Giving Yourself an A


How many ways to do we create a world of constrained measurement rather than infinite possibility? In The Art of Possibility, authors Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander share twelve practices they have learned throughout their lives that will transform how you approach situations big and small in order to produce ripples of possibility that spread from within.


Within the practice of “Giving an A” , the Zanders describe how the tradition of giving grades has bled over from classrooms trying to measure accomplishments against standards to one that has a limiting hold over our consciousness. This tradition of comparison supports a world full of constraints and conformity, one where we impose our judgment on others’ ability and value. By contrast, when you decide to give the A, as you can to anyone in your life (the cashier at the grocery, your spouse, your coworker, your boss), you are able to line up efforts through a common purpose and vision of belief.

giving an A (1)

One of the most powerful thoughts within this practice is how transformative it can be to give yourself an A. After reading Ben Zander’s story about having his graduate students write him letters describing how they had received their A, I decided to do a version of this activity with our team.

During a beginning-of-the-year faculty meeting, I shared,

“YOU can give an A to yourself. This practice will transform your thinking by allowing you to take risks, chase greatness and fight off the forces of mediocrity that come along with fear and limitations.

Your task is to write yourself a letter dated May 29, 2019. This letter should begin with, ‘Dear (Your name here), I got my A because….’

In this letter, you will describe, using as many details as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by May 29, 2019. Tell the story about how you’ve earned this extraordinary grade.

Place yourself in the future, looking back, while reporting all of the insights you’ve acquired, milestones attained, obstacles you’ve overcome. This letter, this visualization of your success, should not include any past tense. No ‘I hope’, ‘I plan to’, or ‘I will’s allowed. Write this letter as if those accomplishments have already happened.

Feel free to mention goals you have for yourself, whether professional or personal. More interesting, however, is the attitude you have on May 29th, the sense of awesome pride you carry now that you’ve fought off the force of mediocrity and WON! Describe this person you’ve become. And then fall passionately in love with that person.”

It has now been a couple of months since I’ve filed away the stack of Giving Yourself an A letters. This positive, belief-filled bundle of visualizations of success will wait in my office drawer until next May. Has this activity helped us individually? As a team? Do we now have the courage to take more risks while seeing the statue of ourselves within the roughness of the uncut stone? It sure seems like we are able to be more vulnerable with each other. And there have been a fair share of opportunities for us to remind one another, “Be brave and believe in yourself. Remember, you have your A.”


I am excited to not only open up my own letter this May, but I can only imagine the emotions that will come along with our entire team realizing all we will have accomplished and all we will have become by then. After all, we are all on this journey of possibility together and a journey is nothing if not a set of experiences that change us and move us forward on our path to greatness.

How freeing would it be for yourself and others if you could begin the practice of giving an A? What possibility would you radiate if you could scrape away the comparisons and judgment to reveal value and belief?

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