“If you never change your mind, why have one?”

Edward de Bono, teacher and author

Basic Drawing Class, Ohio University, 1976

After a long and spirited discussion on the necessity of grades versus the freedom of expression with no judgement, our instructor decided we should take a vote. He gave us the opportunity to receive an A the first day of class before we even drew our first picture. Our other option was business as usual, we would be given a letter grade on each project evaluated by him.

Time to vote.

We filled out our ballots, folded them neatly, and passed them forward. As the instructor read each vote, one of the students recorded and announced the score as the game unfolded. There was no clear winner in the beginning or midway through the action. It came down to the final vote. Pausing for dramatic effect before reading the tie breaker, the instructor smiled.

The winner, by one vote was business as usual – we would all be graded A,B,C,D,and F.

I guess you could argue that it was me who cast the winning vote. I wanted the traditional evaluation and grade for each drawing I finished.

Now, thirty-nine years later, I want to change my vote.

Not because I finished that Drawing Class with a grade of C+ which, by my own judgement, was very generous. But because I discovered a book.

While working as a Educational Assistant in my local high school. The art teacher caught me copying this quote posted on the door to her classroom.

“Mistakes can be like ice.

If we resist them, we may keep on slipping into a posture of defeat.

If we include mistakes in our definition of performance, we are likely to glide through them and appreciate the beauty of the longer run .”

I tracked down the authors of the quote and a copy of their book, The Art of Possibility.

Benjamin Zander, who co-wrote the book with his wife, is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and teacher at the New England Conservatory. On the first day of each school year he delightfully tells his students that everyone gets a A. But there is one catch.  Mr. Zander tells his class that within the next two weeks they are to deliver to him a letter explaining everything they did to earn that A. The letter is to be dated the following Spring, the day the school year ends.

For example, the student will write, “… I wrote three research papers, read twelve books, and practiced the violin two hours a day…” Not I hoped to or I will try, but I did!

Mr. Zander’s bottom line is, if you treat someone like an A, then they become a A.


Try this experiment on yourself. Start calling yourself a “A” student playing and learning in the game of life.

Treat everyone you meet like an “A” too.

I think you’ll enjoy the results.




5 thoughts on “CHANGING MY VOTE

  1. And please watch Leo Buscaglia on you tube. He is the author of Freddie the Leaf and many other great books. I wrote a children’s book for ages 8 to 80, Buddy Bloom Wildflower (A Tale of Struggle and Celebration), It is dedicated to Leo. Make it a great day! Jerry


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