Ben starts off his presentation by inviting the people in the back row to come to the front row, “in the same way the government invites you to pay your taxes.” After the front row is filled up, he tells the audience that it makes a big difference to him to have the front row full. He says having people sitting in the front row is a metaphor for enrolling people in something you’re passionate about.
His talk “is not motivational speaking, but transformational.”
Ben leads us through different scenarios, exercises and stories, from singing happy birthday to one of the attendees, to playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. He demonstrates how we can only see what we have a category for. Education is not the transference of information, but the opening up of new categories. And it’s what we do with these new categories that matters.
After one story, he says that we have distinguished something in this room, which is possibility. There are three responses to everything in life: resignation, anger or possibility. He did not come to talk about resignation or anger, but wants to talk about possibility. He then shows the nine dot game (join the nine dots with only four lines)… and demonstrates that the only way to connect the dots is to think outside the box.
He asks us to think about what assumptions we’re making and says every organization, every enterprise needs someone who can recognize the assumptions being made and has the permission to speak about them.
Some words of wisdom and insight from Ben Zander:
– We might as well invent something that lights up our life and lights up the lives of those around us.
– The secret of life is… it’s all invented.
– One of the characteristics of a leader is that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of who he’s leading to understand his passion.
– Classical music is for everybody.
– Human beings in the presence of possibility have shining eyes.
– My job as a conductor is to awaken possibility in other people. If the eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.
– Key to the kingdom of possibility: don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously (rule #6).
– We never know where the treasure is buried, but what we do know is the vision.
– If people don’t do what you want them to do, you can always apologize to them because you didn’t enroll them in your passion.
– The new leader is the one who can distinguish the downward spiral and move people into the realm of possibility.
– The world of sales is very difficult, because you’re trying to get someone to buy something they don’t want, because otherwise they’d have it.
– Possibility is always only one sentence away.
– The downward spiral lives in our language, it lives in our speaking.
“Leadership and life comes down to three things: it’s all invented, standing in possibility, and ‘rule #6.’ ”
And with hugs for all of his first row participants, Ben Zander leaves the audience with their eyes shining.