I am in my favourite coffee shop in the great metropolis of New York City. Orens Daily Roast is abuzz with activity – people rushing to work, small groups discussing business, tourists getting their last hit of NYC before heading to the airport. The Monkees’ hit Daydream Believer, is playing in the background – one of a great 60’s playlist – and the vibe is friendly, energetic, comfortable and full of opportunities. For a solo traveller, life doesn’t get much better, and most things seem possible.

As the playlist turns to Procol Harem’s A Lighter Shade of Pale, I am reminded of one of the best pieces of life and career advice I have heard. It comes from Benjamin Zander, the world-renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, in his leadership video The Art of Possibility. In this inspiring presentation Zander tells his students to give themselves a grade of 10 out of 10 and to write him a letter telling him how they intend to achieve this grade through the coming months. Through this surprising approach Zander steps away from a traditional teacher role and puts faith and responsibility with each individual student to stretch beyond what they have achieved and strive for something more than they thought possible.

My team and I have used this video numerous times in leadership development  and not once has it failed to bring a tear to the eye of participants. Somehow, the idea of believing you can be your best; to give yourself a great score even against your ingrained instincts; to assess yourself in the light of your strengths rather than your failings; and perhaps most importantly, enable the positive expectation and hope involved in taking responsibility for your life and career; resonates so deeply in us. For me it speaks of a bigger, often unstated, belief in the greatness of human potential.

So, imagine for a moment what a 10 out of 10 means for you. If you think about where you are currently with your career, ask yourself what would it look and feel like if say in 3-6 months, if you had achieved a great score or success in whatever you set out to achieve. For example a project, a job transition or a critical work relationship. Make sure whatever you choose something that matters to you and is reasonably realistic but which at the same time will likely require a stretch.

Then ask yourself:

  • What will it require to get to this point?
  • Will your current skills suffice?
  • Could you develop them further or use them differently?
  • Which attitudes might you need to adjust?
  • Are there self-limiting mindsets that might get in your way?
  • Is it time to invite new people into your network?

Have a go at this activity, being as creative and optimistic as possible, and always have your 10 out of 10 in mind. Try to avoid derailing your chances of success through negative thoughts and unhelpful distractions. Stay true to your values and reach for something that releases your energy.

Please let me know how you go – it would be great to hear about your ideas and progress! And if I can help in anyway, always feel free to contact me through my online contact form and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

For now, with The Beatles’ Hey Jude playing in the background, it’s time for me to leave Orens Daily Roast, and to make the most of my last day in NYC – a city full of possibilities!