It’s one of those TED talks that got viral and it’s still appreciated by every person that stumbles over it or finds it shared on social media. “Why?” you might ask. Because it tackles a subject that affects us all: education.
In “The Element: How finding your passion changes everything“, Ken Robinson makes a case about how education should change from the “one size fits all” approach: from standardized to customized education. It should be “elemental”. Furthermore, Ken Robinson defines the element as: ”The meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion” where you feel like your most authentic self, times passes differently when you are “in the zone”, focus is better and you feel more alive.
He also shares many stories of people that became successful after having found what they were really good at and also loved doing. Not all mentioned people were school misfits if that’s what you’re wondering: some did great in the standardized system, while others needed adjustments or abandoned it all together and took another path.
What they all have in common is that they all were “lucky” enough to find the thing that made them feel complete, authentic and fulfilled. But that activity isn’t necessarily a job or the main source of money. The Element and its practical function, beyond the psychological benefits, is not the same for everyone as Robinson points out.
What stands out again and again through many of his examples like Paul McCartney, Arianna Huffington, Paulo Coelho, Meg Ryan, Aaron Sorkin, is how life-changing it can be to find, what he calls, the element, hence the title.
If you turn your element into your work then it probably won’t be a burden anytime soon because you’ll be doing what you’re good at and what you love at the same time and the minutes and hours pass at a different pace because you are able to get into that very hunted state of flow.
Finding your element can be a coincidence, a stroke of luck or it can be facilitated by someone that can observe and sense, notice what might suit you best, that can guide you towards this epiphany and achievement. You might be lucky enough to stumble over such a mentor that might be of great help in this endeavor we all find ourselves in at some point in life.
There are many issues with standardized education because for some of us it’s not the proper environment to know ourselves, know what we want and get to explore and discover our passion and further grow what is our element. The insights Ken Robinson offers in the book are thought provoking and will hit close to home for many of us that feel could’ve done better with a more customized way of education from a certain point or at least could have been much better off having a mentor to guide us. I sure know I could’ve used one.
The success stories are always nice to read and inspiring and maybe are providers of hope for those of us who are still struggling. But that’s all there is. I do not find anything else to take from these stories, but then again I guess there aren’t guidelines either to help replace the success stories and help us achieve the same level of fulfillment if not success. Only pieces of advice.
The book is catchy up to a point, but then I felt it tended to fall flat. If you already watched or listened Ken Robinson’s talks on YouTube you will feel this book is repetitive, a bit redundant and I am not sure what the impact would be because he mostly shares stories of people who found their element and how accomplished they feel because of that. I should’ve expected that because of the title of the book and shouldn’t complain, right? I got what I was promised in that sense. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, he made the case for customized education and working towards finding your own element through the help of mentors maybe or paying attention to what you enjoy most and expand on that further and also how important it is to meet like-minded people.
Truth be told I was, as probably many readers were, influenced by that famous TED talk I mentioned at the beginning to read this book and also because when I flipped through its pages at a book fair at the Okian booth I noticed that he wrote about Aaron Sorkin (who is the writer of The Newsroom which is one of my favorite TV series ever). This book will probably satisfy your need for inspirational stories if you are into that, with a touch of education related eye-opening insights that many of us, who didn’t feel like they fit in the standardized school system, will approve of.