Since Sir Ken Robinson’s highly successful bestseller The Element made such a great impact on parents and educators around the world, we have been great fans of his and have made regular references to his book in our talks. And now, his follow-up book is finally out – a guidebook of sorts that offers the “tools, techniques, resources and advice you need to discover the depth of your abilities and identify opportunities for change”. We like how the book is written in concise and clear manner to get the message across without being lost in the stories. And the stories blend in well with the points he wants to make.
There are ten chapters, each with a question posed by the author, except for the first and last chapters. I like the way the chapters flow into one another that helps the readers think more systematically and sensibly about finding their element and bringing them out.
Each chapter sets out ideas and principles to clarify what being in your Element really means, with many new ideas on aptitudes and ability, learning styles, passion, attitudes and personality, happiness and purpose. There are many questions that the author pose to the readers, questions that are important to ask but are often forgotten to be asked. I like the honesty of the author of not claiming that the book would find all the answers and solve all the problems for us.
“This book does not tell you which road to take or which destination to aim for. It offers a guide to the territory and some basic principles and tools to orient you and help you find a path.”
It is like having a very wise and experienced person telling you his life stories, his failures and successes, and teaching you step by step how to uncover yourself, ignite your engine and zoom ahead in your journey of life! His honesty about his shortcomings make him less like an enlightened guru who sits high up in his pedestal, and more like a regular guy on the street (with a “Sir” in front of his name) meandering the terrain called Life, just like all of us. Another of his honest revelation that I like is this one:
“I am willing to admit that I find meditation difficult because many people do. If it were so easy to stop thinking there would be no need to think about how to do it.”
It is extremely interesting that Sir Ken Robinson starts his series of exercises in the book with MEDITATION as the very first one, BEFORE mind mapping, vision boards, automatic writing and many others. The reason why becomes obvious in the next section: Change Your Perspective where he talks about what shapes our world view and how some of these influences may help or hinder us in finding what our Element is and pursuing it. By reconnecting with our true self, through quiet contemplation, we start from our original mind by quietening the other noises in our heads in the forms of fears, fixations, views and assumptions, and letting our own voice emerge from them.
“Finding your element involves understanding the powers and passions that you were born with as part of your unique biological inheritance.
Finding your Element means reflecting on your own cultural circumstances – on the opportunities for growth that you want and need now.
Finding your Element means being open to new experiences and to explore new paths and possibilities in yourself and in the world around you.”
Of particular interest to parents and educators is what the author has to say about education:
“One of the problems you may face in finding your Element is that most systems of education are not based on the three elemental principles – your life is unique, you create your life, your life is organic. On the contrary. For the most part education systems inhibit creativity and are organized on the false assumptions that life is linear and inorganic. The conventional story is that if you study particular disciplines and stay with the prescribed program, and pass all the tests, your life will fall neatly into place. If you don’t, it won’t.”
It might work that way. Or it might not. He then gives a very interesting example of a survey conducted by a professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, who surveyed more than 650 US-born CEOs and heads of product engineering at more than 500 technology companies. And this is what he found: Of those, only 4 out of 10 had degrees in engineering or math. The other 60% had degrees in business, the arts or the humanities.
His conclusion of his study? There is no link between what you study in college and how successful or otherwise you are later in life. “What makes people successful are their motivation, drive, and ability to learn from mistakes and how hard they work.”
Ken Robinson says that it is important to emphasize this principle because young people are often steered away from courses they would like to take in school by well-meaning parents, (and may I add, grandparents!) friends or teachers to tell them they will never get a job doing that. Because real life often tells a different story.
And talking about stories, we are delighted to declare that the story of Sam (our younger daughter) has been included in this book! Yes, right at Chapter 3: How Do You Know? (knowing what you are good at by trying things you have never tried).
We had submitted her story when Sir Ken Robinson had tweeted about stories submissions for his follow-up book and never expected it to be selected from out of thousands of other stories! We are truly happy that Sam’s story will now reach out to millions of readers out there who might be inspired by her continuing story of self-discovery and personal growth. For the full story of Sam, please go to our blogsite (also included in the book) http://www.learningbeyondschooling.org and search for The Story of Sam.
We plan to conduct workshops based on the book for those seeking help in charting an alternative future by finding one’s Element. Let us know if you will be interested! This book is now available at major bookshops in the country. We got our copy from Kinokuniya KLCC. There is also a Chinese translation edition available.