The Art of Possibility, by Roz and Ben Zander


This was easily one of the most influential books I read this year. It’s certainly the one that I’ve playfully quoted the most, and one that I keep turning over in my mind.

The Zanders’ thesis is that the world is alive and filled with much more possibility than we’re accustomed to seeing — and all it takes to realize it is some subtle-yet-powerful shifts of mind and speech.

Two memorable examples are trading “and” for “but” and responding to mistakes by smiling, raising one’s hands, and saying, “How fascinating!”

Those shifts might not sound like much, but consider the difference between the statements “I’m OK for now, but I don’t know what I’m doing,” and “I’m OK for now, and I don’t know what I’m doing.”

These concepts have to be handled with care (“How fascinating!” isn’t the appropriate response to all mistakes), but they have brought a lot of consolation during a year when it felt like the training wheels came off.

You can’t stay upright on the bicycle by positive thinking alone, but it is possible to choose to pedal with a smile.