• Mel Butcher

Book Club Guide: The Art of Possibility by Zander & Zander

It's time for another book club guide! I love organizing book discussions - it's a great way to virtually connect with colleagues and build relationships, especially since the pandemic has eliminated our "water cooler" interactions.

Today's guide is about The Art of Possibility (BookShop, Half Price Books, B&N).

The Art of Possibility is written by a couple, Rosamund Stone Zander (Roz, a family therapist) and Benjamin Zander (a Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor). This book is an invitation to explore the practices that the Zander's have incorporated into how they live and interact with people. It is an amalgamation of values, leadership, mindfulness, and empathy.

Who's it for?

This book is for anyone with an open mind. You will especially benefit from this book if you are looking for more effective ways to interact with the humans around you, whether professionally or personally.


I read the hard copy of this book and highly recommend it. Several of my colleagues listened to the audio version and they highly recommended listening because the incorporated music added to their experience.


If you decide to use these discussions for your own book group, I'd love for you to circle back with me and let me know how the discussion goes. :)

Stepping Into a Universe of Possibility

  • Think of an area in your life where you have held onto “scarcity thinking” (now or in the past). How did that serve you? What new mindset might serve you better today?

  • The authors introduce a concept called the “world of measurement”. Think about how you may have clung to the world of measurement in the past. How have you reframed your worldview as you've matured?

  • Excerpt: “On our path to achieving a goal we inevitably encounter obstacles. Some of the more familiar ones, aside from other people, are scarcities of time, money, power, love, resources, and inner strength… All the manifestations of the world of measurement – the winning and losing, the gaining of acceptance and the threatened rejection, the raise hopes and the dash into despair – all are based on a single assumption that is hidden from our awareness. The assumption is that life is about staying alive and making it through – surviving in a world of scarcity and peril. Even when life is at its best in the measurement world, this assumption is the backdrop for the plan, and, like the invisible box around the nine dots, it keeps the universe of possibility out of view.

  • In what way has your mindset shifted (in the past or after reading this book) to bring the world of possibility into view?

Giving an A

  • As an orchestral teacher, that author took an approach of having students write a letter at the *beginning of the class as to why they deserved an A, and then watching how they met those expectations unfold. What did you think about this approach?

  • In one of the student’s letters, they wrote, “Thus all diffidence and lack of belief in myself are gone. So too is the belief that I only exist as a reflection In other people’s eyes and the resulting desire to please everyone…” How does that land for you?

  • Can you think of a time when someone “gave you an A” despite not knowing you or your intentions well? What did that mean to you? How did it change your behavior?

  • Did the approach taken with the young orchestral group traveling abroad surprise you? What went right with that approach?

  • How does The Monk’s Story apply to your life?

Leading from Any Chair

  • What lesson did you get from the US and Cuban young orchestral musicians learning to play together?

Rule #6

  • What might we learn from the contract dispute story?

The Way Things Are

  • What stood out to you when the author described hearing Jane Goodall speak (p111 hardback)? What lessons might we discern in the context of our professional environmental work?

Lighting a Spark

  • How might our behavior change if we wanted to enroll team members, versus push them to deliver? How might creating enrollment help you engage team members?

Being the Board

  • Excerpt: “Ordinarily we equate accountability with blame and blamelessness, concepts from the world of measurement. When I blame you for something that goes wrong, I seek to establish that I am in the right – and we all know the delicious feeling of satisfaction there. However, inasmuch as I blame you for a miserable vacation or a wall of silence – to that degree, in exactly that proportion, I lose my power, I lose my ability to steer the situation in another direction, to learn from it, or to put us in good relationship with each other. Indeed, I lose any leverage I may have had, because there is nothing I can do about your mistakes – only about mine.

  • What are your thoughts on this excerpt? How does this play out in personal life? Professional life?

  • Reread the section titled “The Practice: Part Two”. What stands out to you?

It’s all invented

  • What might you now invent that would give you new choices?

Telling the We Story

  • If you transformed to what you envision is the best version of yourself, how might your relationships with others change – think of a specific example? What does We look like?

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