Sunday, March 6, 2011

Passion pays! Connect to your creative capital in “The Element”

Book Review written by Marta Davidovich Ockuly

This is a review of The Element: How finding your passion changes everything written by Sir Ken Robinson, PhD. In this reviewer’s opinion, Robinson’s ‘ode to expressing your passions’ is an affirmation of the power of creative potential latent in every human being. The writing style is anecdotal and informed, rather than strictly academic. Known for his wildly successful TED talk, Robinson’s name is synonymous with promoting the importance of creativity in education worldwide. I believe this little book reached best-seller status for two reasons: #1. Passion, creativity and finding one’s work in today’s world are hugely important. #2. Sir Ken Robinson’s personal passion for the topic and engaging talent for storytelling combine to make this book as readable as it is pivotal.

Born in Liverpool, one of seven children in a working class household with a father who became a quadriplegic after an industrial accident, Robinson faced the added challenge of contracting polio when he was four years old. None of this is mentioned in the book, but I mention it as an aside which sheds light on the boy who grew up to achieve knighthood in 2003 for his creative peacekeeping initiatives in Ireland and achievements in creativity, education, and the arts. After two decades as a university professor, Robinson continues to be an outspoken champion of totally revamping curriculums to make creative engagement a priority.

“The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion”
Sir Ken Robinson

From the first page, this non-fiction book draws readers in with inspiring stories of children and adults overcoming extraordinary odds after connecting with their ‘element.’ Readers learn Robinson and Paul McCartney attended the same school. McCartney shares his story of unrecognized talent which is shocking in retrospect. Insights into creative struggles faced by Elvis, Meg Ryan, and Simpson’s creator Matt Greonig drive home the message “we can’t always count on our talents being visible (or appreciated) by those closest to us.” People who push past failure or disapproval and follow their passions with single-minded focus, point themselves toward the most valuable form of success – a meaningful life. Robinson does not guarantee all of us superstardom, but he does encourage people of all ages to move toward their dreams. Keep in mind - this is not a self-help book. It is a book about the importance of connecting people to their ‘element.’ Robinson has gathered an inspiring collection of personal stories which illustrate the powerful nature pursuing our passions. He also offers quite a few suggestions for educators interested in facilitating exploration of ‘the element’ inside and outside the classroom.

We all have something which lights us up. Our purpose in life is to find it. In Chapter 3, titled Beyond Imagining, Sir Ken tackles the topics of life’s purpose, putting the planets in perspective, and a concrete definition of creativity. That lesson, in itself, is worth the price of the book. Chapters which follow address getting in the zone, finding your tribe, overcoming the challenge of what other people think, the importance of a mentor, why it’s never too late to pursue a passion, the truth behind being paid to do what you love, and getting over the idea that if you did not do well in school you are doomed to failure. The final chapter looks at choosing between conformity and creativity and outline’s Sir Ken’s vision of a totally transformed school system featuring personalized curriculums where teachers are mentor/coaches facilitating dynamic creative learning.

Creative thinking and learning are hot topics. Sir Ken Robinson frames them as critical survival issues for a world in crisis. I appreciated Robinson’s rigor in providing chapter by chapter notes, references, and links. My personal creativity library contains 200+ books. This is the one I consider required reading for every parent and teacher on the planet. I’ve purchased extra copies to share with colleagues and friends. If you are passionate about creativity, I believe you’ll be inspired to do the same.

Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. NY: Viking.
Quote source:

“We dance round the ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”
Robert Frost
If this review has motivated you to explore The Element – that’s great. If you feel inspired to explore your own passions – you’re invited to participate in a priceless (free) ten-week journey of self-discovery titled: 10 Keys to Unlocking Creative Potential: The Expressive Path to Personal Growth. You can jump in at any time by visiting: Sign up for ‘creative play prompts’ for automatic notices of new blog postings and join the fun! I promise a joyful journey peppered with honest insights, lots of aha’s, reflections on what works and what doesn’t, along with quotes, videos, and links which inspire me along the way. My goal is to launch a chain-reaction of creative action around the world. Will you join us?
Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. NY: Viking.
Quote source:

Marta Davidovich Ockuly is a Master of Science in Creativity degree candidate at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College in Buffalo, New York. She is an award-winning creativity professional who consults with businesses and individuals seeking increased creativity and positive change. Marta’s other passion is activating creative potential with joy as a certified professional coach. Her website: is a popular source of positively encouraging quotes and coaching tips. She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Counseling (Eckerd College, 2005) with High Honors while undergoing treatment for AML (leukemia). Contact Marta through, join or

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