Building Life-Enhancing Relationships-- “Giving Each Other an A”!

[Note:  My blog post this week is one I wrote last fall.  Since I’m planning to give a presentation on the book, The Art of Possibility, on Sun., July 31st, at Books Inc in Berkeley, I’d like to share with you again the excitement I felt when I first discovered it.

Since I always enjoy the insights in The Art of Possibility whenever I open its pages, I hope that if you’re re-reading this blog post, you, too, will continue to feel the sparkle and engagement of connecting with the possibilities in others that can expand your own life, as well.  My appreciation, too, to Leslie Williams Schwerdt for her scintillating photo of our friend, Joel Stratte-McClure, exploring his own jazzy, pre-birthday possibilities.]

This past week, I was really charged up with the combination of participating in my Stanford University alumni reunion and reading the book, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.

One aspect of this book that struck me at my reunion was the part the authors call “Giving an A.”  By this they mean allowing people and experiences to be what they are and could be-- not limited by your own expectations.  Most people I met at my reunion said that this one was the best ever, and I agree.  My feeling is that every successive five years when we come together, we allow more of ourselves to be seen-- not just the parts of us that appear to be successful in the world.  At this reunion, there was definitely a sense of trust that who we are-- and what we’re doing that’s opening us to who we are-- was of interest to others. In the context of having graduated from a very competitive university, this more open way of interacting with each other constitutes major personal growth!

At earlier reunions, more people interacted from the “measurement” perspective of “what grade did you get?” that was the norm during college and “how well are you doing?” that was prevalent as people were starting to activate their careers.  A number of years later, my classmates and I have grown into the “possibilities” perspective that sees people as whole and evolving.  There’s so much more energy and authentic connection when you relate in this way! We’re not limited by others’ expectations of how we should write or take exams, how many trips we’ve taken or how much we make a year.  We care more about how fulfilled and expansive each other’s lives have become-- and are becoming.

“When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves . . . This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.” (The Art of Possibility).  Isn’t this the essence of how to create and sustain life-enhancing relationships-- whether with your soul mate, the store clerk you see every week, a casual acquaintance on a subway, or even someone whose political views you don’t understand at all?  It’s also the essence of how to create value from any new experience you embrace.