Where is Your Creative Element?

Ken Robinson on Passion from The School of Life on Vimeo.

Sir Ken Robinson believes that everyone is born with extraordinary capabilities — and so do I. As he says in this video, which you should block out an hour of time for — 50 minutes to watch and at least 10 minutes of pause before you go on to a task — most of the time we aim too low and succeed.

The challenge to this digital generation — and by that I mean everyone who spends the majority of their time online — is that in some way or another, social media enhances a growing confusion between reporting, sharing, and reading news/information with the actual actions of making history. Hint: it takes less thinking to do the latter.

This is not a new concept, actually. Social technologies just exacerbate it.

The grass is green in Norway, and I've never read that. When Sir Robinson tells the story of the boy who walks on his hands, when he highlights how where we end up is not linear, I recognized many parallels with my own story. 

It's not just about how "not to know" being socially awkward, which explains the endless repetitions without comprehending the topic. All to often learning means learning (or quoting) what someone else has said, which in turn is based on what someone else has said.

Do you feel this sort of social pressure?

We study the words of (mostly) men when we should study nature, observe and connect directly, and use our own words to describe what we see. It goes all the way back to Seneca (Letters to a Stoic):

“Assume authority yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources … These people who never attain independence follow the views of their predecessors … A man who follows someone else not only does not find anything, he is not even looking.”

Do you have these conversations with your friends? I do, very often.

It happened over many years; we have in essence de-legitimized certain forms of learning and, more importantly, those with it have had their confidence undermined. I suspect that's where the exhortation: Your Playing Small does not serve you or the world comes from.

Is it fear or is it social pressure, expectations created by others (often well-meaning), force of habit? He's quite right, you know. If you've lived a while, you come to appreciate how things develop — hint: not in a linear fashion at all, and sometimes surprisingly better than you thought.

His book is titled The Element, as in finding yours.


Incidentally, I was on Amazon looking up a couple of books on business strategy I've been meaning to purchase and checking out the reviews. These are substantive books written by professionals who have been in the trenches and done the work of learning and observing.

I find it utterly fascinating how people are ready to skewer someone writing a business book that explains with clarity what the problem is and provides examples of how it shows up in business, thus giving us the opportunity to see patterns and potentially recognize them, yet a book that provides similar inspiration at a personal level is greeted with much enthusiasm.

Tell me what to do, say those commenting about the books in a business context, give me a silver bullet, a recipe of ten things.  

Thank you for showing me a different way to think about this challenge, say the reviewers in the second, for helping me comprehend there are other choices.

If you've ever wondered about why such a disparity, here's a thought.

In the first case, as the author, you are likely deconstructing the way to think about a business model, thus as you do that, especially if you do it well and I buy into the argument, you need to offer a way to help people construct a new model.

A good practitioner does not actually do your model in the book itself, of course.  She/he presents a methodology and provides the framework to think differently about the challenges and then the approach for overcoming them.

In the second case, listing some practical steps within an inspirational context, especially when the writing style is more humorous and conversational, help overcome the harshness in the criticism. Since we're talking about ourselves, not a business, we should be in our element, so to speak.

Nevertheless, I tend to like being reasonable and kind over being brutally honest. There's no need for the brutal part, in either case. Among some of the things we seem to have lost by making it easy to comment and talk to strangers, is perspective and a dose of respect for a fellow human being. It doesn't make you better putting someone else down, you're worse off for it, actually. Good manners are memorable.

I'll leave you with another quote from Seneca (Letters to a Stoic):

“Be careful [with] this reading of many different authors and books of every description. You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable … To be everywhere is to be nowhere … [The same goes for] people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all.”

And yes, I do indeed see the irony in talking about quoting through a quote.


[hat tip Maria Popova]


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