Thursday, December 08, 2011

Dangerous Comparisons, Ben Zander and giving back

Some years back I was lucky enough to listen to Ben Zander (conductor of the Boston Philharmonic) talk about his other passion: "The Art of Possibility". It was the last day of a 3 day conference and I remember walking into the auditorium feeling deflated.

I was attending my employers annual "elite" conference where top employees from all over the US come together to exchange experiences. My ticket to this prestigious event came from a sentiment other than greatness; I had come to work for my current employer through a series of corporate acquisitions, i.e. "they" didn't hire me and my management team wanted to help me feel part of the company. Unfortunately, by the morning of day 3 the conference was having a weird and opposite effect: I felt like I didn't belong in this crowd of geniuses … and I was feeling this right down to my bones as my brain replayed every professional screw up I'd ever made in crystal clear hi-def. As I got lost in thought Ben started talking to us with lots of energy and enthusiasm, I cheered up a bit … and then he said: "Think of a problem, any problem, and I promise by the end of this presentation it'll be solved". I was "optimistically skeptical".

Unbelievably Ben actually delivered. He delivered a number of important messages dressed as hilarious stories about his life. The solution to my particular problem lay in Ben's story of a broken relationship he'd had with a former wife. "We will always be in a relationship Ben - it's just the way we contribute to it that is transforming into something new" At that point Ben had an epiphany - he would make his life about making a contribution rather than seeking personal accolades. I smiled.

Comparisons are as insidious as they are destructive. Lately they've been catching up with me big time. It seems every time I put myself out there, there's a negative result - I want to recoil, focusing on what's gone wrong I lose sight of what's gone right and what's important. We can all give a little something back, maybe this contribution will help many, often it just helps a few and that's ok, in fact that's perfect.
Thanks Ben.

WARNING: This might just brighten up your day :)

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