Finding Your Element - Critical summary review - Ken Robinson

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Finding Your Element - critical summary review

Finding Your Element Critical summary review Start your free trial
Self Help & Motivation and Personal Development

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 0143125516

Publisher: Penguin Books

Critical summary review

If you’re even a bit like us, you’ve asked yourself if you’re living your life the right way hundreds of times – and such reflection will likely come again a few hundred times more until the day ends. Let us hazard a guess: you’re probably asking yourself that question right now. 

But don’t worry! 

All those fears, anxieties, and unanswered questions about the meaning of life, they’re good for you! It’s okay, being normal is to have them. What’s not okay is not doing anything about the constant lack of answers.

To be honest from the outset: “Finding Your Element” is not the book that will give you the answers. Nonetheless, no book can do that. There are many people on this planet, and each is a unique being with a unique set of talents - you included.

That’s precisely where this book starts from, and, you’ll have to agree, that’s more than an excellent start for any book.

Written by one of the foremost educationalists of our time, Sir Ken Robinson, and his collaborator, Lou Aronica, “Finding Your Element” is a proper sequel to the pair’s tremendously successful debut titled “The Element.”

It shares the same primary philosophy and works as a somewhat  practical self-improvement manual to go with the theoretical groundwork set in “The Element.”  And we’re here to share with you the best bits.Let’s go!

“The potential you’ll be that you’ll never see”

What you’ve done with your life so far is only a small part of what you could have done and what you will be able to do. That’s the basic premise of this book – a sound premise. 

Don’t you believe us?

Just think about it. For one thing, you’re neither a rose nor a rabbit. And you really don’t have to be either of them. We know what you’re thinking right now: what’s this thing with roses and rabbits? Well, let us explain better. Plants and animals are set from the very beginning to be one thing only, different from people, which are born to embrace multiplicity. 

Society may have forced you to be, but the beauty of being a human (as Sartre so beautifully taught us) is the very opposite of this. A rose cannot be a tulip no matter how much it wants to be. And a rabbit will always be a rabbit even if it learns to roar like a lion.

See where we’re getting with that?

Unlike them, you can be almost anything you want. You might be working as a teacher, but why shouldn’t you be able to be an artist in your free time? Whatif you wish to give up your job and start learning web design – who can stop you?

It’s all about using your potential. And using it the best way possible.

Finding your Element: aptitudes vs. attitudes 

Now, you might think that you don’t have any unique talents to share with the world. To start with, you’re not as good at this job as the designer sitting next to you is –  and they are a junior! Meanwhile, even though you’ve been working at the same company for almost a decade, you don’t seem to improve at designing. 

Chances are the junior will very soon become your superior if you keep feeling that way, and you’ll never improve your skills.At this point, most books would probably say something like “you need to change your attitude.” Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica advise something entirely different: change the job and find one that is more in tune with your natural aptitude.

“Understanding your own aptitudes is an essential part of finding your Element,” they write, because your Element is “where natural aptitude meets personal passion.”

Then, why HAVE so many people have not found their Element? Simple, it’s because they just don’t know what their aptitudes are, since the educational system and society don’t care for uniqueness and individuality as much as they do for conformity and templates.

“Find your Element” is just a fancy way of saying “discover yourself,” “understand who you are and what you’re capable of being and doing with your life.” And this understanding starts with an objective study of your aptitudes, in other words, your natural talents.

You probably have at least one of them, or maybe even more than a handful! You just need to open your eyes to discover them. You need to stay alert and think globally rather than locally. Because you can become a good bobsledder even if you’re living in Jamaica! How would you find that out if you’re not watching the Olympics and dancing to the beat of your heart?

Because as you can see, your heart is a strange little organ. As you’ve probably learned when your high-school crush married the second time, it constantly changes. In other words: your attitude (namely, your passion) may evolve, even if your aptitude doesn’t.

Fear not: just embrace the next talent and find your Element for the second time. You can be more than one thing in life.

A simple one-two-three program to find your Element

Finding your Element and starting is not that difficult. It’s quite easy, actually:

Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Believe us: life would have been better if this had been one of your regular schoolwork exercises! After all, how should you choose the right college or the appropriate career later on if you don’t know what you’re really good at? Do yourself a favor and find out!

