An Evening with Benjamin Zander and Our Community of Possibility People

The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful. [This realization] changed everything for me.

—Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic

At Startup Institute, we have an incredible community of people in and out of our company—students, alumni, instructors, partners, and friends. Each member of this community makes it stronger and richer—teaching classes, making introductions, sharing opportunities, learning, growing, and celebrating together, and always paying-it-forward. These are the people who make everything possible, and this possibility is inspiring.

Last week, we invited Benjamin Zander—conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, co-author of book The Art of Possibility, and sought-after speaker—to join our Boston community for an exclusive talk. This talk was not the same as the TED Talk above, but reverberated around similar themes of leadership, recognizing the potential in others, and helping them to rise to explore this possibility in themselves. He calls this practice “radiating possibility.”

It was truly an experience. Ben Zander radiated his passion for empowering others in a very unique way: the live instruction of a quartet of young musicians. I remain in awe.

—alumnus Evan DiLeo, Inbound Marketing Specialist at HubSpot

Zander began his presentation by drawing at two easels: the first, a “downward spiral,” winding from the top of the paper to the bottom. At the second easel, he drew a circle with arrows pointing outwards from all angles, like rays of sunshine. In the center of the circle, he wrote one word: “vision.”

Radiating possibility, Zander told us, means not ascribing judgement—positive or negative—to the people or circumstances we encounter in our lives. Instead of viewing the world in this way—a world of top and bottom, winners and losers, good and bad—we can choose to see our worlds as full of possibility. Challenges then become opportunities, mistakes are fascinating learning experiences, and people are vessels of infinite potential.

He validated what I had always suspected to be true: that you bring out the best in people when you ask “What if?” and “How about?” instead of “Don’t do that!” or “You should.”

—alumna Emily Griffin, Content Marketing Manager at 3Play Media

For Possibility People, mistakes are fascinating experiences + people have infinite potential. Click To Tweet

“Everybody gets an A,” Zander suggested. Imagine if we all spoke to each and every person—colleague, employee, friend, or stranger—as if they’d already met all of our standards and expectations. Imagine what the people in our lives could be capable of if they felt us radiating this sense of a limitless possibility in them. As Zander reminded us, the conductor of an orchestra “depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.” Conducting is leading. In orchestrating a successful company, a team, or classroom, you can’t do it all. You need to put your trust in others to bring your vision to life. And, in order for them to reach the heights of their potential, you need to empower them. The role of a leader, therefore, is to awaken possibility in others.

How do you know if you’re radiating possibility? You look around.

I have a definition for success. It’s about how many shining eyes there are around me… If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. If the eyes are not shining, you have to ask a question. Who am I being that my players’ eyes aren’t shining? Who am I being that my children’s eyes aren’t shining?

—Benjamin Zander

I define success by how many shining eyes there are around me, says @BenjaminZander Click To Tweet

Looking around at our communities in Boston, New York, and Chicago—all of our wonderful alumni, instructors, and partners who bring so much to our mission while working passionately to solve their own challenges, build companies, and make the world a better place—it’s clear where the Possibility People are. We’re grateful for each of you.

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Thank you to everyone in the @StartupInst community who radiates endless possibility. Click To Tweet

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Christine spreads the Startup Institute magic as Marketing Manager. The lead editor in charge of The Whiteboard, Christine's main goal is that our media hub be a digital reflection of our remarkable community—celebrating lifelong learners, innovators, and difference-makers. An alumna of the full-time program, Christine transitioned her career into marketing after four years of teaching high school English in the US and in Thailand. She is an avid contemporary and jazz dancer, a lover of cheese, and believes wholeheartedly that a life without risk is a life without gain. She is always cold; if you stop to visit her at her desk, she'll have a blanket with her—guaranteed.


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