Thursday, 9 October 2008

Revisiting past

Dear Ben
submitted: 1/31/2003 10:18 AM
Dear Ben,

Last night I went to a concert at Royal Festival Hall in London where LPO was playing under Kurt Masur two very different pieces: Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Shostacovich's 13th Symphony Babi Yar. I had bought 3 extra tickets over two weeks ago but have not really worked out who I wanted to go with on this occassion.

At the last minute I remembered your story of the Polish waiter, his wife and taxi driver all of who you encouraged to come for the first time. So, I did the same.

First I invited my young Ethiopian mentee Tesfaye - a refuge who came to UK fleeing persecution in his home country. He accepted. Then together, about 15 minutes before the start we went out and asked several young scateborders under the arches if they wanted two free tickets for the tonight's concert. Second couple seemed first taken a back, than said they are not dressed up and after getting that there were absolutely no strings attached got really excited about the prospect.

Thus, I was joined at the concert by three classical music concert attendee 'virgins'. And we were a truly international group. They are all students. Jonathan was so excited when we got into the hall saying how his grandfather would be really pleased and will certainly know all about the music he was about to hear. Nina is from Malasia and never thought she would like this kind of music. So, with scating boards under the seats and a program to know what we are about to hear we took our places.

In the end, they all said how much they enjoyed the occassion and having found that one could get the tickets for 6 pounds where the view may be restricted but the sound is fine, all said they will come again and also encourage their friends to attend as well. Nina loved the sound of the violins. It also turned out that Tesfaye was applying to study at the college they are attending so Nina and Jonathan offered him advice on the interviewing behaviour, questions to ask, what to think about and most of all the encouragement of peers.

I can not tell you what pleasure it gave me to see the joy and excitement on these young students faces as they abandoned their plan to go out with friends and take the possibility of doing something totally unexpected fully on! And they gave me their names and email addresses so we can be in touch in the future.

Acts of random kindness do bring bright eyes and change the world!

Kind regards

RE:Dear Ben
submitted: 2/2/2003 10:59 AM

What a great story! Of course, I am not a bit surprised. And remember those "kids" didn't have any particular help with understanding the music they were hearing. Imagine if someone had given them a vivid and exciting guided tour through the incredibly moving and powerful message of that music about Babi Yar! Their minds would have been blown.

When I did that same piece a few years ago in Boston (incidentally with the same bass-baritone, Sergei Leiferkus), I gave a talk before, then we performed the exquisitely beautiful and haunting Songs of Jewish Poetry (also by Shostakovitch), which explores the deep emotions of the Jewish people. Then Yevgeny Yevtoshenko read fiurst in Russian then in English his poem Babi Yar which Shostokovitch had used in the symphony, and then we performed thesymphony depicting the emotions surrounding the destruction of the jewish community at Babi Yar. I don't think there is a person on the face of the earth who would not have been moved to their core by that experience.

Thank you for sharing your story.

"Everybody loves classical music, they just haven't found out about it yet."

with great love

The Art of Possibility in action
submitted: 1/28/2003 10:52 AM
Dear Ben,

This is a story of many strands. They are all exciting. And they weave
across the world. What they have in common is the desire to have all those involved succeed. It is all linked by your presence on the video in a
lecture theatre in Cape Town last summer!

A short preamble will set the context. A more detailed story of how I came
across your video by chance and the impact its playing had on my class of 50 MBA students follows. We then fast forward to this week in London and the encounter with one of those students. Finally, a request for you to sign several copies of your book for my dear young friends and relatives.

I have been exposed to the application of breakthrough thinking for over 10 years now! After leaving the secure job in a large and respected (still)
multinational, I went through an extensive personal development program where I was focused on developing my enrolment capabilities. So, the Art of Possibility spoke to me immediately. I saw the articles about you in the Sunday Times two years ago and stored it in my memory for later!

Last summer at just two week's notice I was invited to give an Advanced Leadership progam to a class of 20 MBA students Graduate School of Business in Cape Town. This was my first assignment there. I left London with a clear idea that this was going to be a program that would transform us all. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I only knew that it would have to be highly experiential and that I should lecture very little.

When I arrived it turned out that I had a class of 50 students. Giving each
personal attention under those circumstances is very difficult. So I had to
be creative, different and bold.

A day before my first class I sent a message to all, as the students there use email extensively. It was to ask them to prepare to introduce themselves to the class by telling us in only 1 minute about the Most Transformative Moment in their life.

The next evening, as I walked into the lecture theatre I still had no idea if I
could pull this off. Plan B was ready. I briefly introduced myself and
explained that this is not my course, but their course. As I am there to help them become leaders, I have to know what they need individually to
accomplish this. I asked them to be ready for a rollercoaster ride of learning from each other. I started by telling the class about my own most transformative event.

