Michelangelo is famous for his masterpiece “David”. After he finished he said that he was merely chipping away from the marble everything that was not David. In other words, one needs only remove the excess stone to reveal the work of art within. I often think that a sculptor standing before a block of stone is all about possibility.
Can we apply this notion to human beings? I think we can and we discover that we are all works of art in all our varied manifestations. Life is a journey of uncovering and removing what’s in the way of our beauty and brilliance and possibility.
The Art of Possibility
In support of helping us find the best in ourselves and others, consider the practice called “giving an A“ that comes from the book The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This practice asks us to choose the perspective of seeing everyone (even ourselves!) as holding great potential. You can give an A to anyone—your spouse, children, employer, co-workers—even strangers and possibility.
For example, think about students who think of themselves as C students. The reality is that they may not bother trying very hard. If the teacher expects them to do poorly, the students are likely to fulfill that expectation. What would happen if the expectation were that the students were A students?
Giving an A and Possibility
Benjamin Zander, a world-renowned conductor, and teacher experimented with giving As to all his graduate music students at the start of school. They were instructed to pre-date a letter to him from the end of the semester, writing to tell him not just what they had accomplished, but who they had become in the process of living up to that A. The results were amazing. Students who had been anxious over their performance and who we’re playing it safe began to see themselves differently and participated at a higher level.
In our work lives, it is easy to fall into the habit of judging others (ourselves, too!) for not living up to what we think is right and then holding that judgment as always true—in essence, labeling them C or D students. Imagine coming from a perspective of believing in an associate’s creativity and potential. The result can be working together toward a shared goal of excellence.
The world is much more beautiful and full of possibility when we choose to focus on the work of art within rather than the excess stone that appears to be the reality. It’s really a choice of perspective.
What grade do you want to live into?
Also, Don’t forget to tune into our new podcast. Our latest podcast episode examines a forgotten superpower we all have, curiosity. You can find the latest episode here. Please feel free to pass it on to anyone whom you think might find it useful.