Book Review: The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

book cover of FInding Your Element

We’ve heard about being “in the Zone” or more recently, experiencing “flow.” Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D, introduces us to “The Element.”  The Element, like experiencing Flow, or The Zone, is that magical place where your intrinsic talent is paired with the explosive power of following your passion.  This is where we experience the highest levels of our success and where we feel the most inspired.

I had the treat of listening to the audio version of this book, which was read by the author. Besides enjoying his distinctive English accent, I also was able to experience his delightful wry humor all the more because he was delivering it himself.  If you’d like to get a peak into both his skilled delivery and message, check out one of the TED videos that he has recorded: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html

The most inspiring part of the book to me was the fascinating mix of stories that Robinson told of how many familiar personalities found their Element.  He recounted stories of Paul McCartney, Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame), Richard Feynman, Mike Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac), gymnast Bart Conner and Vidal Sassoon to name only a few.  It is one thing to discuss a theory and quite another to see how many diverse ways individuals discover their Element.  And don’t worry, Robinson assures, if you haven’t found your Element yet — it can happen at any age, and you might even discover more than one passion too!

I loved seeing how creativity and imagination fueled great discoveries and advancement in so many varied fields from physics to math to journalism to music and art.  The author makes an impassioned discourse on how modern school systems are moving in totally the wrong direction with their focus on standardized test scores and No Child Left Behind.  These movements resulted in the removal of arts programs and many of the more creative and organic ways of learning through discovery in order to make time for extra teaching targeted specifically on teaching the material on standardized tests so as to boost test scores.

Robinson also does a good job of explaining the importance of finding like-minded individuals to support and stretch you.  They don’t necessarily have to share your particular passion, though that is ideal.  Individuals in complementary fields can often offer a broadening of the applications of your Element.  Robinson calls this important group of people your Tribe.  I really liked this discussion because I could relate to my personal experiences of having Tribes in my life.  Not only is it more fun to talk to others who share your passion, your tribe offers support and inspiration.  It was, in part, looking for a PKM librarian ‘tribe’ that led us to creating this blog in the first place, so that concept is near and dear to my heart.

Robinson closes, as do I, with a wonderful quote from the great Michaelangelo:

     “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

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