The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
I am not the biggest fan of self-help books. I began reading this book to validate the quarter-life crisis I have been having for quite some time. My definition of a quarter-life crisis is a person who, in his or her twenties, realizes they have been sleeping through their lives while fulfilling the dreams of their parents, culture, or class. Consequently, they awake into a reality that has nothing to do with what they really want, creating a critical turning point brought on at the speed of warp. I am in my thirties and what can I say, I’m a late bloomer. One cannot exactly undo twenty-five years overnight. In all fairness, The Element is not so much a self-help book as it is a reality check for those who are finally ready to face reality.
The Element starts out with the story of Gillian Lynne, once a young girl of the ADHD persuasion, who went on to become an accomplished choreographer co-creating Cats and The Phantom of the Opera with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lynne did not do well in school, tested poorly, daydreamed, and disrupted class. With the guidance of an attentive mother and a far-sighted psychologist, she was able to channel that excess energy into her love of dance. Consequently, with nurturing and cultivation, the Royal Ballet School in London and the Royal Ballet Company provided a solid foundation for Ms. Lynne and her element.
Robinson provides many accounts of those who were both encouraged and discouraged from finding their element. These stories include Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, who remained steadfast despite his lack of technical mastery in his drawings and discouragement from his father, also a cartoonist. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac still has a learning disability, and the late Gordon Parks, a world renowned photographer, producer, director, and writer, barely attended high school. All of them used their elements to change the landscape of cultures around the world.
The Element involves harmonizing a marriage between what one is naturally good at and what one loves to do. It does not involve one specific type of intelligence, but many types working together symbiotically. The element is genderless, colorless, and without the confining limitations of class. Finding one’s element involves thinking outside the box and sometimes doing away with it altogether. The reality is that those who excel in one type of intelligence may not do so well in another area, but there is nothing wrong with excelling in one as opposed to the another, because the element does not operate dichotomously. The earlier we are able to reevaluate how we value our element, the less likely we are to spend any number of years vicariously fulfilling dreams.