Book Summary: Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson

Quick Summary: According to Finding Your Element, you should recognize the uniqueness of your social and biological experiences. Something comparable to what you are going through has never existed in human history and never will. You have a completely unique biological makeup and were born into a completely unique social environment. 

Every person is unique, we all know that, but have you ever thought about what that actually means? It is not only your mind that makes you special but also your biology and upbringing.

You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Lesson 1: Allow yourself to discover your skills and inborn abilities

Human intelligence is extremely diverse, and we all have innate strengths in different areas; those strengths are a big part of what makes us special.

You may have been born with many talents but never had the opportunity to discover them due to factors such as your upbringing or cultural norms.

Just as you may not have had the opportunity to recognize your strengths, you may not have been able to do so. For example, in the midst of horrific violence and political turmoil in Venezuela, El Sistema School was founded to teach classical music to children in vulnerable communities.

Many of the students there have excelled, and some have even gone on to careers in music. Without this institution, they would never have had the opportunity to develop their skills.

It’s also possible that the cultural norms of your background make it difficult for you to recognize your strengths. Think about what you have been told about the “acceptable abilities” of people of your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Perhaps in your society it is considered unnatural for women to be interested in technology, or unnatural for men to be interested in cooking. In such a society, a girl who is interested in technology may not be encouraged to pursue it as a child, and may never learn that she has an aptitude for it unless she goes against the grain.

To learn what you are good at, you need to put yourself in situations where you can succeed. Strive to push your limits and challenge yourself.

Take classes in areas that interest you but that you have not yet explored. Meet new people. Travel. You have no idea what skills lie dormant within you. The more diverse the experiences you have, the more likely you are to learn about and develop previously unrecognized skills.

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Lesson 2: It’s common for institutions of higher learning to discourage us: don’t let poor grades determine your skills

IQ Tests and academic performance are often cited as the best means of assessing a person’s mental abilities when it comes to making a statement about his or her intelligence. However, these tests can only assess one facet of human intelligence: the ability to think logically. In fact, there are many forms of intelligence that are undervalued in today’s educational system.

Your school probably didn’t promote you if you were intelligent in these other areas.

For example, schools place little emphasis on manual dexterity and other practical skills. It’s possible that you were encouraged in school to choose a more “professional” field such as law or medicine, even though you showed promise as a mechanic (although mechanics are also very intelligent, just in a different way).

In addition, schools can only accommodate a small portion of individual learning preferences. While most students need to learn by reading text, there are those whose learning styles are better suited to more abstract methods, such as those that use visual images.

Hans Zimmer, who’s now a well-known composer, had a terrible academic past. He finally succeeded when he switched to a visual approach to music theory. Although no one taught him this method, he’s able to understand music by looking at it as a series of repeating patterns.

Finally, schools discourage students from attempting difficult coursework because of the harsh consequences for mistakes. On a math quiz, for example, you lose points if you answer the questions incorrectly. For this reason, many students avoid tackling the subject. The older we get, the more we learn to avoid mistakes, which inhibits our creativity.

Don’t write yourself off as incompetent just because you didn’t do well in school. Think about this new question when you reexamine it: Could you please tell me that you aren’t just a bad student in this area? When did you figure that out? Think about these possible next steps.

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Lesson 3: You can achieve your full potential regardless of your attitude

There are many obstacles that can prevent us from reaching our full potential. Sometimes it is the way we think that holds us back rather than external factors.

First of all, you may have developed a negative self-perception of your abilities. Society often reinforces people in this thinking. As adolescents, we are constantly exposed to an environment where we are pushed to measure ourselves against others.

This suggests that you may have given up certain skills because you lacked confidence in your chances of success. Perhaps you had some talent as a guitarist, but gave up because you thought you would never measure up to Jimi Hendrix.

We are also told that it is hopeless to work on improving our skills. Your perspective in this situation depends largely on whether you have a “fixed” or a “growing” mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe your skills are fixed and cannot be developed, whereas you have a growth mindset, meaning you believe you can improve your skills through effort and dedication.

To promote a fixed mindset, our culture places great emphasis on intelligence measures such as IQ, which leads many to believe that their innate intelligence will never change, no matter how much they learn (and even our performance on such tests). You should work to adopt a growth mindset so that you can expand your skills and learn new ones.

Taking a personality test could help you learn more about your personality. They will never be able to paint a perfect picture of you, but they can help you rethink your priorities and your approach to life so that you make positive changes. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one such test that is becoming increasingly popular because it can be taken online.

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Lesson 4: Passion is the key to a healthy mind and body

Everyone has a passion for something; it’s a necessary part of being human. You probably haven’t yet recognised your true passions if you feel that you’ve none.

If you’re doing something you love, you should just “know” it on an intuitive level. For this reason, many report feeling a sense of procrastination when doing something that truly inspires them. Musicians often lose track of time when composing or rehearsing. Investigate the causes of your negative feelings.

Your physical health benefits from the uplifted state of mind you experience when you’re doing what you love. The connection between happiness and physical well-being has been studied in depth by the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Cultivating a more positive outlook on life has many benefits, such as better sleep, more focus, and less stress.

Everyone has their own interests and passions, and you should take time to discover them. The more time you take to explore your interests, the happier and healthier you’ll be.

It’s a good idea to expand your horizons, both in terms of the places you go and the people you hang out with, and explore topics that pique your interest by learning more about them (e.g., through formal study, informal reading groups, or online forums). Try a new sport or hobby that requires you to use your hands in a certain way. The more you see of the world, the more opportunities there are for you to find new interests.

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