A few weeks ago I watched a TED talk by the famous British author and speaker Sir Ken Robinson on the topic “Do schools kill creativity?”. I found the talk very interesting both in terms of content and the speaking style which is known to always have a sprinkle of Robinson’s humor. The examples he gave as well as the relevance of his ideas made me want to dig more into his works as he wrote many books on the subject. This is how I stumbled upon one of his most famous works “The Element: How finding your passion changes everything”, a book full of inspiring stories, important lessons and practical advice on figuring out the “Element” in us.
The main idea he explores is that we all need to think differently about ourselves. Based on this assumption, he then goes onto describing what he calls the “Element”: this special place where the things we love to do and the things we’re good at come together. However, discovering this special part of ourselves is not achievable if we do not embrace a richer conception of human capacity. To the author, everything is about finding the work that for us becomes play, that “sweet spot” full of learning opportunities and growth-inducing experiences. In fact, we are not settled and restrained by any boundaries because our very human nature dictates a constant potential for renewal which is one of the most important thing overlooked by schools. Schools are supposed to be places that encourage learning learning and growing when in fact they focus on a very narrow view of intelligence that drains creativity out of our minds and prevents us from finding our Element: the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. Brilliance can come in so many forms: how can we base our perception of intelligence on a very narrow-minded vision that does not consider our full potential?
Ultimately, there are so many different ways to express intelligence. We all have different levels of linguistic, mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. The very mechanism of what people describe as being “smart” is in fact characterized by 2 extremely elastic features: diversity and dynamic. The essential mistake we tend to make is thinking that intelligence and creativity are two different things. As Robinson emphasizes, people pride themselves so much in being down to earth when in reality our imagination is what sets us apart. He also highlights the fact that finding our Element is not necessarily a journey we have to undertake alone as sometimes it comes in the form of another person recognizing something that we do not see in us. This is when the role of mentors proves to be very effective, their function being to recognize, encourage, facilitate and stretch learning. Mentors help us marvel at the wonder of human potential!
I found all these concepts and explanations very interesting, especially that Sir Ken Robinson sprinkled his work with so many examples of people with inspiring stories and elements that made the whole idea of “Element” more clear to me. However, through other readings of my own I have come to question a lot the idea of a “passion” within us. It is a very important journey, no doubt in that, but I also believe that it might not be something deeply engrained in us and more a discovery that comes with the very act of trying new things, something that grows and builds with time and not necessarily an unconscious interest we suddenly pull out of ourselves randomly.
I encourage anyone interested in discovering what this vision of the “Element” is about to read this book by Sir Ken Robinson!