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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring book
I realy enjoyed Sir Ken Robinson's book which is highly readable and talks about the concept of finding one's true calling in life (which he says, is the point at which one's talents overlap with one's highest passions - 'the Element'). This he does, through the telling of people's stories. It is inspiring stuff for those who want to believe the quote from Confucius - "If...
Published on 13 Mar 2009 by Paul M. Clark

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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining speaker, very disappointing book
Having seen Ken Robinson's talks on TED, I felt motivated to check out his book. I found what he had to say was both entertaining and inspirational, and I felt inclined to find out more.

Well, what of the book? I can suppose why many people gave it 4 and 5 stars. We all enjoy a good story. I do, and at first I did genuinely find the stories interesting and...
Published on 1 Jun 2010 by A. Monaghan


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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring book, 13 Mar 2009
By 
Paul M. Clark (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I realy enjoyed Sir Ken Robinson's book which is highly readable and talks about the concept of finding one's true calling in life (which he says, is the point at which one's talents overlap with one's highest passions - 'the Element'). This he does, through the telling of people's stories. It is inspiring stuff for those who want to believe the quote from Confucius - "If you enjoy what you do, you'll never work another day in your life". The book introduces the topic wonderfully although readers should be aware that there is little within the book about how to actually go about pursuing your dreams, although I am sure this was intentionally outside the scope of the book (for that I'd refer people to Marcus Buckingham's excellent book 'Go put your strengths to work' and his video podcast with Oprah which is free on iTunes).

My one gripe (which is minor), is that the stories are all about immensely successful people (e.g.Paul McCartney, Matt Groening) which are amazing but it might of been nice to see a few 'real people' stories where people successfully pursued their passions and found happiness but weren't necessarily world beaters. If anyone interested in the book hasn't yet seen Sir Ken's TED talk I'd thoroughly recommend that you view in on YouTube.
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not a self-help instruction manual!, 24 Jan 2011
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Hi,

I'm writing this review because some people here seem to have bought it thinking it was a self-help manual. I guess the title is a little misleading.

What it is is a collection of anecdotes about people who have found their element - a passion for doing something that makes an hour feel like five minutes. To get an idea of what this book is about, do a web search for Ken Robinson. He's done two presentations for TED.com (Technology, Education and Design) and a fantastic animated presentation about our current education systems and the crisis that's been facing them for the past 30 or so years.

This book will give you marvellous insights what creativity is and into the lives and life-changing moments in creative people's lives. Just don't expect it to give you step by step instructions on how to find your element because there aren't any - everyone is different and everyone finds their element in a different way, sometimes by a very round-about route. If you understand this book, you'll know what you have to do.

I hope this helps! :)
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining speaker, very disappointing book, 1 Jun 2010
By 
A. Monaghan "anroo" (Cork, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Having seen Ken Robinson's talks on TED, I felt motivated to check out his book. I found what he had to say was both entertaining and inspirational, and I felt inclined to find out more.

Well, what of the book? I can suppose why many people gave it 4 and 5 stars. We all enjoy a good story. I do, and at first I did genuinely find the stories interesting and inspirational, but here the author uses a story to put forward even the smallest idea. By the time I was half way through I felt myself getting weary. The point itself seemed lost.
But there aren't just success stories. There are other kinds of stories, some of which really seem like digressions for the sake of a story, until at last it arrives on a wispy point, a brief bridge before, god help me, another story. I'm sorry to say there's little substance to this.

I loved hearing the Author speak on TED and in this book he describes speaking as his personal 'element', he explains that when you're in your 'element', time seems to slow down. This could explain how he got the bulk of this 288 page book's message in to a 20 minute talk.

