While I’ve written a couple of blog posts on points presented in The Art of Possibility, I have mixed feelings about this book. Let’s start with the premise of the book: it’s a toolkit. It’s a toolkit designed to spur on your creativity in real life situations. Not every tool will be applicable to you, and the authors mention that several times. However, the book does build one point upon another (or one tool on another, to use their analogy), as the chapters unfold, so the premise isn’t really met. When I think of tools, I recognize that there are times when I need my rubber-headed mallet and not my drill. This book is more like the drill works because the rubber-headed mallet is part of it like some huge Transformers toy.
One other issue I have with the book is how simplistic some of the situations are made out to be. For instance, how to deal with terrorism is something I saw cited in another review as a case where the authors simply do not consider the proper complexity of the situation. I found this to be true. The case given for adultery and how to deal with it by “being the board” was another one I felt wasn’t very realistic.
Another issue is how some things were presented which sounded metaphysical, and aren’t based on the backgrounds of either author. One is a therapist and the other is an orchestra conductor. So speaking of how crashing waves provide energy for life and how the universe provides unlimited energy for us to tap sounds very new age and isn’t helpful in the least bit. There was a bit of that in the book and those parts were a real turn off.
I did enjoy the read, however. A lot of the advice given is repeated from other sources. Things like separate yourself from the scene to get an objective view of it or inspiring a spark in someone else to get them on your side and part of your cause. So the book serves as a good review of these precepts with real life examples thrown in of how they were implemented and worked. And that’s another thing I enjoyed: the examples that were based on one author’s experience as a conductor of orchestras. I’ve been playing flute for over 25 years and while I’m still very much on the amateur level, I love music and musical performance. Many of his illustrations brought me back to my days as a member of The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes, a time which did a lot to shape me. I realize, however, that if you don’t have a musical background, these anecdotes may not have much of an impact on you.
Would I recommend the book? It really depends. If you look it at as a book to refresh yourself on how to get out of some ruts in life, while realizing that the advice doesn’t apply in all situations, it may very well be a good read for you. If you enjoy musical examples and stories of musicians, this is a good read. Otherwise, this might be a good book to pass on.