Unlocking Greater Success by Developing an Outward Mindset

In my last blog post, I identified and defined four sets of mindsets that drive the degree to which we are successful in life, work, and leadership. In this, and subsequent posts, I want to dive into each of these sets of mindsets to a greater degree.

Today, I am going to start with inward and outward mindsets because those are the mindsets that I am currently working on in the book I am writing.

Benjamin Zander

To more fully introduce these mindsets to you, let me introduce you to Benjamin Zander.

If I were to list the 20 people that I most want to meet, I think Benjamin is one of those. He is an eccentric and influential person. You can get a taste of him through this fantastic TedTalk, and through this incredible book that he wrote with his wife: The Art of Possibility.

Benjamin is the founder and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

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When Benjamin first stared his 50+-year career as a conductor, he had an inward mindset. This meant that he saw himself as being more important than those around him, and he saw those he associated with as objects, there to help him accomplish his goals. With this mindset, he was a tyrannical leader. His primary concern was getting his musicians to play his interpretation of the music so that he would come to be appreciated by his audiences and receive opportunities and greater success for himself.

But, he said that this led to his musicians having a job satisfaction level below that of prison guards.

Awakening to a Better Mindset

But, after about 20 years of leading with an inward mindset, Benjamin had an awakening epiphany: While he was the face of the orchestra, he actually did not play a note. This led him to realize and introspectively understand that his true power to create great music was derived from his ability to make his musicians powerful.

This led him to develop an outward mindset. No longer did he see his musicians as objects, or instruments themselves. He now saw them as people and true partners in the creation of great music.


Specifically, he said that he went from asking himself, “How good am I?” to asking himself, “How can I make my players lively and engaged?”

This led to him dramatically changing his leadership. He began apologizing when he made mistakes, he invited players to write down any feedback or coaching that they had for him, and he even let musicians conduct the orchestra on occasion.

Through this experience, Benjamin learned that having an outward mindset allowed him to not only enjoy his job more, but it allowed him to create better music, which opened up a world of opportunity to him.

Upgrade Your Mindset to be More Outward

Many of us are inclined to be inward because we are primarily concerned about our own personal success. In fact, this is the mindset I struggle the most with.

But, like Benjamin, I have come to realize that my ability to be successful is contingent upon my ability to help those around me become successful.

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I hope you will take the time to fully assess whether you have more of an inward mindset or more of an outward mindset.

If we want to improve our success, like Benjamin Zander did, it is essential that we more fully develop an outward mindset. But, like Benjamin, it is (1) going to require identifying where we currently are and (2) painting the path to improve our mindset.

To help you with this, you can take this personal mindset assessment, which comes with suggestions for improving your mindset. But, you can also ask those you work and live with. Ask them what degree they think you see them as a person versus an object; and, ask them what impact this has on them.

What other suggestions do you have for how someone can put on more of an outward mindset?