The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

by Ken Robinson PhD, Lou Aronica

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143116738
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/29/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 95,801
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with national governments in Europe and Asia, international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit organizations and some of the world's leading cultural organizations. He was knighted in 2003 for his contribution to education and the arts.

To learn more about Sir Ken Robinson, visit his website at:

www.sirkenrobinson.com

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The Element

GILLIAN WAS ONLY eight years old, but her future was already at risk. Her schoolwork was a disaster, at least as far as her teachers were concerned. She turned in assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly. Not only that, she was a disruption to the entire class, one minute fidgeting noisily, the next staring out the window, forcing the teacher to stop the class to pull Gillian’s attention back, and the next doing something to disturb the other children around her. Gillian wasn’t particularly concerned about any of this—she was used to being corrected by authority figures and really didn’t see herself as a difficult child—but the school was very concerned. This came to a head when the school wrote to her parents.

The school thought that Gillian had a learning disorder of some sort and that it might be more appropriate for her to be in a school for children with special needs. All of this took place in the 1930s. I think now they’d say she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they’d put her on Ritalin or something similar. But the ADHD epidemic hadn’t been invented at the time. It wasn’t an available condition. People didn’t know they could have that and had to get by without it.

Gillian’s parents received the letter from the school with great concern and sprang to action. Gillian’s mother put her daughter in her best dress and shoes, tied her hair in ponytails, and took her to a psychologist for assessment, fearing the worst.

Gillian told me that she remembers being invited into a large oak-paneled room with leather-bound books on the shelves. Standing in the room next to a large desk was an imposing man in a tweed jacket. He took Gillian to the far end of the room and sat her down on a huge leather sofa. Gillian’s feet didn’t quite touch the floor, and the setting made her wary. Nervous about the impression she would make, she sat on her hands so that she wouldn’t fidget.

The psychologist went back to his desk, and for the next twenty minutes, he asked Gillian’s mother about the difficulties Gillian was having at school and the problems the school said she was causing. While he didn’t direct any of his questions at Gillian, he watched her carefully the entire time. This made Gillian extremely uneasy and confused. Even at this tender age, she knew that this man would have a significant role in her life. She knew what it meant to attend a “special school,” and she didn’t want anything to do with that. She genuinely didn’t feel that she had any real problems, but everyone else seemed to believe she did. Given the way her mother answered the questions, it was possible that even she felt this way.

Maybe, Gillian thought, they were right.

Eventually, Gillian’s mother and the psychologist stopped talking. The man rose from his desk, walked to the sofa, and sat next to the little girl.

“Gillian, you’ve been very patient, and I thank you for that,” he said. “But I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient for a little longer. I need to speak to your mother privately now. We’re going to go out of the room for a few minutes. Don’t worry; we won’t be very long.”

Gillian nodded apprehensively, and the two adults left her sitting there on her own. But as he was leaving the room, the psychologist leaned across his desk and turned on the radio.

As soon as they were in the corridor outside the room, the doctor said to Gillian’s mother, “Just stand here for a moment, and watch what she does.” There was a window into the room, and they stood to one side of it, where Gillian couldn’t see them. Nearly immediately, Gillian was on her feet, moving around the room to the music. The two adults stood watching quietly for a few minutes, transfixed by the girl’s grace. Anyone would have noticed there was something natural—even primal—about Gillian’s movements. Just as they would have surely caught the expression of utter pleasure on her face.

At last, the psychologist turned to Gillian’s mother and said, “You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

I asked Gillian what happened then. She said her mother did exactly what the psychiatrist suggested. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it was,” she told me. “I walked into this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.

She started going to the dance school every week, and she practiced at home every day. Eventually, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School in London, and they accepted her. She went on to join the Royal Ballet Company itself, becoming a soloist and performing all over the world. When that part of her career ended, she formed her own musical theater company and produced a series of highly successful shows in London and New York. Eventually, she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and created with him some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Little Gillian, the girl with the high-risk future, became known to the world as Gillian Lynne, one of the most accomplished choreographers of our time, someone who has brought pleasure to millions and earned millions of dollars. This happened because someone looked deep into her eyes—someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs. Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down. But Gillian wasn’t a problem child. She didn’t need to go away to a special school.

She just needed to be who she really was.

Unlike Gillian, Matt always did fine in school, getting decent grades and passing all of the important tests. However, he found himself tremendously bored. In order to keep himself amused, he started drawing during classes. “I would draw constantly,” he told me. “And I got so good at drawing that I was able to draw without looking, so that the teacher would think that I was paying attention.” For him, art class was an opportunity to pursue his passion with abandon. “We were coloring in coloring books, and I thought, I can never color within the lines. Oh, no, I can’t be bothered!” This kicked up to another level entirely when he got to high school. “There was an art class and the other kids would just sit there, the art teacher was bored, and the art supplies were just sitting there; nobody was using them. So I did as many paintings as I could—thirty paintings in a single class. I’d look at each painting, what it looked like, and then I’d title it. ‘Dolphin in the Seaweed,’ okay! Next! I remember doing tons of painting until they finally realized I was using up so much paper that they stopped me.

“There was the thrill of making something that did not exist before. As my technical prowess increased, it was fun to be able to go, ‘Oh, that actually looks, vaguely, like what it’s supposed to look like.’ But then I realized that my drawing was not getting much better so I started concentrating on stories and jokes. I thought that was more entertaining.”

Matt Groening, known around the world as the creator of The Simpsons, found his true inspiration in the work of other artists whose drawings lacked technical mastery but who combined their distinctive art styles with inventive storytelling. “What I found encouraging was looking at people who couldn’t draw who were making their living, like James Thurber. John Lennon was also very important to me. His books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, are full of his own really crummy drawings but funny prose-poems and crazy stories. I went through a stage where I tried to imitate John Lennon. Robert Crumb was also a huge influence.”

His teachers and his parents—even his father, who was a cartoonist and filmmaker—tried to encourage him to do something else with his life. They suggested that he go to college and find a more solid profession. In fact, until he got to college (a nontraditional school without grades or required classes), he’d found only one teacher who truly inspired him. “My first-grade teacher saved paintings I did in class. She actually saved them, I mean, for years. I was touched because there’s like, you know, hundreds of kids going through here. Her name is Elizabeth Hoover. I named a character on The Simpsons after her.”

The disapproval of authority figures left him undeterred because, in his heart, Matt knew what truly inspired him.

“I knew as a kid when we were playing and making up stories and using little figurines—dinosaurs and stuff like that—I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life. I saw grown-ups with briefcases going into office buildings and I thought, ‘I can’t do that. This is all I really wanna do.’ I was surrounded by other kids who felt the same way, but gradually they peeled off and they got more serious. For me it was always about playing and storytelling.

“I understood the series of stages I was supposed to go through—you go to high school, you go to college, you get a credential, and then you go out and get a good job. I knew it wasn’t gonna work for me. I knew I was gonna be drawing cartoons forever.

“I found friends who had the same interests at school. We hung out together and we’d draw comics and then bring them to school and show them to each other. As we got older and more ambitious, we started making movies. It was great. It partly compensated for the fact that we felt very self-conscious socially. Instead of staying home on the weekend, we went out and made movies. Instead of going to the football games on Friday night, we would go to the local university and watch underground films.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Element"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Ken Robinson.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 The Element 1

Chapter 2 Think Differently 27

Chapter 3 Beyond Imagining 52

Chapter 4 In the Zone 83

Chapter 5 Finding Your Tribe 103

Chapter 6 What Will They Think? 132

Chapter 7 Do You Feel Lucky? 156

Chapter 8 Somebody Help Me 169

Chapter 9 Is It Too Late? 187

Chapter 10 For Love or Money 207

Chapter 11 Making the Grade 225

Afterword 251

Notes 261

Index 269

What People are Saying About This

Susan Jeffers

"Ken Robinson presents the theme of creativity and innovation in a way that makes you want to go out and make your dreams a reality. In his wonderfully easy-to-read and entertaining style he presents the stories of many who have done just that. This is a valuable book for educators and community leaders . . . most importantly, it is a book that lightens and lifts the minds and hearts of all who read it."--(Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., bestselling author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway® and Life is Huge!)

Warren Bennis

"A great and inspiring book. It's been said that an un-examined life is not worth living. True enough and Ken Robinson doesn't let us off the hook. After the first page, you have to abandon your ego and look for your own gifts and graces."--(Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader: The Leadership Classic)

Suzanne J. Peterson

"Every once in a while, someone writes a book that sheds a compelling new light on a subject. Ken Robinson's insight into creativity has done just that. This book is filled with succinct yet brilliant ideas, is replete with vivid examples, and offers timeless application. The Element transcends traditional thought on how we think about and develop people in virtually any setting. Reading this provocative book will help business leaders, school administrators, parents, teachers, and anyone else who wants to unleash the potential associated with people finding and applying their passions in life."--(Suzanne J. Peterson, Ph.D.- Professor of Management and Leadership, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and Executive Coach, CRA Inc.)

