Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do you give yourself an A?

“Giving an A” is one of the practices espoused by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander in their fascinating volume on The Art of Possibility (2000 Harvard Business School Press). Technically it qualifies as a self-help book and it easily lends itself to that task, however the text is also a lens.

The book is a very good lens for those of us who generally feel we are looking at life from the wrong end of a microscope. It is an unusual lens because it is not always necessary to remove or do away with one’s original lens in order to use it; sometimes it works on top of an existing lens to adjust the focus or adjust the perspective.

In the section on “Giving an A” the authors present an alternative to how we measure ourselves and others by seeking to “give an A.” No doubt this will incite a diatribe about grade dilution and other academic ire but it is not just about grades in formal (or even informal) classes.

Much of the chapter focuses on how to find and call out the “A” in other people; those everyday people who we deal with regularly or who happen to cross our paths. However, there is a significant proportion that is devoted to whether we give ourselves “A’s” and how doing so can affect our outlook and the ownership we feel about our lives, and work, and interests.

As I look at this crossroads point of my life and the things I hope to accomplish this year I think about this notion of “being an A.” Am I currently an “A”; have I been an “A”; and, most important of all, what would allow me to give myself an “A” at the end of this year?

This post is going to be an open-ended chat without a conclusion for the present. But I challenge you to reflect on yourselves and the coming year from the perspective of whether you feel you are an “A” and what it would take to give yourself one at the end of the year. (Hint: It might have nothing to do with performance.)

Note: Rosamund Stone Zander recently wrote one of the Fearless Stories in which she mentioned the book.

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