The Element. How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson

The Element as described here is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. A kind of creative epiphany where doing what you truly love rubs sticks with what you have a natural ability to do.

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It argues that when someone hits this point, they are connecting with something fundamental to their sense of purpose and identity, a definition of who they really are and what they are meant to be doing with their lives.

That all has an air of ‘creative self help’ but Robinson uses stories from well known people such as Matt Groening, Mick Fleetwood, Meg Ryan, Paul McCartney and Richard Feynman, who would be considered at the top of their game, to ground it in some kind of reality. The theme amongst many of these stories is that they were in some way capable of recognising their own talents and work with those to become ‘elemental’ and ultimately the success that they are known for.

So why hasn’t everyone found their element then? Robinson suggests that we don’t really understand our own natural capacities to grow and change. We’re all born with imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition and sensory awareness of which we only use a fraction. This lack of understanding being compounded by peer groups, culture and our own expectations of ourselves.

Throughout the book Robinson focuses heavily on education. There seems to be a thread of these highly creative people not doing too good through school and only discovering what they were able to do once they’d passed through the education system, or ‘recovered from their education’ as Robinson terms it.

Blaming education for sucking the creative out of people isn’t that much of a controversial view amongst creative thinkers and theorists (I subscribe to that for what it’s worth) but it is quite relevant here and a number of the stories bare out the link. You can find more by watching Robinsons Ted lecture on the subject here.

This book isn’t about finding the musician, cartoonist etc in each of us, or helping each of us find our ‘inner creative’ in the artistic sense. It’s about making you think about the distinctive talents and passions you have that could inspire you, and how understanding this can change everything.

He goes beyond finding this higher understanding of human ability and achievement through individual talent and passions in the Afterword – and I hope he writes a lot more on this – to suggest that as the world evolves, understanding our element will not only make us more fulfilled as individuals but the very future of our communities will depend upon it. The book is ‘a hymn to the breathtaking diversity of human talent and passion and to our extraordinary potential for growth and development’.

If you’re searching for that right thing, or find you’re often bored or just have that nagging feeling that there’s something missing – read this. It’s not a practical manual on self creative development – thankfully – but the stories will help you start to join the dots and think about connecting your own aptitudes and passions.

Title | The Element. How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Authors | Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica
Publisher | Allen Lane
Publish Date | 2009
ISBN | 978-1-846-14196-6

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy From Amazon: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

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