Decide which of your strengths really makes you feel happy. Be honest with yourself! For example, I have a friend who was a champion chess player, but she gave up playing chess to become a musician. Despite having a natural aptitude for both chess and music, music made her much happier! It is as simple as that! 

Examine why aren’t you pursuing a career fit for the strengths that make you happy. Is it due to some insecurity? Is it because your parents are against it? Is it possible that you might have gone to the wrong college? You’re stuck because you think it’s just too late for you to change careers?

Think again! 

It’s never too late to find your tribe

It’s never too late, never. Even if you’re 50 years old, you can start a new career. With all those courses and tutorials out there, how much time should you really need to acquire a new skill? A few months? A year? Maybe two?

So? You can be a chess player at the age of 50 and a musician at 52! It’s always worth taking the risk! Life’s just too short to risk not being happy. Speaking of which, there’s one more ingredient that you need to consider.

Since you’re a human being, you’re also a social organism. So, being happy usually means being happy with somebody. And as much as you’re unique, don’t forget that there are always at least a few other people out there who share your passion and love. Robinson and Aronica call these people “your tribe.”

Look for them. It is your duty to find them, because you’ll be happy to meet them. And because, hopefully, they will be thrilled to meet you as well.

The three elemental principles

Your quest – better yet, quests, plural – to a fulfilled life will probably be a long one. Due to the fact you are different from everybody else on THIS planet, it will also be unique 

Despite all of their instructions, Robinson and Aronica are adamant to consider that “finding your Element” is  a step-by-step program, but a personal process that has different outcomes for everybody. Nevertheless, the process is based on three elemental principles that apply to everyone.

Here they are.

First principle Your life is unique. 

You’re different than everybody in the history of humankind and a unique being in two different ways: biological and cultural. 

First, nobody shares the same genetic structure with you, even if you have an identical twin. Secondly, you’re pretty different from the people you share most of your traits with because you’ve certainly grown up in some reasonably different circumstances. 

Sometimes, the latter makes all the difference: if you’ll discover your aptitude and find a way to link it with your passions is severely affected by your immediate surroundings.Poor people, for example, don’t have the same freedom in pursuing their passions as rich ones, and some cultures permit or discourage some aptitudes.

Finding your Element means understanding your biological inheritance, but it also means reflecting on your cultural circumstances and the opportunities for growth that you want and need now.

Second principle: You create your own life.

As we said, you’re neither a rabbit nor a rose, and you can be anything you want to, even against the circumstances.

Never feel locked in by your present. Despite the fact that you can’t change the past, you can undoubtedly change the future. Just like all humans, you are blessed with something no other species has: powerful imagination and creative potential.

“I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become” – wrote Carl Jung.Choose wisely, and with a smile.

Third principle: Life is organic.

There’s quite A simple reason to why so many people are unable to correctly anticipate the lives they are going to actually lead: life is not linear, but organic.

In other words, everyone’s life is “a constant process of improvisation” between interests and personality on one hand and circumstances and opportunities on the other.

Furthermore, since they affect each other regularly, things change, and they change fast. Your job is to learn to improvise better, to generate enough energy, and create enough experiences to nudge the process in your direction.

That’s why finding your Element means being open-minded and exploring new paths and possibilities in yourself and in the world around you. There is no perfect path nor a certain path. So, don’t try to plan things ahead. Just take the first step.

Final Notes

If we’re perfectly honest, Ken Robison and Lou Aronica are not really saying too many things you don’t know already. Especially if you’ve read their previous book “The Element.” However, books are not only about what their authors say, they’re also about how they say it. 

Probably it’s best to think of “Finding Your Element” not so much as an enlightening book, but more as a book that may inspire you. After all, when it comes to stimulation and encouragement, a cliché or two put at the right place and worded the right way is known to help. 

Though nothing extraordinary, “Finding Your Element” can be a useful book if you don’t let its suggestions be just a lone call in the wilderness.

12min Tip

Don’t let the market decide how you should lead your life. Instead of looking for jobs in demand, look for your singular talents, and find a way to link them to your passions. Because some of your talents may not make you happy. Instead of allowing society to change you, be someone to change society.

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Who wrote the book?

Sir Ken Robinson (1950) is an educational advisor, author, and speaker best known for his talks on the absence of creativity... (Read more)

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