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Uncover your hidden talents

Published on Friday, 05 Feb 2010
Book: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Authors: Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
Publisher: Penguin

However much they care for us, have our teachers, families or employers inadvertently led us into lives that simply go against the grain? 

Sir Ken Robinson's and Lou Aronica's The Element - How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything poses the thought that people who are bored, disillusioned or frustrated, although they don't really know why, need to find their talents that may have been suppressed since childhood.

Their book offers insights into how we can find our personal best. It suggests we need to find a place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together - in other words, our "element".

The authors posit that many people they have met over the years have no real sense of what their talents and passions are. 

Neither do they have any idea of what would fulfil them, were they given the chance to do something about their situation.

However, they note that they have also met people who have been highly successful in all kinds of fields, and who are united by the fact that they are passionate about what they can do, so much so that they are unable to do anything else.

Rather than base the self-help book on facts, statistics or expert opinions, Robinson and Aronica suggest that it is real-life encounters that show the need for us to think differently about ourselves and what we are doing with our lives from educating our children to running an organisation.

The real-life stories highlighted range from the creative journeys of famous people, such as Paul McCartney, John Cleese and Matt Groening, to unhappy eight-year-olds who are doing badly in class because their talents are being overlooked. 

The creator of The Simpsons, Groening, was "tremendously bored" at school and drew in class to keep himself amused. But he was urged throughout his youth to get a "real" career. Thanks to the support of a teacher who inspired him, and an urge to tell stories and draw cartoons, he managed to work within his natural element. His pop culture empire wouldn't have been possible if he had given up on his dreams.

The authors invite us to release the abilities and passions that we once had as children. This confidence, according to Robinson and Aronica, is something we have all slowly lost, through a process of attrition, poor educational choices or direction and the fear of taking unconventional routes to success.

"I believe passionately that we are all born with tremendous natural capacities, and that we lose touch with many of them as we spend more time in the world," the authors write. "Too many [of us] graduate or [leave school] early, unsure of [our] real talents and equally unsure of what direction to take next.

"The result is that too many people never connect with their  true talents and therefore don't  know what they're really capable  of achieving." 

They say that people who manage to think differently about themselves and the way they lead their lives do so in ways that are rarely conventional. 

"Their journeys ... have been full  of twists, turns and surprises,"  they write.

Even if most of their stories are not fairy tales and their routes to success have been far from easy, he says that they have all had the chance to experience moments of perfection in their lives.

By experiencing such transcendent moments, Robinson and Aronica suggest that we are helping develop a new paradigm of human capacity to meet the demands of our rapidly-changing world.

"We need to evolve a new appreciation of the importance of nurturing human talent along with an understanding of how talent expresses itself differently in every individual," they say.

As such, we need to create environments in schools and workplaces where everyone is inspired to grow creatively. 

"[We] need to make sure that all people have the chance to do what they should be doing, to discover the element in themselves and in their own way." Robinson's clients range from governments to Fortune 500 companies, education systems,  not-for-profit groups, cultural organisations and thought leaders.

He was knighted in 2003 for his contribution to education and the arts, and in 2008 received the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts.


Five insights

  1. Many educational systems are preoccupied with certain sorts of academic ability, but this is not always best suited to individuals, according to Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, the authors of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. While academic ability is important, they suggest that schools value some abilities of critical analysis and reason, especially those related to numbers and words, over other skills that are equally if not more important to human intelligence.
  2. Brilliance comes in many forms and being poor at one subject does not doom us to an inconsequential life.  "We need to challenge what we take for granted about our abilities and the ability of other people," the authors say. "This isn't easy ... Part of the problem is that we don't know what they are because we take them for granted in the first place."
  3. Most people believe intelligence and creativity are entirely different things and they're not easily combined in one person. But it is not possible to be creative without acting intelligently, and vice versa. Creativity and intelligence are surrounded by myths, the authors say.
  4. Although we can't expect to achieve this all the time, we all need to be focused on doing the things we love. "We become lost in the experience and perform at our peak," the authors write. This gives us the true sense of our selves - rather than zoning out by doing the things we have absolutely no connection to.
  5. We need to find our tribes. In other words, we need to connect with people who share our passions and want to use them. In so doing, we come closest to our own true selves and "this can be extraordinarily liberating". 

Win A Book Contest

For your chance to win a copy of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, please share your views on the role passion plays in leading to one's success in career and life,. Send your answer to editor@classifiedpost.com, with the subject "Win A Book Contest" on or before February 26, 2010.

To obtain 30% off the marked price of this reviewed book at Dymocks, please click here for the discount coupon.   

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