“The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Sir Ken Robinson

Cover of "The Element: How Finding Your P...

“The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.”

Have you seen Ken Robinson‘s 2006 TED Talk? If not, you should check it out. It’s hilarious and insightful too. I bumped into it by chance. I was browsing TED.com since I’m addicted to its videos. I think I told myself at that time that I was seeking inspiration or some such excuse for why I was procrastinating. Though Robinson’s talk was mostly a call for reform to the school systems to include more artistic programs and allow students the ability to explore their varied interests, he also spoke about passions, which he calls the Element. I perked up at the mention of this (I’m always interested in passions) and decided to check out his book The Element, which he mentioned in his talk.

It’s a thoughtful read. It will leave you wondering why you didn’t do as some of the people in the book did and just say to hell with everything and do what you really love. Well, that’s what I wondered when I read it. According to Robinson, the Element is something that a person has a passion for and is really good at. It can be something that is artistic like painting or dancing, or it can be something that is analytic like science or business. A person’s Element can be anything and a person can have more than one Element.

Like in his TED talk, Robinson also discussed how the school system is hurting children’s creativity and that they should instead begin to nurture it. I didn’t pay much attention to this part though I did nod gratefully to it. I see myself as one of those who were turned off the creative path because it’s not profitable and will not yield a profitable career, as I was told. Robinson does make some good points on how the school system is and why it should change and I totally agree with him. But he did not offer much advice about how the school system should go about enacting this change.

But since I was selfish while reading this book, I didn’t spend much time dwelling on how the school system should change. I was much more concerned with finding my Element and devising elaborate plans of how I would go off the common path and follow my true passion, which I haven’t yet discovered. I do love to draw and to read and to write. I did it constantly as a child but stopped when I got to college. I no longer had the time and, as I stated before, I was told such skills weren’t beneficial. When I started college, I wanted to major in art but since I was told that would not lead to a successful career, I signed up for journalism instead (it seemed more practical at the time). Then I spent the rest of my college years hopping from major to major, lost with no idea of what I wanted to study much less what I wanted to do when I leave. Eventually, I settled with a major in English because I liked to read and write but I wasn’t thrilled by it.

The Element is an insightful read with great motivational stories from people who followed their passion and are successful and seemingly content for having done so. The stories will definitely spark the interest of the reader, especially one who can relate to them, but they become dull after a while because there are so many. Robinson’s points also became a bit repetitive after a while as the book stretched on, which then made the book a bore. Exciting at first but then boring after a while. Still, I do recommend it because Robinson makes some good points.

Quotes from the book:

“Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.” – Paul Samuelson, an American economist

“What is true is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

“How we perceive our circumstances and how we create and take opportunities depends largely on what we expect of ourselves.”

“When we are in our Element, we feel we are doing what we are meant to be doing and being who we’re meant to be.”

“…it is easier to overcome people’s judgment than to overcome our own self-judgment, the fear we internalize.” –Arianna Huffington, a Greek-American writer and founder of The Huffington Post

“…it’s not what happens to us that determines out lives—it’s what we make of what happens.”

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3 thoughts on ““The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Sir Ken Robinson

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