The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica
Allen Lane
ISBN: 1846141966

Ken Robinson writes as he speaks – with authority, charm and an engagingly dry wit. The premise behind this book is that to cope with the demands, both personal and professional, of a rapidly changing world, we need to be in our element. It’s a common enough phrase, but Robinson defines it specifically as “a meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion” – when we are doing something that we love and are good at.

He acknowledges that for many people, mortgage or rent payments seem more important, and immediate, than passion, but points out that within the past decade many historically steady jobs have been outsourced overseas, leaving us high and dry. Perhaps we are better off following our passions than seeking a security that no longer exists.

Robinson covers how to find ‘the element’, acknowledging there is no rigid formula. Finding it does, he says, require two key features: aptitude and passion, and two key conditions: attitude and opportunity.

He talks too about thinking differently, and how to move from imagination to creativity. I particularly liked the chapter on “finding your tribe”, where Robinson explains how meeting like-minded people, whether collaborators or competitors, may provide the right conditions for being in your element.

Scattered throughout the text are vignettes from household names – The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, actress Meg Ryan, and musician Mick Fleetwood, to name a few – illustrating how they found their element. The tone of the book is quite academic, so if you’re not in the habit of reading non-fiction, these case studies will help. And these are the examples that will stick in your mind when explaining the concept of ‘the element’ to others.

I enjoyed this book – Robinson speaks a great deal of sense. It will be the rare reader that doesn’t take something useful from it.

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