems, our challenge is to figure out what barriers our mind is inventing and seek to see around it. As my 9th grade Algebra teacher said on a daily basis, “every problem has a solution”.


Sources:
Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.