Gillian Lynne

"Ken Robinson is a remarkable man, one of the few who really look at and into you, so he makes you feel at ease and happy. I'm proud to be in his book as one of the people he feels attained the element. Reading his book helps you pinpoint the search we must all make to achieve the best in us."--(Gillian Lynne, choreographer, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera)

Harry Lodge

"A brilliant and compelling look at creativity, and the path to succeed in the global world of tomorrow"--(Harry Lodge, co-author of Younger Next Year)

From the Publisher

The Element offers life-altering insights about the discovery of your true best self.” —Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
 
“Ken Robinson presents the theme of creativity and innovation in a way that makes you want to go out and make your dreams a reality. In his wonderfully easy-to-read and entertaining style he presents the stories of many who have done just that. . . . It is a book that lightens and lifts the minds and hearts of all who read it.” —Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., bestselling author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway® and Life is Huge!
“A great and inspiring book. It’s been said that an unexamined life is not worth living. True enough and Ken Robinson doesn’t let us off the hook. After the first page, you have to abandon your ego and look for your own gifts and graces.” —Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader: The Leadership Classic

“Robinson (Out of Our Minds), renowned in the areas of creativity development, innovation, and human resources, tackles the challenge of determining and pursuing work that is aligned with individual talents and passions to achieve well-being and success. . . . Motivating and persuasive, this entertaining and inspiring book will appeal to a wide audience.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Ken Robinson is a remarkable man, one of the few who really look at and into you, so he makes you feel at ease and happy. I’m proud to be in his book as one of the people he feels attained the Element. Reading his book helps you pinpoint the search we must all make to achieve the best in us.” —Gillian Lynne, choreographer, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera
 
“While the world is changing faster than ever, our organizations, our schools, and too often our minds are locked in the habits of the past. The result is a massive waste of human talent. The Element is a passionate and persuasive appeal to think differently about ourselves and how to face the future.” —Alvin Toffler, author of The Future Shock
 
“A brilliant and compelling look at creativity, and the path to succeed in the global world of tomorrow.” —Harry Lodge, co-author of Younger Next Year

