Deborah, practicing one-buttock sailing — leaning in and going for it!
(photo by Tyler Fields, used with permission)

When I was a vocal performance student at the New England Conservatory of Music, one of my professors was none other than the inimitable, and much-beloved  Benjamin Zander.  He is absolutely one of the most inspirational people I know, with an engaging smile, expansive gestures, a crisp British accent, and — shining eyes (I stole this last part from Ben).  Anyway, a fellow classmate recently sent me this video of a 2009 TED Talk that Ben did, and I liked it so much, I thought I’d share it with you.  His message is about passion, vision, and awakening possibility — things that we’d all do well to tap into — whether you’re a sailor, a musician, or a CEO.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly is a one-buttock sailor, anyway? And why is that even something to consider?  Well, here’s a quote taken directly from Ben’s talk, which may help illustrate: “You know, a gentleman was once watching a presentation I was doing, when I was working with a young pianist. He was the president of a corporation in Ohio. I was working with this young pianist, and said, “The trouble with you is you’re a two-buttock player. You should be a one-buttock player.” I moved his body while he was playing. And suddenly, the music took off. It took flight. The audience gasped when they heard the difference. Then I got a letter from this gentleman. He said, “I was so moved. I went back and I transformed my entire company into a one-buttock company.”  After listening to Ben’s talk, it became clear to me that the one-buttock approach can unlock tremendous inner potential — because your mindset allows you to engage on a whole new level.

Think about the power of this!  The “one-buttock” approach is not only for pianists and musicians — it’s for athletes, teachers, artists, business people, and everyone else, too.  Being on one buttock is quite literally “leaning in,” to be more fully engaged.  But it’s also a state of mind.  And although he uses music as a metaphor in this presentation, Ben’s lessons go far beyond the world of music and can be applied to anything.  Like sailing, for example.

One last thought, which gives this one-buttock idea a little extra nudge:  in The Art of Possibility, the book which Ben co-authored with his wife Rosamund, he  writes about something he calls “BTFI” (Beyond The Fuck It).  BTFI is a simple but very powerful idea: What would happen if you stopped fretting, stopped being a marshmallow, stopped avoiding the possibility of mistakes and just said “Fuck it!” And you went for it — no thought of perfect technique or of victory or defeat, just that exhilarating moment of jumping in, going beyond where you might previously have given up — and giving it your all.  What then?

BTFI and one-buttock sailing, taken together, can help you move past where you think your limitations are, by opening you up to a world of possibility.  So, — Take the Tiller! —  an ocean of possibility really does await!

Here, below, is the video of Ben’s Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classical Music.”  Take a look – I promise you’ll be inspired! 

Deborah Bennett Elfers
I was practically born on a boat, though on a working lobster boat rather than a sailboat. In my early days, I sailed quite a lot on a Sunfish, but not very elegantly, as in our little neighborhood “fleet,” the boat was primarily used as a weapon in a wildly popular game of “kill the other guy!” Who could have imagined way back then, that one day I’d become so passionate about all things sailing?
Deborah Bennett Elfers
Deborah Bennett Elfers

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