If you are happy to read lots of stories about people finding their inspiration, get this book. If you are looking to be pointed toward finding your own inspiration, don't bother.
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170 of 183 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of examples of natural-born talent - but no guidance on finding your own, 11 April 2009
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I have never written an Amazon review before - but I was so annoyed by this book and how little I got from reading it, that I was moved to write one. Ken Robinson is apparently "an internationally acclaimed leader in creativity and innovation" and I had big expectations that this book would yield some new insights on this topic. It absolutely didn't.
This book's sub-title is "how finding your passion changes everything". Chapter after chapter lists case studies, rather clunkily and poorly written, of people who were mostly born with natural talent and a calling in life. For example, we read about world-class snooker players, dancers, writers...all at the top of their profession and making money from it. But what about all the millions of others who have found their element - as an illustrator or novelist, for example, but just can't make a living from it. For every Meg Ryan (there's a case study about her in the book) there's thousands of unknown actresses who love what they do but can't make money from it or get recognition. In the case studies described in the book, most are famous and the seeds of their talent were obvious from the start and Ken Robinson tells us how marvellous their lives are now that they have found their "element" or what gives them their creative kicks in life. Trouble is that most people simply don't know what their "element" is - and they will be absolutely none the wiser after this. In fact, they will even be demoralised by how easily the case-studies he describes seemed to hook up with their personal "element". There's information on how the education should change to teach creativity, but no clues about how to find it if you are older. Or what to do if your element doesn't actually make you a decent living and you have to spend most of your time working as an estate agent, say, when what you'd really love to do is write novels. I read this from cover to cover and found it utterly disappointing. The whole idea stems from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of Flow. This is described in the book Flow: The pyshology of Optimal Experience, which is quoted in The Element and which you would be much better to buy instead of this rather disappointing book. At the end you are just left wondering at how lucky people are who are born with a natural gift that allows them to excel and achieve great fame in a field - and wondering where that leaves the rest of the population who muddle through. One of the most disappointing books I have read on the subject of creativity in a long time.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly mediocre, 24 Mar 2009
By 
Adam Knowles "Sapare aude" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is mostly a mishmash of disjunct storytelling ("yeah so, like, I was chatting to, like, PAUL MCCARTNEY the other day") with reheated self help ideas from other titles.

It shouts `But we could ALL BE DANCERS!', which I found annoying because I can't dance and I certainly can't draw. The future for each of us doesn't necessarily lie in us all becoming artists and artisans.

It has a good chapter on `Education'. Robinson is a keen promoter of reform and he makes a compelling case for change. The current system (in the West) was founded for an 18th century industrial society: a production line where the inputs are grouped arbitrarily into ages then educated en-masse, the bell going off on the hour every hour to keep the conveyer going, the curriculum strictly constrained, with QA testing at every stage, dumping adequate but mediocre skilled/qualified people off the end. He criticises the `hierarchy of subjects' with maths and english at the top and drama at the bottom. He says the system is inappropriate for the modern economy and society, that the way forward is student-centred learning, cross-pollination between subjects, the `re-professionalisation' of teaching - and most important the engagement with creativity to produce people that think for themselves and don't fit into a pre-defined set of boxes, where success is narrowly defined as academic ability in english and maths.

A readable book that provides some interesting insights, but padded out with too many unnecessary anecdotes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Name of this fallacy: 'cherry-picking', 22 Nov 2013
By 
Richard Christian "richardchristian" (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This book has two points to make:

1. Do what you what you love and what you're very good at doing, and you will be happy.

2. You might think that X will hinder you from being successful at this thing, but that's false, because I, Ken Robinson, have a famous friend in LA who had the problem of X, and he still became an incredibly successful person and a multi-millionaire.

(1.) is bloody obvious. (2.) represents an idiotic (and in fact reactionary) piece of reasoning.

Most of my friends are 'in their element': they do what they love and what they are very good at. But most of them have to work in pubs to stay afloat, because for 99% of people, it is bloody hard to make a living as an artist. His remarks about luck just being 'what you make of what happens' are offensive. I am all for going to art-school, but the reason parents discourage their children from it is for exactly this reason, which Ken appears blind to, having surrounded himself only with very successful people.

I think the right point of view is this: Find and pursue your element! Probably you will probably end up fairly poor, and your projects will not work out exactly as you would have liked! But you will have a much richer and happier life than if you waste away in a comfortable job in an office doing something you hate!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Never have I read so many words that said so little, 5 Mar 2012
Okay, first of all I will own up. I only managed to get about half way through this drivel and then I gave up so I cannot claim to reading it all (I had become far too angry to do so). This is the gist of it: do something you like and are good at, and you will be fulfilled. There. So far, so obvious? If you have read that you do not need to buy this book as that is all it tells you. The rest of it is one smug story/example after another about how this worked for all of the author's name-drop pals.
The trouble is that (as you might expect) they are all musicians, athletes, artists, dancers, film makers etc etc. The problem with this is that back in the real world, musicians, athletes, artists, dancers and film makers do not build houses, run factories, create businesses, build cars, research a cure for cancer, make clothes, perform brain surgery, clean hospitals or empty bins etc. Hopefully my point is clear. I had to stop reading when the author proudly recounted the case of the woman who packed in science to become a comedian... I think I will write my own book now. It will be called "Get Real and Get On With It". Face it; 99% of us will be in jobs we don't particularly like but they are a responsible means of paying the bills. With a bit of luck the output will be useful to the rest of society too. Rant over and out.
(I just read the review here of Leigh West. That could be me; pretty much the same analysis as me and I agree 100%).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 'self-help' book for those, like me, who don't normally care for them..., 30 Oct 2010
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I am quite disgruntled by some of the negative comments made here about 'The Element'. Having now finished reading it myself I can only presume that those complaining approached the book with cynically and thus shouldn't have picked it up in the first place. Also some of these detractors entirely missed the point of 'The Element' and weren't paying much attention to what is actually being posited.

For those who honestly expected Ken Robinson to give them a step by step bespoke guide on how to find their personal element, something only the individual can do anyway, then it's no wonder they were disappointed. This is so unreasonable an expectation I am puzzled any rational adult could hope to get that from a single book.

I'm not normally a fan of the motivational/self-help genre. I think all too often they are guilty of that very American concept of the contrived maxim and cringeworthy pithiness. Being a Brit I expected Robinson to have a more down-to-earth, sincere approach and I wasn't disappointed. He gives as limpid and helpful a guide on navigating your way towards fulfillment through your God-given talents and passions as he can. I enjoyed his anecdotal style and found it made his suggestions a lot more likely to stick. Neither is he guilty of the casual name-dropping as accused by some. I suppose he liked to throw in familiar names amongst those not-so-familiar to make it easier for the reader to relate. He uses case studies of people from all walks of life,flourishing in all different sorts of disciplines, famous or otherwise, even leaving his own inspirational story till near the end of the book. He doesn't promise that finding one's 'element' will lead to untold riches; in fact he's quite clear in the chapter on amateur pursuits, that this isn't always the case. Money as the end goal or an indicator of fulfillment is far from the ethos of this book.

As has been mentioned a few times by other reviewers, Robinson makes some very eye-opening observations about the Western education system and how it inadvertently lets so many people down due to its one-size-fits-all modus operandi. He also makes some salient points about age discrimination and how it breeds misguided notions that cause people to needlessly abandon lifelong aspirations. I could go on and on. There are many things I took away from this book. Not all of it was groundbreaking or new but it consolidated so many good bits of advice I've received in the past and presented them in a succinct way with not a small dash of wit. I highlighted quite a few passages worthy of a re-visit.

My only real gripe with 'The Element' -a rather trivial one it might seem to some-is Robinson's insistence on using Americanisms. I know he's lived in the US for a while but he's a Brit, he still has traces of his Scouse accent and I don't expect him to say 'Math' instead of 'Maths', write 'practise' the noun as 'practice' the verb, or spell 'programme' any other way. Such concessions to the transatlantic assault on the English language peeved me, but then again it often does. I also think the last chapter could have been more brief.

