The Art of Possibility Book Summary - The Art of Possibility Book explained in key points
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The Art of Possibility summary

Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Transforming Professional and Personal Life

4.5 (125 ratings)
25 mins
Table of Contents

    The Art of Possibility
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    Your life is built on assumptions.

    If we’re going to explore the art of the possible, then where better to start than with someone who knew how to look beyond the obvious – the master cubist painter himself, Pablo Picasso.

    The story goes that once, when Picasso was on a train, a man approached him to ask why he didn’t paint people the way they really were. Why did people’s heads end up as funny shapes, with their eyes out of line? Picasso asked what he meant, so the man pulled a photo of a woman from his wallet and said it was his wife.

    Picasso took one look and quipped: she’s very flat and small.

    It’s funny to us now, but what Picasso understood is that our perception is limited by our assumptions. The photo may have represented how the woman appeared physically but it wasn’t how she really was.

    The key message here is: Your life is built on assumptions.

    Humans understand the world through a three-step process. First, your senses select information from the environment that’s useful for your survival and feeds it to your brain. Then, your brain creates a simulation based on that information. Finally, you have a conscious experience of the environment, as simulated by your brain.

    This means that everything you perceive is limited by your biology. And the same is true for other species. If you were a frog, you couldn’t see color, even if you were gazing at a sunset. If you were a bee, a flower would look like an ultraviolet pattern. No matter how objective you try to be, you always experience the world through an edited lens.

    This creates scope for possibility. When you know that you see the world through a limited frame, you can question it. Say you’re drawing a portrait. You might assume that it should be a true-to-life representation of your subject. But ask yourself what possibilities might be available if that portrait could represent something other than what the brain thinks a person looks like. Encourage yourself to see differently and you end up with something radically new, just like Picasso.

    To unearth new possibilities, get into the habit of identifying the assumptions you’re making. Then, ask yourself what might happen if you widened your lens. You might discover new solutions to the challenges you’re facing.

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    What is The Art of Possibility about?

    The Art of Possibility (2000) provides a series of strategies that will invite possibility into every aspect of your life. By putting these strategies into practice, you can fuel your creativity, enhance your problem-solving skills, and deepen your relationships with others.

    Who should read The Art of Possibility?

    • Modern thinkers looking for new solutions to old problems
    • Seekers hoping for more abundance in their lives
    • Anyone interested in learning how to transcend their limitations

    About the Author

    Rosamund Stone Zander is a family therapist and executive coach whose work is grounded in the concept that humans are innately creative. She develops systems that support corporations, institutes, and teams in becoming generative and productive. 

    Benjamin Zander is a conductor who has worked with The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for over three decades. He’s a renowned speaker on the subjects of leadership and creativity and has appeared across British and American media networks.

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