The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson

The Problem With Schools

  • While some people do well in school and love what the system has to offer, too many leave unsure of their real talents and what direction to take. Since schools don’t value what they are good at, many think they are not good at anything. Schools tend to feature a narrow range of intelligence and a one-size-fits-all standardized test driven environment that marginalizes those who do not take to learning the way the system works. It puts a premium on knowing the single right answer rather than preparing students to be wrong as they attempt to come up with something original. If students need to move or fidget too much, they are often medicated and told to calm down. Unfortunately, jobs in the 21st century depend on the very qualities the school systems are being forced to tamp down.

How Are You Intelligent?

  • This is the question we should all ask. For too long people and schools have used IQ tests and SATs to gauge intelligence, which is much too narrow. Professional specialists don’t even come close to agreement on this subject. Human intelligence is extremely diverse and clearly not limited to verbal and mathematical reasoning. Many stories in this book show how intelligence can show itself in ways that have little or nothing to do with numbers and words. Intelligence is also dynamic as we use multiple parts of our brain to find connections between things. Breakthroughs in one area often occur when someone is thinking or doing something else. Playing the violin worked for Einstein. Every person’s intelligence is also as unique as a fingerprint so be sure to ditch any preconceived notion you may have about how smart you are.

Beyond Imagining

  • Creativity and intelligence are blood brothers and neither is a fixed trait like eye color. You can learn how to be creative like you can learn how to read, and you can be creative at anything, not just the arts.
  • Not only do we take our imaginations for granted, the imagination also tends to get bad press. People who are down to earth are praised while those with their heads in the clouds are not. It underpins every human achievement as you have to imagine something before you can create it. With it you can visit the past, contemplate the present, and anticipate the future. Imagination is not the same as creativity, but creativity takes the process to another level. That’s because creativity requires that you actually do something rather than lie around thinking about it.
  • Creativity goes up a notch in groups. Group success relies on people with different talents and different ways of thinking. As people work together, their differences can stimulate each other to create something they wouldn’t come up with individually.

In the Zone

  • To be in the zone is to be in the deep heart of the Element. You get lost in performance and perform at your peak as you live in the moment. You may have more than one Element and more than one way to get to the zone for each. Time feels different, seems to go faster, and ideas come faster. Also called flow, it happens when skills match the opportunities for action. Even if there are external rewards, the activity becomes intrinsically rewarding as you seem to receive more metal energy than you expend. (Doug: If you find yourself in the zone, you have probably found an Element.) One way to find your Element or help others is to ask what would you do if you didn’t have to worry about making a living? For parents, you want to help children find out who they are. Leaving them to their own devices to see what they are drawn to can help.

Finding Your Tribe

  • For many, a primary component of being in the Element is connecting with other people. Finding the right tribe, therefore, can be essential to finding your Element. The members of your tribe share a common commitment to the same Element. Visions and ages can vary and they can even be competitors.
  • A domain refers to the activities and disciplines that people engage in. Your field refers to the other people engaged in your domain. Finding your tribe can have transformative effects on your sense of identity and purpose as you experience validation, inspiration, and what Ken calls the alchemy of synergy. Connecting with others who do what you do affirms that you are not alone. You get to bounce ideas around and share. While you might work alone, it’s necessary to interact at times with your field. Members of a field also drive each other to higher levels of performance.
  • Members of your tribe can be local or remote, alive or dead. In the case of groups that work together, it is often the differences that make creative work greater than the sum of their individual parts. The Lennon-McCartney song writing team and Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet are good examples.
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One Response to “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson”

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