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The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Book Review

April 10, 2010 | 2 Minute Read

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about work, passion, fulfillment, etc. Maybe I spoke too soon when I wrote about not having a Quarterlife Crisis!

So I picked up this book, “The Element,” about discovering your passion. Ken Robinson argues that many people who are bad or disinterested in what they do just haven’t figured out what they’re good/passionate about, or have given up on pursuing the things they “should” be doing. Once people find that special something, they find a positive feedback loop. They like doing it so they do it more, and they get better at it. They probably also get external positive feedback, etc. With this virtuous cycle, they can achieve super awesome things.

That’s the book in a nutshell. And I really didn’t have to read the whole book to see all the many permutations of this idea over and over again. I think this book really could’ve been a magazine article (maybe it started as one), rather than an entire book. I feel as though Robinson was scraping the bottom of the barrel at some points trying to fill the thing up. The writing is a bit simplistic (probably to cater to the lowest common denominator demographic), and in some parts it’s just plain bad. Here are some instances that I noticed.

Upon describing a woman who dropped out of college when she had her kids, then went back to college, graduated and was offered a big job:

By then, she was having trouble in her marriage, and she filed for divorce. This was a difficult time for Susan.

Really, Ken? No shit! Another completely non-sequitur to start a paragraph in a section about a crisis in human resources:

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was hardly anyone around.

It really sounds like you could’ve pulled this quote from a third-grade World History essay. On top of the patronizing language, the author seems to go off on tangents that have barely anything to do with the subject matter.

Overall, I do agree with the basic message of the book. I just wish it was more focused and concise. Four stars for concept; two stars for content.