Who am I being? How many eyes are shining around me?

Ben Zander gave a TED Talk in 2008 that I just watched today. Lately, I have been reading his book, written with his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility, and while I have gained some valuable knowledge from the book already, watching his talk has changed my perspective and will no doubt make the book more valuable, life giving, and inspiring.


“Who are we being as we go back into the world…I have a definition of success. It’s not about wealth and fame and power, it’s about how many shining eyes I have around me.”    – Ben Zander

Over the summer I have worked hard on a few areas of focus for our upcoming school year, but I am starting to worry about implementing these new ideas and getting all of our teachers on the same page so that all of our students can be successful. How am I going to move the teachers that are hard to move from where they are to where I think they need to be. And who am I to decide where we need to be.

I would encourage you to watch Zander’s whole TED Talk, but if not, zoom ahead to the 15:00 mark. Here are the two powerful points that spoke to me most.

If you don’t believe the message, then no one else will. This feels incredibly obvious, but it emphasized the importance of me sharing my belief without reserve. I know I believe in the direction our school is going. But if I am not 100% clear on that; if it is not obvious to those to whom I speak, then that belief will diminish, and our journey will fall short. It may fall short anyway, and it may need to be changed, but why not be 100% clear that this is the direction in which our journey must begin.

Who am I being if I only want to make a slight change. As a composer of classical music, Zander says he is often given the statistic that 3% of the population enjoys classical music, and the goal for many is to move that to 4%. As he says, “Who am I being; how do I walk, how do I talk, if my goal is 4%.” Now consider who am I being if my goal is 100%.  “How do I walk, how do I talk if I believe that 100% of people love classical music, they just don’t know it yet.”

Which leads to my realization.

Why can’t 100% of people be excited about education. Who am I being, how do I talk, how do I walk, if I believe that 100% of people love the power of learning, they just don’t know it yet. If I am utterly convinced, than I can convince others. I’m not sure I even want or need to convince others, to be honest. It is about helping them realize what they already know to be true. If I attempt to make change in my school and beyond by only affecting a small percentage of people, then there is little chance at true success. Change might start with a few percent, and we may not achieve 100%, but if the goal is short of that, than the accomplishments will also fall short.

Who am I being that our teacher’s eyes are not shining? Who am I being that our student’s eyes are not shining? I have a renewed focus for my job – to make teacher’s eye shine so brightly that each of their student’s eyes are shining. Rather than assuming a teacher I work with is at fault for lacking energy, or that a student is at fault for lacking attention, it allows me to focus on myself, my being. Who am I being to give them the energy, the attention, the focus they need to love teaching and learning.

This will be challenging, and I will mostly likely fall short of this goal, and often. But, as Zander says, “It is a possibility to live into.”