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The Element – How finding your passion changes everything by Ken Robinson

“What do you want to do with your life?” is one of those annoying questions that you’re bombarded with when you’re a child, teenager, adult and, while I have no evidence to back this up, probably when you’re a pensioner as well.

No one dreams of being bored by their job and only working for money but that is what some of us end up doing as family obligations, fear of failure and the creeping sensation that it is too late to change gradually takes over.

Finding that thing, whatever it is, that you are most passionate about lies at the heart of Ken Robinson’s book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

He describes The Element as “the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion” – which in other words is doing something you love. To illustrate this point in the book, he uses real-life stories which involves some pretty major name-dropping.

Robinson has interviews with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, film director Ridley Scott, Fleetwood Mack drummer and namesake Mick Fleetwood and The Beatles legend Paul McCartney to name but a few.

All of them recount how they got started, any obstacles that they had to deal with – chiefly that seems to be school and a prescriptive environment – and how overcoming these obstacles ultimately brought them success and fame once they found an area and career they loved.

And you only need to look around the mortgage market for classic examples of people who love their jobs, the market and get a kick out of succeeding.

There are a number of people in the market who are 60-plus and are still striving to be number one in the market. I meet people who have had companies collapse several times over and are still having a crack at building something new. Likewise, when we are trying to get comment from people about the mortgage market, there are people who will pick up the phone whether they are on holiday, running to an appointment and even (so I have heard…) unzipping their fly at a urinal. All of them clearly thrive on the jobs that they have chosen.

Robinson’s book is incredibly positive, especially sections on the fact it is never too late to pursue your dream. As he describes it, our lives are organic and cyclical and different capacities express themselves in stronger ways at different times in our lives.

The cynical curmudgeon that sits inside me and dictates most of what I do would counter to all of this that by interviewing mainly people who have hit the top of their respective fields, it is obviously going to give you the impression that anything is possible. In reality, plenty of people fail, not for want of trying or talent but just because of bad luck.

But maybe that is just my capitalist view of what success is – money and fame. And in the latter stages of the book he moves beyond the froth of individual personal success or failure.

He makes some interesting points about how the planet’s population has significantly increased – in 1930, there were two billion people and on New Year’s Eve 1999 there were six billion – and the impact this will have on the way we live.

With the sheer number of humans on the planet a problem in itself, as a species, everyone is effectively finding what they are best at so we can collectively come up with a solution to our population nightmare.

It’s certainly a book I found engaging and it silenced my internal cynic for a few hours, at least.


Paul Smee CML

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