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The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
GShuk on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is really just his opinions on this topic for he only uses anecdotes to support his points. While it was uplifting at points it also felt long and drawn out. It was interesting hearing about the famous people who were having a hard time in school only to find their calling later in life. (He does a lot of school bashing) While this is not a self help book he does explore what is involved in finding your element and valuing the pursuit of it in others. There are better books on this topic.
cepheid36552 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I love this book! It is SO inspiring. I think everyone should read this at some point in their life. It is never too late to make a difference with your life.
Doey on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Cute stories; extraordinarily little substance
buchowl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was a disappointment to me. It was filled with inspiring stories about people who had found their passion/life's work against the odds, but the book had no direction or advice about finding what that passion is (some of us need a little help in that area). Then, after multiple chapters of inspiring stories, the book launches into a discussion on educational reform, then to environmental issues and finally to population statistics. While informative (and depressing) I'm not sure what exactly that has to do with finding your life's work or playing to your strengths (unless education/the environment/population issues ARE your passion). Nice book, important information but not the correct forum/vehicle.Recommended for someone who is well aware of his/her strengths and passions but needs a push to go for it. Skip chapter 11 and the afterword unless global/educational issues are of interest to you.
sgtbigg on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is not the usual type of thing that I read but I picked it up in the library on a whim. Dr. Robinson explains that those who do what they love are happier in life, no surprises there. He then goes on to give multiple examples of people who have had great success in life after doing poorly in school. The point being that schools do not do a good job of developing talents outside of math, science, and reading. While I agree with Dr. Robinson¿s assessments, once he made them he really had no where else to go so he kept making them in different ways. The book was relatively short but I got bored with it about half way through, once I got the main point it became somewhat depressing to hear about people doing what they loved and making a living at it. All in all it wasn't a bad book and Dr. Robinson injected a good bit of humor throughout. Bizarrely, some of his writing reminded me of Douglas Adams.
E-reader_ More than 1 year ago
After hearing a speech by Sir Ken Robinson I purchased this book. It is worth the read. He expounds on his work in creativity. The latter half of his book seems to veer off; however, it is a book I would recommend. I especially would recommend it to parents of young children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
According to author and education consultant Sir Ken Robinson, today's educational systems promote only certain types of learning and recognize only certain types of intelligence and creativity. Yet people are happiest when they follow their talents and do what they love. Robinson, writing with co-author Lou Aronica, describes this avenue to fulfillment as "the Element," the intersection of ability and passion. He uses stories of artists, scientists, athletes and musicians to support his theory. While Robinson makes a strong case for finding your Element, he doesn't tell you how to get there. Since he relies on case histories of the famous, some readers might feel more distanced than motivated. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends this thoughtful self-help book, which challenges traditional views of intelligence and creativity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KitKat11KK More than 1 year ago
After watching Ken Robinson's TED video in my senior English class I knew I had to read The Element. Ken Robinson's strong speech about the lack of creativity in the U.S. school systems was inspiring, and was very relatable. After reading the book I was surprisingly disappointed. Many of the people featured in Robinson's book turned out to be musicians or noble peace prizewinners, not just basic everyday people who did something great in medicine or founded a National Park. I was also disappointed with the repetition throughout the entire book, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and frozen in time. I would have liked to see the chapters build off each other rather than bounce from topic to topic and not ever pinpointing a solid idea. The Element wasn't just filled with stories of famous people and run on topics. It opened doors to new ideas that never crossed my mind. While reading The Element you might want to jot ideas down because the topics touched on leave you thinking; for example how the IQ test was formed and used throughout history and how the ACT has the same basic structure but used for different purposes. Some of the other topics The Element presents you with just reinforce things we already do on an everyday basis, like associating ourselves with people with similar interests. Robinson refers to this as finding your tribe, and personally I think it plays a large part in everyday life. I rated The Element a 3.0 out of 5.0 stars because it had its ups and downs. Some chapters kept you on your toes while others slowly put you to sleep. I think The Element overall has great potential in getting you inspired and keeping dreams alive, but I think most would agree it's a one time read.
KaitlynK10 More than 1 year ago
After watching Ken Robinson's TED video in my senior English class I knew I had to read The Element. Ken Robinson's strong speech about the lack of creativity in the U.S. school systems was inspiring, and was very relatable. After reading the book I was surprisingly disappointed. Many of the people featured in Robinson's book turned out to be musicians or Noble Peace prizewinners, not just basic everyday people who did something great in medicine or founded a National Park. I was also disappointed with the repetition throughout the entire book, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and frozen in time. I would have like to see the chapters build off each other rather than bounce from topic to topic and not ever pinpointing a solid idea. The Element wasn't just filled with storied of famous people and run-on topics. It opened doors to new ideas that never crossed my mind. While reading The Element you might want to jot ideas down because the topics touched on leave you thinking; for example, how the IQ test was formed and used throughout history and how the ACT has the same basic structure but used for different purposes. Some of the other topics The Element present you with just reinforce things we already do on an everyday basis, like associating ourselves with people with similar interests. Robinson refers to this as finding your tribe, and personally I think it plays a large part in everyday life. I rated The Element a 3.0 out of 5.0 stars because it had its ups and downs. Some chapters kept you on your toes while others slowly put you to sleep. I think The Element overall has great potential in getting you inspired and keeping dreams alive, but I think most would agree it's a one-time read.
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scl1smi More than 1 year ago
Every so often a book comes along that shakes your world. Whether you're already doing what you love, or know someone who isn't, this book is an absolute marvel. Aside from being a scathing indictment on our antiquated educational system, it is a wonderful motivator to do what you love and love what you do. I've bought copies for everyone at my office and in my family!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will help you find your way if you don't know which way to go, forgot what to do, feel like you don't belong, can't see where others belong or what they have to give. It will give you inspiration if life has become old-boring-tired, to find new life and direction. It helps you see that we all have something to give and to receive from everyone and everything. And clarifies that everything has meaning and purpose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought his information and ideas were great, and that more schools and parents should take his ideas into consideration. Some parts of the book were a little slow reading, but I thought his message was GREAT!!!
Computer_Guy_Dave More than 1 year ago
If your children need to know what they should do for a career, have them read this or read it and guide them through the decision process. Ken Robinson has done an excellant job putting things into perspective. I wish this book was required reading by High School seniors and College freshman. Did you hear me teachers & professors? This is a great book for anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very thought provoking. It makes you question your misconceptions of creativity and intelligence. Excellent for any educator as well, to understand that students will shine in their own way.
edina More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book on creativity. It is used as required material for the Creative minds class at De Anza College. I strongly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All teachers, parents and students should have this as required reading!!!