Sir Ken Robinson – The Element



How finding your passion changes everything…!!!

As you may have realized from our earlier articles we were hugely influenced by Sir Ken Robinson‘s lectures in shaping Great Schooling for our daughter Aarohi. Along with being a great speaker Sir Ken is also an author of a number of books on education. One of them being ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything‘ available on Amazon. We, of course, own a copy of this book and reading it revealed so many new ideas that we had never thought of or just ignored in our earlier life. This book has forced us out of laziness and kicked us in the butt to explore our creativity in the form of parenting and homeschooling Aarohi. We were so busy with our day to day mundane lives that we forgot our real passions. We were going through our lives moving from point to point fulfilling all our responsibilities towards the world around us without even thinking about what we ourselves were interested in doing. Although we are still spending most of our daily lives fulfilling said responsibilities, we have now started exploring some or the other creative outlets to try and find our own Element. Sir Ken regularly works with RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce) and introduces us to his book in one of his lectures organized by them.

This book has forced us out of laziness and kicked us in the butt to explore our creativity in the form of parenting and homeschooling Aarohi.

Sir Ken starts the lecture by touching upon the fact that most of us as adults do things that we’re not very passionate about. We do it just because it’s the job that we have to do to sustain ourselves and our families. On the other side of the spectrum are people who actually take the trouble of discovering what they love doing and do that for the rest of their lives. The pursuit of finding the difference between these two sets of people resulted in the creation of this book. As a result, the book is built on a series of interviews with people who found their Element and pursued it. He explains that if you are in your Element, you’re doing something that is in your natural capacity. He then goes on give the example of one of the people in his book by the name Terence Tao, who is considered to be one of the smartest men alive today. He taught himself to read at the age of 2 from Sesame Street. At the age of 3, he was completing double digit equations, went on to get his Ph.D. at the age of 20 and at the age of 30 was awarded The Fields Medal and Macarthur Genius Award. The point being made is that even though most of us shy away from Mathematics, there are people in the world who are in their Element solving inconceivable equations as if they were relaxing on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


People do their best when they are in their Element and do something they love.

Next Sir Ken makes the point that just being good at something is not enough to be in your Element, you also have to love it. He gives an example of one of his Editors who used to be a Concert Pianist and moved on from that to becoming an Editor because one of her Conductors pointed out that even though she was good at playing the piano, she didn’t seem to be enjoying it. She had spent her entire life trying to meet other people’s expectations even though she herself never liked it. A little bit of soul searching led her to discover that she always loved books and literature. So she found a role in the literary world and never looked back. Also, she’s never been happier in her life.

Sir Ken’s book has been analysed to be a book about creativity. he begs to differ, claiming that it is in fact a book about diversity.

He describes his book as the point at which natural talent meets passion. He brings up another incident when he met a keyboard player, complimented him on how good he was and went on to claim that he would love to be able to play the keyboard as well as him. He got corrected instantly by the musician informing him that he won’t. Taken aback he asked him why he would say such a thing? The musician explained that to play the keyboard the way he does requires practicing 6 to 8 hours every day and then performing at the end of it. This involves a tremendous amount of hard work and one won’t be able to invest in so much hard work unless one is absolutely passionate about it and not just wants to do it. People usually confuse the word Passion as it is defined as – “Passion is an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something”.

What most people don’t realise is that the word Passion is actually derived from the Greek word Pathos which literally means – ‘”to suffer”.

This is what I want to emphasize most on. Sir Ken’s lecture opened our eyes to the fact that finding your Element is the easy part. What you do with it is the part that really  bakes the cookie. The thing to be taken away is that once you find your Element you need to pursue it with an effort that matches your enthusiasm. In my case, I recently found my love for Oil Painting. I was following the amazing Bob RossJoy of Painting series and started painting with Oil a few months back. It turns out that I take about 2 and a half hours to complete a painting that Bob does in 28 minutes. The ease with which he does it is fascinating and the amount of effort it takes me to finish even a single painting is tremendous. What encourages me is the knowledge that someday, with rigorous practice and perseverance, I will also be able to paint somewhat like Bob. Just looking forward to that time gives me the courage to achieve it. As of now, I manage to complete one painting a week. Just to give you an idea, here are the first few paintings I’ve done so far, some good, some not so much:

Sir Ken goes on to explore how education in schools today is discouraging kids from exploring their Elements and if they find it, prevents them from achieving any real goals with it. This is the kind of environment that we are hoping to keep Aarohi away from and the real motivation behind homeschooling her. Go ahead, give a listen to the lecture below and enjoy: