Ken Robinson on your element, education and unique extraordinary life

“One of the most influential thinkers in creativity today” says FAST Company
“Knight of the royal realm” says the Queen of England
“Keynote speaker to kick off the ICE” says ASTD2013

According to Ken Robinson, it is early. Too early. Having spent the night trying to remember how to sleep, he is not sure it’s actually a pleasure to be at ASTD2013 today. But he is here. And he’s got a message to share.

Referring to the chainsaw juggling duo The Passing Zone who introduced Tony Bingham’s speech this morning, Sir Ken reminds us that we each have deep talents and you have to work to find them. When The Passing Zone were at school, neither of them had an idea that they would spend the rest of their lives juggling. They didn’t get taught it at school and they would never have said it would be their future.

The Passing Zone love what they do. They have passion. What is your passion? Sir Robinson says that every person IS something. Every person has talent that speaks to them, that animates them. When we find that something, we will never work again. We will do what we love and get paid for it. It will change everything.

But if you want to discover that passion and talent, you have to create the right environments. He adds that many organisations do not do this. Schools neither.

The school system created during the industrial revolution is supposed to get everyone learning the same things in the same way. As Robinson said in his famous TED talk, the school system was not designed to help a young child discover the joy of juggling, or to feel the wonder of balancing accounts. Or to help a top-class concert pianist realise that, in fact, she wants to be an editor.

Ken Robinson tells us that we are facing an education and happiness crisis. In the US, more money is spent on education (per head) than any other country and class sizes are smaller. Yet more people drop out than anywhere else and less people graduate. And if that wasn’t worrying enough, Robinson also tells us that in the US more drugs are sold for depression and psychological issues than anything else. People are unhappy. And people NEED to be happy.

Why is this? Why are we not making it through school and coming out awesomely happy, working in line with our passion and talents? What can we do about it?


Firstly, Ken Robinson wants to remind us that we are unique. Since the beginning of time, there have probably been around 100 billion people on Earth. And they have all been different. No-one on Earth has ever had the same life you are leading right now. And never will. As the Dalai Lama said to Ken Robinson at a recent Vancouver conference on world peace through inner-peace: “The fact that you are alive at all is a miracle. So what are you going to do with it?”

Secondly, you have to realise that you are responsible for making your own life. You are given life …but you are not given your CV when you are born. Your own story, successful or not, is a result of your own talent, personal disposition and circumstance. Ken Robinson underlines the importance of this last point and says that we need to create circumstances in which people can flourish, discover their talents and make them grow. We can all be creative, we can all do something special and people need to be given opportunities to explore.

As the folks at the BlueMan Group say “If ordinary people can find their element, extraordinary things can happen.”

Think about it.

DANs closing questions:

  • If you are in learning and development, what can you do to create learning environments that stimulate real creativity and drive people to flourish and bring out their element?
  • If you are a parent, how you do the same for your children?
  • And if you are not awesomely happy yourself doing what brings you strength, fulfilling your own personal quest and working in line with your own personal element, what are you going to do about it?
  • ps Check out my Daily Dallas Weather Reports on

    Thanks for reading.
    Please come to session TU306 and share this article.

    Published by Dan Steer

    For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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