Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Element by Ken Robinson

I recently finished reading, "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything," by Ken Robinson and like most books that I enjoy after finishing, I find myself going back to it to dig out the nuggets and read them again.

If you don't know about Sir Ken Robinson, you should. I first discovered him after seeing his TED Talk about how schools kill creativity. I love this guy and couldn't wait to read The Element.


In the book, Sir Ken identifies The Element as the point where the activities individuals enjoy and are naturally good at come together. Where natural talent meets personal passion, and people feel most themselves, most inspired, and achieve at their highest levels.

He illustrates real-life examples using people like Paul McCartney, Richard Branson, Matt Groening, Mick Fleetwood, Arianna Huffington, and a host of many others, some famous and some not so much. Many of the people he covers either had known learning disabilities or struggled in school. The common thread among everybody was they followed their passion to find success in their lives and careers, much of the time against certain odds.

With chapter titles like, Think Differently, In The Zone, Finding Your Tribe, Somebody Help Me, For Love or Money, The Element lays the groundwork for why it's so important to find that thing in life that turns you on, that truly inspires you. If you love what you do, it isn't work. Life becomes richer and creativity flows. What you do becomes a Zen moment where everything is effortless and fulfilling and your entire focus is being in the moment. It's reminiscent of yoga or mindfulness. Athletes call it, "being in the zone."

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how different celebrities and business people struggled with school but discovered their own passions, which led them on a career path to success. Knowing that others had overcome difficulties with learning and school by focusing on finding their groove gives hope to so many kids in the same situation. It also inspires the parents of these kids to let them do whatever it is that makes them unique and special.

Initially, my big complaint, which I share with others who were disappointed by the book, was that it didn't show me how to find MY passion. Reading the title of the book, I hoped to find not only my own passion, but a way to find the passion of my children so I could help us all find a fulfilling career path. But I came to realize that isn't really the point of the book in the first place. You have to find your own passion yourself. Nobody can do it for you. Knowing what to look for and how to progress when you find your passion is as much a key to The Element as finding it in the first place.

All in all, it's a fun read with more than a little dose of the lives of people you already know but didn't know the whole story. I would suggest watching the Ken Robinson TED Talk first so you get a sense of of his personal style and wit and gain a little background of what's to come in the book.