Book review

The Element by Ken Robinson: book review

This month we've been reading The Element - How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson.

Ken Robinson uses the term “the Element’ to describe the unique place where the things that we love to do and the things we do well come together. For him it’s essential that every person knows and finds their Element.

He tells the stories of ordinary people who have discovered their element, some earlier than others, and as a result achieved great things in life. These stories are fascinating, and they’re not fairy tales - they’ve also faced challenges and obstacles along the way.

A young girl called Gillian was almost diagnosed with ADHD. She was restless in school and lacked concentration. Her mother and teachers were worried about her. But an observant psychologist noticed that all Gillian wanted was to dance. She went on to become one of the greatest ballerinas of her time and choreographed some of the most successful musicals, including Cats and Phantom of the Opera.

Young Matt always did well at school but he was extremely bored with it. He wanted to draw and he did it well, but never the way he was taught to. His teachers and parents tried to encourage him to find a better career. Today, Matt Groening is known as the creator of The Simpsons and a true inspiration to cartoonists around the world.

Paul didn’t really pay attention when he was in the Liverpool Institute. Instead he couldn’t wait to get home so he could listen to rock music and play the guitar. But that wasn’t such a bad decision after he met John, George and Ringo and eventually formed a band. They called it The Beatles. Later in life, Paul said that he went through his entire education without anyone noticing his musical talent.

There is a powerful message in all of these stories. Gillian, Matt and Paul just needed to be true to who they are and they found tremendous satisfaction and happiness in doing what they were born to do.

Ken Robinson calls for transforming the educational system as we know it. He challenged and dissected what’s wrong with the one-size-fits-all system in his famous TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” In just under 20 minutes he gave voice to a common worry we’ve all felt at a point in life - that schools as they are don’t recognise our creativity, nor nurture it. You can watch his brilliant talk here.

In The Element, he says:

“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed -- it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

After his talk, people asked how to go about living their lives with more creativity and how to help their children discover their passion early on. Ken Robinson felt that he owed them the answer...that’s why he wrote The Element - to give us that profound knowledge.

And if you are one of those lucky people who wakes up every morning and knows you’re about to spend the majority of your day on something you love to do, can do well and feeds your soul, then this book will be an easy read. If you don’t - it will transform your life.

Teddy Todorova is a Digital Marketing Manager at Impact UK.