Ken Robinson Video Interview On ‘Finding Your Element,’ Changing The Educational System
Sir Ken Robinson, author and international advisor on education, is now giving people advice on how to improve their lives in his recently released book, Finding Your Element. “Human talent is a bit like natural resources of the Earth,” Robinson told Uinterview in an exclusive interview. “It is often buried under the surface, you really have to go looking for it and digging for it.”
Robinson is an international advisor on education who is determined to change the education system to promote more diversity and creativity. Robinson served for four years as the Director of the Arts in Schools Project in an effort to make a change to the system of education in the UK. He eventually moved to the U.S, where he currently resides in L.A .and continues to fight for a change in the education system in the U.S. He has gained an international audience with his acclaimed TED talks, which are available on YouTube.
Finding Your Element is the sequel to The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, co-written by Lou Aronica. Inspired by the widespread response he received from readers, Robinson decided to write the sequel to answer their questions.
One of the biggest reasons people get stuck in life doing what they’re not passionate about, according to Robinson, is the education system. His words of advice to college students who feel stuck in the noncreative educational system: “ If you do go to college, that doesn’t set a track for the rest of your life. It’s just another phase and you can move or change directions if you choose to.”
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Yes, the element is the point where you’re doing something that you’re good at that you also love to do. It’s the point where talent meets passion.
What inspired the first book was an experience I had a long time, which I meet all kinds of people who really don’t enjoy what they do. They don’t much enjoy the lives they live either; they just kind of put up with it. They tolerate it and wait for the weekend. But I also know people who love what they do and they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. They’re doing what they feel they were born to do and they get a fantastic satisfaction and fulfillment from it. The first book was about that, about the difference between these two ways of being and the difference it makes in people’s lives. It’s had a really big impact as a book and I’ve been delighted that I’ve gotten such a response from it, but actually people kept asking me, ‘How do I find my element then if I haven’t already?’ And fair enough. They say, ‘How can I help my children or people I know? How can I advise them?’ I felt I owed them an answer to it and for a while I just said, ‘Well, buy another copy of the book. I think you’ll like it.’ But then I thought, no, I really need to explain this. So the new book is a really whole-hearted attempt to explain what you do in your own life that you don’t have that satisfaction and what you can do to find it.
Well you know, one of the original titles we had in mind for the book was “Epiphany,” and we moved on from that title because that makes it sound like it’s all too sudden. But people do talk about loving what they do and in book signings I often ask them if they like what they do. Very often they will answer spontaneously and say, “I love it!” And it could be anything. It could be teaching, working with children, being a doctor, being a homemaker. You name it, somebody loves it. It doesn’t matter what it is and it’s a genuine sense of love, it lifts their spirits, it makes them feel good, it makes them feel like they’re doing what they should be doing and in some ways you can say it can be sudden. I’ve met people who have said, ‘I suddenly came across this such thing and it’s made all the difference in my life.’ Sometimes it’s a more gradual process, like falling in love with a friend; you realize after a while that this thing you take for granted is what you should really be doing with your life, so it is love in the sense that it lifts your spirit.
Well, it’s kind of unproductive and I should say by the way that I have worked in education my whole life and I now live in America. I am not actually from America. I mean I live here, I live in L.A now, I’ve lived here for 12 years so I’ve been able to make some comparisons between different systems of education and two things I want to mention now aren’t unique to America. You see them in the education system around the world, and that’s still a problem. We have to find a way to change them. One of them is that our education system tends to promote a very narrow view of ability. You know, it’s a very narrow view of academic ability. It’s why kids at school spend so much time sitting, reading and writing and doing what I think was low grade clerical work, and it’s a particular problem just now because a lot of other programs that appeal to other areas of our intelligence is being cut back. For example: music, dance programs, classical vocational programs and things of that sort are being cut back, so the opportunity in schools are becoming more restricted than they used to be. So that means that often we don’t even have the opportunity to find out. There is also more emphasis on standardized testing, multiple choice questions, the whole bubble test, and schools are often held accountable for their results in these tests so all those things could ignore the individual differences that make each one of us so unique and different in the things that we love to do.
Well, I have a whole section in the book about this and the one thing Iâm always very keen to point to, and I think it's true for everybody, is that life is not a straight line. The things you do at school don't determine what you do for the rest of your life. In fact, it's quite opposite. I think that if you think back on your own career, I don't know whether you knew when you were at school, what you would be doing with your life. All kinds of people do things after school or when they go to college or they leave college that they hadn't thought about at all. That's why all our resumes are so different. To be a human being is to be creative, we create our own lives and so I always want to say to people of college, if you do go to college and you don't have to go to college, I mean some people want to get out and do other things first or altogether. If you do go to college, that doesn't set a track for the rest of your life. It's just another phase and you can move or change directions if you choose to. We have lots of people I talked to in the book who've had all kinds of interesting curves and swerves in their careers, and some things that they didn't expect at all. So I think it's always important to look inside yourself to look to your own talents and to realize you make choices as you go through your life and you should investigate them.
Well, there are all kinds actually. One of the ones we currently cover in this new book is of a musician called Randy Parsons who once wanted to be a rock guitarist when he was in school, and he found that even though he really loved playing, he felt he didn’t have the cut for it. He felt he didn’t have what was needed to be a rock star, so he spent a lot of times doing other things. He started what he thought was a sensible career, but he always had this knocking thing that he loved music and guitars. One day in the shower, it was an epiphany for him; he suddenly thought ‘Why don’t I start trying to make a guitar?’ And he did. He practiced for three years trying to make guitars. He went to a local shop, he bought tools and he practiced and practiced and then he met an internationally famous guitar maker and he’s become one of the country’s leading hands craftsman for making guitars. He’s made guitars for Jack White and also for Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin and he’s not got this entirely new career and he loves it. He is in music, meeting his heroes and doing what he loves to do. But the interesting thing about Randy’s case is that what he is now doing isn’t what he thought he would do when he started out, but it’s in a related field and he got just as much satisfaction from it. You will know what I mean that our lives move in curious directions if you’re open to it and the opportunity.