In the book, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander show us the 12 things we can do to go on a journey of possibility, rather than living a life full of hurdles and constraints of our own making.
These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.
The Third Practice: Giving an A
In this chapter, Roz and Ben discuss the act of receiving a letter grade A in life. They offer the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:
We often assume that not everyone can succeed and get an A in our measurement-filled world. Therefore, someone else will have to settle for a lesser grade when someone gets an A.
The curve-grading approach instills the notion that there is only one right way to succeed. Furthermore, the method enforced the idea that everything has only one correct answer, and the other answers are not as good as the “right” one.
The approach also tends to squelch innovation and creativity, and it also trains the students and employees to focus solely on what they need to do to please their teachers and employers. They often ask, “Will this be on the test?”
In the realm of possibility, the figurative giving of the “A” acknowledges that everyone can achieve the desired performance without constantly being compared to someone else.
In this environment, the teacher can focus on helping students to chip away at the barriers that block their abilities without worrying about force-ranking the students. The instructor also no longer needs to identify herself with the standard personally and lets the standards maintain themselves.
The freely granted “A” expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork, and relationship. In the absence of the vision, we automatically judge the people around us against our standards, thus inadvertently pulling the wind from their sails.
Giving an A is a fundamental, pragmatic shift toward realizing that it is all invented. When we give an A, we can be open to a perspective different from what we used to believe.
In the world of measurement, we assume that, in the end, we cannot change people, but we always try as if we could. However, in the realm of possibility, such change is possible. The main driver of the change is the relationship between the two persons.