Finding Your Own Passion

When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. I had a desk that I set up in my room and pretended that I was teaching my dolls. When I got into high school, I wanted to be a psychologist. The way people think and how people learn has been a subject of great interest to me for most of my young adult and adult life.

When I was 18, I got married and then got pregnant. My dreams of studying psychology at the University of Chicago shattered as I worked at Chick-fil-A, first as counter help, then as a shift manager, and finally as a marketing director. I hated marketing. It was challenging, so it held my interest, but I had no idea what I was doing and I was learning as I went. When bringing in new customers is your job and you have no idea how to do it, things can get pretty frustrating pretty fast. Not to mention the fact that I was a shift manager and the marketing director at the same time – I had to do most of my marketing job at home, off the clock.

When I gave birth to my second child, I said good-bye to the fast food industry. I had begun thinking about going back to school and majoring in education. I got a job working in child care (admittedly, it was a job of convenience at the time), and quickly discovered that I loved it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the job fit in nicely with my passions of education and psychology. Years – and hundreds of hours of research – later, I am realizing that I have landed in my passion and am doing everything I can to learn about the field and the psychology of learning, creativity, motivation, and other aspects of education.

Recalling the story of how I landed in my passion makes me realize that discovering and acting on your passion is sometimes not easy. I got lucky in that my job of convenience turned out to be the path to my true passion. Some people are not that lucky. Some people end up on a path simply because they are good at something. Sir Ken Robinson talks about a woman who started out as a concert pianist. She has dinner with a conductor one night, who points out to her that he can tell that she does not enjoy being a concert pianist. She realizes that her true passion is literature and she becomes a book editor. Other people that I know are doing what they are doing simply because the circumstances of their lives called for swift action – a job of convenience, like my initial job in child care.

I haven’t talked to too many people about what their passion is, if they are doing their passion, or if they are going to be involved in their passion in the future. It would probably lead to many interesting conversations. Maybe instead of talking about reading and reviewing a book that I already know I probably won’t finish, I should talk to people about their passions. I am looking forward to having the opportunity of doing that during the workshop, although I know that for some people the process of discovering their passion is a deep and personal one. When I went through the process of discovering my passion for the classroom, it took me a week of deep soul searching, and I haven’t shared the results of that process with anyone. My hope is that I can share my process with others and they can use it to discover what they are passionate about in the classroom, and it can inspire them as it inspired me. My hope is that it makes a difference.

Note: In the first draft of this post, I spent a great deal of time talking about book reviews, after I mentioned something about reviewing another book by Sir Ken Robinson about people finding their passion. Through the reflection that I did during the first draft, I realized that book reviewing is not for me – it definitely is not my passion. Therefore I will not be reviewing Ungifted by Scott Barry Kaufman. Although the first 250 pages of the book blew my mind (I loved it), I have come to the realization that I probably won’t finish the book. I hate to disappoint, but I do have to say that if you are interested in the psychology of intelligence, creativity, and motivation, it will definitely be a great read for you.

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Building Positive Relationships: How To Escape Education’s Death Valley (Sir Ken Robinson)

Do I hit you over the head with Sir Ken Robinson? Well, I am not going to apologize for it, because the man is a wonderful speaker and is full of great ideas. The video I am presenting on the blog today is his presentation at the 2013 TEDTalk Education Conference, which is as phenomenal as all of his others. I included it under “Building Positive Relationships” because the ideas he presents have the ability to change and enhance the relationships between student and teacher, teacher and administrator, and administrator and legislator. I hope you enjoy the presentation.

 

Creativity Fueled By Passion

Through the course of creating my workshop Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom I have pondered over the definition of creativity. Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value”. I wanted to incorporate the different aspects that I have seen and experienced that are inherent in the process of creativity, so I created this definition:

Creativity is an idea which, when combined with the proper energy, inspires action to develop something that has value.

Even though the word is not present in the definition, I believe passion to be the “proper energy”. In fact, if I were quoting my definition outside the context of a workshop, I would probably substitute “proper energy” for “passion”. However, this definition was created with an eye toward presentation, so that is how it stands.

Do you find yourself creative mostly in the realm of an area that you feel passionate about? I was contemplating this as I wrote my last post, because I watch people as they talk about different things. The things that they feel the most passionate about are usually the ones in which their eyes light up as they talk about it, and they have more knowledge about it because of their passion towards it. I am sure that, if I take a closer look at people’s passions and where they feel the most creative in their lives, there would be a strong correlation between the two. Sometimes I am prompted in my head to ask, “But why are you doing this when you are so passionate about that?” It really brings to mind the Holstee Manifesto:

 

What Are You Prepared to Do?

I have found a new, interesting, motivational website called Big Think. The most interesting part of the website to me is the Big Think Mentor section of the site. This section has a lot of motivational information from a lot of experts in creativity and business. The site also offers a paid subscription to their YouTube channel, where you will have access to a wealth of motivational and thought-provoking material.

One of the cool things I have found about the site is that Sir Ken Robinson has a collection of workshop videos on the site related to finding your element. I think we all know by now how much I love Sir Ken Robinson’s work (and here, too), so my natural inclination was to subscribe to the channel to watch the videos. I haven’t seen them all yet, but the purpose of this post is to introduce you to the post that brought the site to my attention: Are You Standing In Your Own Way?

What is your element? Are you standing in your own way to reach it?

A Look at a Book: Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative

I am very excited about this post, because it is my first complete book review in several years. I hope that you enjoy it.

Last week I posted an incredible and widely lauded TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson. This week, I will be reviewing his book Out of Our MindsLearning to Be Creative. I have actually been trying to read this book for a couple of years now. It isn’t that the book hasn’t been interesting; it has been so interesting that it has never failed to propel my personal research in new directions. But I have been determined to review this book for the blog, so I decided to make an honest effort to actually finish it.

