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Giving Out "A's"

One of my favorite leadership books is The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Stone. The book reminds us that we make our own realities. Our perceptions and preconceptions deeply affect how we see and interact with the world.

The book starts with the story of two marketing scouts sent to a non-industrialized region of the world. One scout dejectedly writes back, “Situation hopeless. No one wears shoes.” The other triumphantly writes back, “Glorious business opportunity. They have no shoes.” Who is right? It depends solely on your perspective.

My favorite chapter is when the Zanders implore that we give everyone in our life “A’s.” Michelangelo purportedly said he sculpted by exposing the beautiful shape hidden in the rock. His chisel freed the beauty that already existed. Think about how great the world would be if we approached everyone with whom we interacted with that attitude. We would see the beauty in the policeman, the waitperson and telemarketer. (Okay, that last one might be harder.)

Ben Zander put “Giving an A” in practice in his teaching. (He is an orchestra conductor and teaches high level music students.) He knew all of his students were excellent, and he knew the pressure of performing for a grade almost paralyzed some of them. So at the beginning of the semester he told the students all of them would get an “A.” All they had to do was write Zander how they were going to earn their A.

This way students could imagine the possibilities of being in the class. They could see their improvement and they had goals to aim for without undue pressure.

I invite you today to imagine what you are going to do today to earn an “A.” What will you do next week and next month? Imagine the beautiful possibilities in you. If you do so both you and those around you will be enriched.

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