It was the car accident in which 20 years ago my whole family was killed and I was badly injured, saved by the seat belt that my PhD supervisor (I was doing computing degree) insisted I should wear! As a result, all my long term plans were worthless. I learnt to live in a way that
opens the future.

And then in order, the whole class came down. Their stories were just
breathtaking. We all sat in silence for almost an hour until the whole process was finished.

At that moment I decided that ,since they will be defining the success of the course for themselves and letting me know how we will both see it at the end of the course in 6 weeks, the marks were almost irrelevant. So, I told them that they all start with 100% and from now on can only lose marks.

As you can imagine the energy after that class was fantastic. People who
have been studying together for 7 months or for 18 months said that this was the first time that got to know their fellow students. And they felt safe to expose their most deeply held fears. The way they spoke about their experiences: the impact of a father's deep depression, or how almost getting killed in a mugging taught them the value of friendship; why a dedicated doctor felt he had to leave medicine when, at 27, he almost died of tuberculosis or how moving the birth of ones child can be.

I will spare you all the exciting and different ways in which the program
progressed. I hardly lectured. I abandoned the lecture notes I was given and set about to help prepare students to deliver lectures themselves. You should have seen the development that occured! And, those who 'volunteered' were the individuals who told me that their learning edge is in communicating powerfully in large groups.

Fast forward to the 4th class (of 8). I was looking in the school library
for suitable videos to enliven the class. Among an extensive range I came across your video! I looked at it and thought that it would be a fitting piece for the end of the session.

We played it. People loved it. They asked me to play it again at the
begining of the next session. Out of it, we all became even more

So, from nowhere and without resources or experience we organised, in 3 days, a live link up with the World Bank in Washington to have a session on Ethics and Corporate Integrity with their Experts! And the technology worked without the hitch. We even had a corporate sponsor to cover the costs. Students organised the welcome and some of the Alumni of the school managed to come even at such short notice.

At our last class I announced that I expected each student to send me
their report and marks(grade), with an explanation of the reason for giving it to themselves. In the end, I had to go back to 6 students and to ask them to reconsider. Three had been too harsh on themselves and three were too lenient. This later group were all LatinAmerican students on exchange.

I enclose for you their unsolicited comments about the course that came with their self assessments. In addition, two students
undertook to do a Report on the application of the Art of Possibility. I
send you those as well.

The MBA finished in December. One of the graduates is going to spend a term at Columbia University and was in London this last week. We met at the Royal Festival Hall on tuesday and, since I wanted to give her a copy of your book as a present so that she can have it signed by you, I went to the bookshop in the foyer! No Luck! We walked to Charring Cross, got the last two copies from Waterstones and they are, along with my own well used paperback (acquired in US last October), ready for me to bring in on Sunday.

I am bringing my husband, sister and her boyfriend to your concert. We are all very excited about it. I only hope I will find two more copies of the
book for my daughter (18 and just started her studies) and my niece (doing her Masters in Italy).

Please excuse this effusion! I am well aware that this is a very dry missive compared to the wonderfully expressive artistic ones. Scientific training and an analytical mind take a long time to get over.

My own Big Possibility is to Transform the World of Organisations so that my daughter and niece do not have to go through the same high stress life we have and are still enduring. I am passionate about it and totally open as to the methods and approaches used.

With best wishes

Lilly Evans

(To read the reports written by two students in the Advanced Leadership Program at he Graduate School of Business in Capetown, South Africa, go to Ben's Correspondence page, under Art of Possibility)
RE:The Art of Possibility in action
submitted: 2/2/2003 11:27 AM
Dear Lilly,

It was great to see you in the front row at the Royal Festival Hall. What an amazing experience, wasn't it? I of course had no idea about the whole background to your presence there - it is truly inspiring to read the whole story. What an engine for possibility you are!!


Message to Ben
submitted: 1/28/2003 10:42 AM
Dear Mr Zander,

After following up the articles about your work, using your video at my
classes and reading your book, listening to you this morning on BBC Radio 4 was almost familiar! And it was really exciting, as I have yesterday got the tickets for my whole family for your forthcoming concert at RFT on Sunday! As moments of synchronicity go, I was there to meet with Ariella, one of my MBA students from Cape Town where your video and application of practices had such an enormous impact!

Incidentally, I wanted to buy for her a copy of the Art of Possibilty book as
she was bound for New York and Columbia University, so a life full of
possibilities. It turns out that Books etc shop at the RFH does not have any copies- and that is only a few days before the concert. Perhaps you could encourage them to get a reasonable stock for Sunday!
I just wanted to let all those who would like to hear you that a somewhat
shorter version of the program is broadcast again tonight at 9.30pm GMT and that both can be also heard on the web at

In high anticipation of a very special event

Lilly Evans

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