These quibbles aside 'The Element' comes highly recommended for anyone serious about making the best use of their gifts, no matter how unspectacular they might seem.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to actually find your passion, 19 Dec 2011
Ken Robison is a great speaker and you should see his TED talks if you haven't already. A lot of people posting reviews of The Element love the stories but are left frustrated by not knowing how to go about finding this passion he describes so eloquently. I recommend First, Know What You Want - why goals don't work and how to make them as a practical handbook if you want a step by step process for discovering and following your passion. It has no stories, instead is a step-by-step guidebook to help you uncover what you really want from a number of different angles. It comes with a downloadable PDF full of exercises and would make the perfect companion to the inspiring stories in The Element. You should also look at You Can Have What You Want by Michael Neill.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Element, reviewed by Heather Davis & Viv McWaters, 24 Feb 2009
By 
Heather Davis (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

This book was mentioned in and follows on from Sir Ken Robinson's 2006 TED Talk "Do schools kill creativity?" which made a profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures--rather than undermines--creativity. That presentation was subsequently viewed by tens of thousands of people. This book has been written in the same anecdotal style that Robinson used in his TED Talk which, transferred to the written word, is eminently readable as an extended essay. It will be of interest to people who have been shaped by schooling, particularly those for whom traditional schooling in subjects such as english, science and maths was less than ideal; as well as today's parents, students, teachers and teacher educators.

Like Erica McWilliam's "The Creative Workforce" (2008) Robinson's book positions creativity as a key literacy for the knowledge era and argues for an urgent change to education practices rather than more of the same education and training practices that are failing many students (and educators:

"Some of the most brilliant, creative people I know did not do well at school. Many of them didn't really discover what they could do--and who they really were--until they'd left school and recovered from their education" (p. 9).

Robinson tackles this issue by focussing on what he calls "the element" that "place where the things you love to do and the things that you are good at come together" (p. 8) and describes how people, himself included, have discovered their 'element'.
The book details the common traits of the phenomenon he calls "the element" which include:
* passion for our own distinctive talent (whatever that might be);
* a means to show that talent off;
* support and space for developing this talent:
o mentors
o a place to practice and make mistakes
o an education system that looks to the individual;
* connecting with others who share the same passions, ie finding your tribe[i];
* the role of attitude and luck;
* evidence that opportunities to discover our "Element" exist more frequently in our lives than many might believe, and that it may never be too late to get started.

Robinson argues that our education system works against most people finding their element and is passionate and persuasive in his calls for educational reform. This really is the core of the book, with the examples and anecdotes serving as evidence of the failure of the current system. He also explores the place of creativity, and the arts, in an educational hierarchy which, generally, places sciences at the top and the arts as a poorer second. Even within the arts, he argues, there are still hierarchies. This embedded structure in education mitigates the capacity for many of us to use our formal education as a means of exploration where we can try out many, and eventually discover, our own true 'element'. Robinson is particularly critical of standardised tests - a 'one size fits all' model of most Western societies, that purports to measure like against like when every human individual is unique. This book sits nicely with Malcolm Gladwell's latest, "Outliers" (2008) where Gladwell argues in a similar vein that success is due, mostly, from luck, circumstance and openness to new ideas.

If there is any lack to Robinson's book it is in the area of 'how to'. There is little practical advice, although lots of tangental clues, as to how to discover your own 'element'. The reader hoping for more precise instructions will be disappointed. However, anyone who has any responsibility for education - their own or of others - would be well advised to read this book and incorporate its learnings into their own practice.

Chapters include: the Element; think differently; beyond imagining; in the zone; finding your tribe; what will they think?; Do you feel lucky?; somebody help me; is it too late; for love or money; making the grade; and a thought provoking afterword.

References

Gladwell, M. 2008. Outliers: The story of success. London, Penguin.
McWilliam, E. 2008. The creative workforce: how to launch young people into high-flying futures. Sydney, University of New South Wales Press.

Footnote
[i] Interesting that there is a chapter on Tribes but no mention of Seth Godin's book of the same name. Perhaps they were writing in parallel?
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