Monday, March 23

The Element – How finding your passion changes everything - Ken Robinson

The book is well written, easy to follow and has very nice anecdotes worth noting done for future reference. I’ve enjoyed the book. This is one of the few books that I enjoyed thoroughly. I wasn’t compelled to finish till the last page but was looking forward to finish it.

Conventional route to success:
Live your life straightforward, get in school, get a college degree and then get a job that you are forced to like so that you can earn money. Get married and have children. If we have to plot a graph of this lifestyle I am sure it would be a straight-line.  Since you’ve earned money and can fulfill the most basic lifestyle for your family, you have this feeling of being successful.  Where did the passion, the thought of doing something out of the box, the adventure, the risk, doing something just for the fun and not for the outcome, go? You are accustomed to living a conventional lifestyle and you are too bored to get out of that comfort zone.

The above is a typical scenario and I don’t feel ashamed to agree that it may represent me. However I am quite sure I am going to change it.

Below are some of the excerpts that I really feel are worth noting down and should be revisited again to boost the morale.


  • Some people have no real sense of what their individual talents and passion are. They don’t enjoy what they are doing now but they have no idea what actually would fulfill them.
Matt Groening – Creator of “The Simpsons” : I understand the series of stages I was supposed to go through, you go to college, you get a credential, and then you go to out and get a good job. I knew it wasn’t gonna work for me. I knew I was gonna be drawing cartoons forever.

  • Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work, that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.
The Element: - Describes a place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together. Being in our Element depends on finding our own distinctive talents and passions.

Why most people have not found their Element?
  • People have limited conception of their own natural capacities. People don’t understand their own powers.
  • Limitation in our understanding of how much potential we have for growth and change. For the most part, people seem to think that life is linear, that our capacities decline as we grow older, and that opportunities we have missed our gone forever.
Young kids aren't particularly worried about being wrong. If they aren't sure what to do in a particular situation, they'll just have a go at it and see how things turn out. This is not to suggest that being wrong is being creative. Being wrong is just being wrong. What is true is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Education is the system that’s supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way to world. Business everywhere says they need people who are creative and can think independently. It’s about having lives with purpose and meaning in and beyond whatever work we do.

People didn't pursue their passion simply because of the promise of a paycheck. They pursued them because they couldn't imagine doing anything else with their lives.


  • The Element is a meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.
  • The Element has two main features and there are two main conditions for being in it. The features are aptitude and passion. The conditions are attitude and opportunity. I get it, I love it, I want it, Where is it?

Key principles of the Element are that we need to challenge what we take for granted about our abilities and the abilities of other people.

One of the enemies of creativity and innovation, especially in relation to our own development, is common sense. The playwright bertolt brecht said that as soon as something seems the most obvious thing in the world, it means that we have abandoned all attempts at understanding it.

Taking the definition of intelligence for granted is one of the main reason why so many people underestimate their true intellectual abilities and fail to find their Element.

Three features of human intelligence.
1)      It is extraordinary diverse.
2)      It is tremendously dynamic.
3)   It is entirely distinctive.


You don’t be creative without acting intelligently. The highest form of intelligence is thinking creatively. Everyone is born with tremendous capacities for creativity. The trick is to develop these capacities.

The process of seeing “in your mind’s eye” is the essential act of imagination. So my initial definition of imagination is “the power to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses”.

Through imagination we can visit the past, contemplate the present, and anticipate the future. We can create, we can conjecture, we can hypothesize, we can speculate and we can suppose.

Creativity : The process of having original ideas that have value. To be creative you actually have to do something.

Creativity involves several different processes that wind through each other. The first is generating new ideas, imagining different possibilities, considering alternative options. The creative process also involves developing these ideas by judging which work best or feel right.

What we think of ourselves and of the world make us who we are and what we can be.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind… if you change your mind, you can change your life” – William james.

Being in the zone happens when psychic energy or attention is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action. The pursuit of a goal brings order in awareness because a person must concentrate on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else.

Being in the element and especially being in the zone doesn’t take energy from you, it gives it to you.
Activities we love fill us with energy even when we are physically exhausted. Activities we don’t like can drain us in minutes, even if we approach them at our physical peak of fitness.
Some people are most in their element when they are working alone.

Personal, social and cultural are the three concentric circles of constraints barriers to finding the element.

Throughout his life, chuck close has had endless reasons to give in to his problems and to give up as an artist. He chose instead to push on beyond every limit his life presented and to stay in his element no matter what new obstacles reared up in his way.

Whether you’re disabled or not, issues of attitude are of paramount importance in finding your element.  A strong will to be your self is an indomitable force.

It is easier to overcome people’s judgment than to overcome our own self judgment, the fear we internalize.

Groupthink : The effect of our decision, thoughts are all based on how our peers think.

According to Irving Janis, a psychologist, groupthink is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in group, when the members striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative cause of action. The prevailing belief here is that the group knows best, that a decision or a direction that seems to represent the majority of the group stands beyond careful examination – even when your instincts suggest otherwise.

It is not what happens to us that determines our lives – it’s what we make of what happens. It’s not what happens to us that makes the difference in our lives. What makes the difference is our attitude towards what happens.

Attitude and Aptitude
One way of opening ourselves up to new opportunities is to make conscious efforts to look differently at our ordinary situation. Doing so allows a person to see the world as one rife with possibility and to take advantage of some of those possibilities if they seem worth pursuing.
Another attitude that leads to what many of us would consider “good luck” is the ability to reframe, to look at a situation that fails to go according to plain and turn it into something beneficial.

The role of mentors
Recognition – Mentors recognize the spark of interest or delight and can help an individual drill down to the specific components of the discipline that match that individual capacity and passion.
Encouragement – Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we met them.

Facilitating – Mentors can help lead us toward our Element by offering us advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and even allowing us to falter a bit while standing by to help us recover and learn from our mistakes.

Stretching – Effective mentors push us past what we see as our limits. A true mentor reminds us that our goal should never be “average” at our pursuits.
Feel the fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers.

Remarkable, life enhancing things can happen when we take the time to step out of our routines, rethink our paths, and revisit the passions we left behind for whatever reason we can take ourselves in fresh direction at nearly any point in our lives. We have the capacity to discover the Element at practically any age.

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