Ken Robinson has three major principles:
Principle #1: Your Life is Unique.
Principle #2: You create your own life.
Principle #3: Life is Organic
Vivek Wadhwa, famous for his work on immigrants working in the technology field in the United States, realized that “there is no link between what you study in college and how successful or otherwise you are later in your life.”
Ken Robinson talks about a lot of the existing literature and methods for finding out what your passion is and he’s fairly critical of them. He talks about what’s called the Forer Effect, also known as the Barnum Effect. You mold your personality to conform with what people tell you your personality incorporates. Robinson is in favor of using personality types to describe yourself, but he says not to let the personality definitions (MBTI for example) limit you.
He also takes a lot of time to talk about happiness and positive psychology. He differentiates between your physical and spiritual well-being. When I was in the Andes and taking an anthropology class, I learned that the indigenous culture believes in two types of life force. One is the breath of life and the other I would call the force of spirit, just like Scott Russell Sanders’ The Force of Spirit. He talks about Gretchen Rubin The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.
His definition of happiness comes from Sonja Lyubomirsky: Happiness is the experience of joy, contentment, and well-being combined with a sense that life is good and worthwhile. I felt like that was a really comprehensive yet concise summary and I think that the happiness section was the best part of this book.
Robinson goes on to talk about the 5 different kinds of well-being: career, social, financial, physical, and community. He asks you what sorts of hurdles or responsibilities you have and what sorts of risks that you can take. He asks you who you want to be, but in a much more specific way.
He also talks about Bonnie Ware The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, because a lot of his action steps at the end of the book have to do with mitigating risks. I found it interesting that a lot of the suggestions that he had were in line with things that Barry Schwartz said at the end of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.
I’ve seen Robinson’s TED talk and expected more of the book to be about the education system and creativity. While he does talk about them, he encourages the reader to engage in a lot of introspection through a variety of exercises; each chapter ends with a few questions about you and your life. My favorite exercises had to do with vision boards. I used Pinterest to create them and I really loved having a concrete, pictorial representation of more abstract concepts, such as the activities that I do in daily life.
Robinson also says that it’s all an iterative process and we grow organically (Principle #3), so nobody should expect his or her desires at one point to be the same as at another point in his or her life. I know that it’s valuable for me to read this as a recent college graduate and that I’ll read it again, further down the line.