The Element - Sir Ken Robinson

The Element - Sir Ken Robinson

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

The Element

“My aim in writing [this book] is to offer a richer version of human ability and creativity and of the benefits to us all of connecting properly with our individual talents and passions." 

"This book is about issues that are of fundamental importance in our lives and in the lives of our children, our students, and the people we work with. I use the term the Element to describe the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together."

"I believe it is essential that each of us find his or her Element, not simply because it will make us more fulfilled but because, as the world evolves, the very future of our communities and institutions will depend on it.”

Where what we love and what we're good at meet!

This book to me is a meeting of two others we've reviewed on this channel.

Ikigai and Flow

Essentially what Ken has done here is articulated the connection between these two in a memorable way.

Together we're going to explore the element.

We'll look at what you should be looking for something you love to do and are good at. 

We'll look into ways you can tap into your element. 


“We think we know the answer to the answer to the question, “How intelligent are you?”" 

"The real answer, though, is that the question itself is the wrong one to ask."

"How are you intelligent?"

"The right question to ask is the one above. The difference in these questions is profound. The first suggests that there’s a finite way of gauging intelligence and that one can reduce the value of each individual’s intelligence to a figure or quotient of some sort. 

"The latter suggests a truth that we somehow don’t acknowledge as much as we should—that there are a variety of ways to express intelligence, and that no one scale could ever measure this.”

How are you intelligent?

Love this play on words.

  • Instead of asking ourselves or others how intelligent they are.  Ask how they are intelligence.
  • This is a great call to action to see the best in ourselves and in others. 

By looking at this question, we unlock something.

  • We're no longer stuck in our particular band of IQ or our GPA. 
  • Now, we've got permission to lean into our strengths and acknowledge what we're truly good at. 

Having trouble answering the question?

  • Self reflection here is a great tool coming from the Stoics.  Let's do a post-mortem. 
  • What's the last success you've had?

Why were you particularly successful at that endeavor?

Are you seeing things in this field others aren't?


“Imagination is not the same as creativity."  

"Creativity takes the process of imagination to another level. My definition of creativity is “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Imagination can be entirely internal. You could be imaginative all day long without anyone noticing."

"But you would never say that someone was creative if that person never did anything. To be creative you actually have to do something. It involves putting your imagination to work to make something new, to come up with new solutions to problems, even to think of new problems or questions."

"You can think of creativity as applied imagination.”

Imagination vs Creativity:

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.

  • Creativity requires you to produce, imagination can live in the realm of the mind.
  • Creativity is a mike of imagination and hard work.

This is why I love entrepreneurship so much. 

  • One day I can come up with an idea for a business or a product, work on it during the day and launch it at night. 
  • Getting immediate feedback from the world for my creativity in the form of votes with dollars.
  • If you find yourself craving creativity, but aren't much of an artist (like me) I recommend you test the waters of entrepreneurship.


“People who work creatively usually have something in common: they love the media they work with."

"Musicians love the sounds they make, natural writers love words, dancers love movement, mathematicians love numbers, entrepreneurs love making deals, great teachers love teaching."

"This is why people who fundamentally love what they do don’t think of it as work in the ordinary sense of the word. They do it because they want to and because when they do, they are in their Element.”

What do you love to do?

This question is harder to answers than you might think..

  • Most of the time we're following a path laid out for us since early childhood by society.
  • Chris Guillebeau in Born For This gives us a good guide for how to find work we love.  “Finding the work you were meant to do is rarely a linear journey. It’s a process of exploring many little twists and turns that lead us to the place we ultimately belong. THE WINNING”

Why is finding something you love to do important?

  • Robert Greene Says in Mastery: “You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.”
  • Having a passion for your work is what will propel you to work long hours for many many years.  The true path to success.

I actually think the Ikigai model is a great model for entrepreneurship. 


  • Finding an innovative way to combine what you love, what you're good at, what you can be paid for and what the world needs is really business. 
  • I personally feel that my entrepreneurship journey is actually a path to get closer and closer to my Ikigai.


“Activities we love fill us with energy even when we are physically exhausted."  

"Activities we don’t like drain us in minutes, even if we approach them at our physical peak of fitness."

"This is one of the keys to the Element, and one of the primary reasons why finding the Element is vital for every person. When people place themselves in situations that lead to their being in the zone, they tap into a primal source of energy. They are literally more alive because of it.”

Energy management is much more important than time management!

One way to get more energy?

  • Step into Flow: “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”
  • Passion is certainly one piece of Flow.  Doing something we intrinsically enjoy without the need for external reward.  
  • I recommend you checkout my summary on Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for the other elements.

Lets find your energy!

“They show all of us the value of asking a vitally important question: If left to my own devices—if I didn’t have to worry about making a living or what others thought of me—what am I most drawn to doing?”

Other question to ask: 

What activities fill me with energy when I do them?

What activities drain my energy when I do them?

What do I lose time doing, as in hours pass and feel like minutes?

Dream Possible

“I don’t mean to say, of course, that we all can do anything at any time of our lives."   

"If you’re about to turn one hundred, it’s unlikely that you’re going to nail the leading role in Swan Lake, especially if you have no previous dance background."

"At fifty-eight, with a wobbly sense of balance, I’m getting used to the idea that I’ll probably never take the speed-skating gold at the Winter Olympics (particularly since I’ve never actually seen a pair of ice skates in real life)."

"Some dreams truly are “impossible dreams.” However, many aren’t. Knowing the difference is often one of the first steps to finding your Element, because if you can see the chances of making a dream come true, you can also likely see the necessary next steps you need to take toward achieving it.”

Don't dream big, dream possible!

Personally I was glad to read this section.

  • There are a lot of books out there telling you to set totally unreasonable expectations.
  • Saying you can just follow your passion and live a wonderful life. 

While I do want you to reach, set big goals and follow your passion.  A little realism. 

  • If you have a passion for petting lamas, it's unlikely you're going to be able to survive in our current world only petting lamas. 
  • But if you like lamas maybe you could open a farm, start knitting or write a blog for other lama lovers. 
  • Remember Ikigai?

What you love and are good at is just as important as what the world needs and what you can be paid for. 

Let's follow our passions!  But not forget, in the reality we live in now we've got to have some business sense. 

Personally I like reading and personal development..

  • But it doesn't do me much good if all I do is read all day!  
  • So instead I'm sharing with you!

Making money from YouTube ads, selling courses and coaching services.

Do I love each piece of that?  No I'd rather not have ads.  But it brings me closer to Ikigai.


“Dr. Henry Lodge, coauthor of Younger Next Year, makes the point sharply."

"“It turns out,” he says, “that 70% of American aging is not real aging. It’s just decay."

"It’s rot from the stuff that we do. All the lifestyle diseases:"

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hear Disease
  • Alzheimers
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis

"Nature doesn’t have that in store for any of us. We go out and buy it off the rack.”

Remember energy management?

The number one thing we can do to manage that is to manage our decay.

Focusing on the fundamentals of taking care of our bodies. 

  • Eating
  • Moving
  • Breathing
  • Sleeping

These are all essential if you're going to truly find the element in your life.  Don't forget.


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