Sir Ken Robinson: How To Discover Your True Talents
In this interview, he talks about how to identify your unique talents and passions, what to do if you’re passionate isn’t something you’re good at, why not everyone can make a living doing what they love and more.
How do people identify their unique talents and passions? Does it happen by chance?
Whether or not you discover your talents and passions is partly a matter of opportunity. If you’ve never been sailing, or picked up an instrument, or tried to teach or to write fiction, how would you know if you had a talent for these things? Human resources are like the earth’s natural resources: they’re often buried beneath the surface and you have to make an effort to discover them. Finding Your Element offers advice, guidance and practical exercises to help you do this deliberately and systematically.
What if your passion isn’t something you’re good at?
The Element is where natural talents meet personal passions. To be in your Element, it’s not enough to be doing something you’re good at. Many people are good at things they don’t enjoy. To be in your Element you have to love it: if you do, you’ll never “work” again. Passion is the driver of achievement in all fields. Some people love doing things they don’t feel they’re good at. That may be because they underestimate their talents or haven’t yet put the work in to develop them. Either way, a strong passion allied with even a moderate talent, will generally get you further than a strong talent with little enthusiasm.
Do you think it’s realistic that everyone can turn their passion into a job and get fulfillment in their life? Why or why not?
Some people can make a living from being in their Element. Some can’t and others don’t want to. Finding your Element is not only about how your make money: it’s about the sort of life you make and whether, overall, you find it fulfilling and purposeful. Whether or not you can, or want to, make your living from being in your Element, you owe it to yourself to ensure that there’s some part of your day or week when you’re doing what comes most naturally to you and make you feel at your most centered and authentic.
In this bad economy, how do you gain the confidence to pursue your dreams?
As I say, being in your Element may be an avocation rather than an occupation. That depends on you and your circumstances. We’re all unique and every life is different. No one else has your resume. Human beings have tremendous powers of imagination and creativity. You create your life and you can recreate it too. In times of economic downturn and uncertainty it’s more important than ever to look deep inside yourself to fathom the sort of life you really want to lead and the talents and passions that can make that possible.
What are your top three career advice tips?
First, life is not linear. What you’re doing now, or have done in the past, need not determine what you can do next and in the future. Finding Your Element is full of stories and examples of people who’ve made often dramatic and surprising changes in the direction of their lives in order to be in their Element.
Second, money is no guarantee of happiness. We all need enough to live and take care of those who depend on us. But research and experience all confirm that there is no direct relationship between wealth and well-being. Happiness, if that’s what you want, is a spiritual state, not a material one. It comes from being fulfilled, having a sense of purpose and feeling authentic.
Third, the greatest obstacles to finding your Element may lie inside you. You may fear other people’s opinions or that you will fail and look foolish. Finding your Element may take courage, but all worthwhile accomplishments do.
Dan Schawbel is the author of the upcoming book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press, Sept 3rd).