Ken Robinson begins this book by pointing out that companies have been desperate to find people who are creative and innovative, but it is simply hard to find such people. He states that the problem originates in the structure and focus of the education system. People learn and think in many different ways, but education systems only focus on two: propositional knowledge, or an ability to remember and recall information; and logico-deductive reasoning, or an ability to see a sequence of ideas and figure out how the sequence progresses (pg. 61). Robinson asserts that our entire view of intelligence is based on these two skills. He states:

“For generations, children and students have spent most of their time writing essays, doing comprehension exercises, taking tests of factual information, and learning mathematics: on activities that involve propositional knowledge and forms of logico-deductive reasoning. Some lessons promote other sorts of ability. Most schools have art lessons and some music, perhaps playing an instrument or being in a choir; and sport. Some subjects, including technology, have a practical element. But practical subjects are typically at the margins of formal education. The main forms of assessment are still written examinations that test factual knowledge and critical analysis” (pg 64).

After an overview of how Western education systems developed, Robinson challenges the assumption that propositional knowledge and logico-deductive reasoning alone should be the standard by which people are viewed as intelligent or not. He makes the case that not only are there many forms of intellectual capacity, but that everyone is intelligent in their own way because everyone has their own natural abilities and strengths. He states:

“Does all of this mean that no one can be thought of as more intelligent than anyone else? Clearly not. But the idea of plural intelligence means we have to recast the question. Some people have high abilities in many areas, music, mathematics, verbal reasoning, visual representation, and so on. We typically think of such people as renaissance figures. But we should hesitate to describe a philosopher with strong abilities in deductive reasoning alone as more intelligent than a person with equally high abilities in musical composition or performance. This is not an argument against rationalist abilities or academic achievement, it is for an expanded concept of intelligence that includes but goes beyond them. If we fail to promote a full sense of people’s abilities through education and training, as we have done for generations, some – perhaps most – will never really discover what their real intellectual capacities are. In a crucial sense they never really know who they are or what they might become” (pg 109).

From here, Robinson defines creativity as “a function of intelligence: it takes many forms, it draws from many different capacities and we all have different creative capabilities. Creativity is possible in any activity in which human intelligence is actively engaged” (pg 111). Robinson also stresses that “creativity involves doing something: it takes place in a medium” (pg 129). The key to unlocking creative potential is to discover the medium in which your creative intelligence can flourish. He points out, though, that the wrong medium can stifle creativity just as the right one can make it blossom.

Robinson takes us on a journey through the role of emotions in our lives. He asserts that there has been a push to be much more rational about life than emotional, but listening to our emotions can help us navigate through life: “Our emotions have powerful roles in enabling us to sense threats, dangers, pleasures, and opportunities that may be essential to our well-being” (pg 145). He states that creativity stems from many different areas of the mind, not simply the rational mind. He touches on the idea of flow, saying, “These are times when we are immersed in something that completely engages our creative capabilities and draws equally from our knowledge, feelings, and intuitive powers. These peak performances typically occur when someone is working in their element at the peak of their performance” (pg 155).

Robinson talks about the role of culture in creativity, pointing out that “creativity is stimulated by the work, ideas, and achievements of other people. This is true in all fields – in music, design, fashion, science, technology, and business. We stand on the shoulders of others to see further” (pg 171).

Robinson ends the book by providing guidelines to companies who are seeking out those with creative ability, and challenging the current education system to change the way students are taught in order to foster creativity. He says:

“Creativity depends on interactions between feeling and thinking, and across different disciplinary boundaries and fields of ideas. New curricula must be evolved which are more permeable and which encourage a better balance between generative thinking and critical thinking in all modes of understanding. Our systems of education are based on the view that intelligence is a linear process of rational thought. From this we have derived economic models of education which are equally linear…We need a new Renaissance that moves beyond these old categories and develops the relationships between different processes rather than emphasizing their differences” (pg 200-1).

As someone who is deeply concerned about the direction of our education system, this book was a great read. It brought up a lot of valid points about the state of education, but in a context different from the way the points are usually brought up. Usually education is talked about in terms of test scores going down and our ranking among other countries going down. No one seems to realize how to fix these problems except to raise standards. This book points out that the way our education system is devised has a profound impact on how we view intelligence, and this view has a profound impact on how people view themselves if they don’t measure up to that view of intelligence. It leads to the view that there are only a select few that are not only intelligent, but creative as well.

As someone who is concerned about my own personal level of creativity, this book offered many points of self reflection, especially in terms of how I am educating myself about t he topics that interest me and the connections that I am making among those topics. It was actually an affirmation for me, in a way.

Robinson has taken a great interest in the element, the medium in which people realize their creative intelligence. He has written two books about it. The first, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everythingis about how some successful people came to find their medium. The other, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Lifeis about how to find your own element.

 

Am I In My Element?

Still in the middle of doing research on Sir Ken Robinson‘s work, I ran across his new book “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” and I thought, “Am I in my element?”

When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. Of course, I am not a psychologist; I am a teacher in a daycare, which came about quite by accident.  I realize that being a teacher in a daycare is a long way from being a psychologist, but then I thought about why I wanted to be a psychologist. I have always been interested in how people think and learn, and how what they think and learn effects who they are. I probably would have learned a lot about that studying and practicing psychology, but I am definitely learning about it as a teacher of young children. I know that I enjoy my job very much – in fact, I spend a majority of my time away from my job researching aspects of my job. (I have been doing that all morning while researching Sir Ken Robinson!) Anyone else would say that I am crazy for enjoying my chosen profession so much (in fact my wonderful boyfriend makes that point quite frequently), but I think that it is safe to say that in this context, I probably am in my element.