The beauty and simplicity of finding and doing what you love

One of my former colleagues – Glenn – once gave me a book called Edible Selby. It’s a sort of combination of a cookbook and travel book, but it’s really a book about the beauty and simplicity of finding and doing something that you love.

Ken Robinson refers to the intersection between what you love doing and what you are talented at as “The Element”. It is a special place in which work does not feel like work, in which there is a shift in your relationship with time. He doesn’t idealize this place as it, too, may be full of frustrations, mistakes, disasters, pain and heartache. But, he does argue, very convincingly, that the world would probably be a better place if more of us, many more of us, were working in our “Element” rather than in jobs we fell into through confusion, societal expectations or the desire to be wealthy.


This begs serious questions of schools, though. We do seem to be quite afraid of being places in which our students may have a chance of finding their “Element”. Indeed, we sometimes seem to perpetuate the trap of that endless pursuit, the “all wretch and no vomit” described by Alan Watts – “I’ll find out what I want to do when I leave school… I’ll find out what I want to do when I finish university… I’ll find out what I want to do after my gap year… I’ll find out what I want to do when I’ve earned enough money… I’ll find out what I want to do when I’ve retired”. And so on.

What if schools made it part of their mission to help students figure out their “Element”? What if it was OK for a student to know what they wanted to do by the time they were 16, and didn’t have to fail school to be able to do it? What if a student worked out that they don’t need to go to university to pursue their chosen path?


It seems as though a successful education is all about “keeping your options open”. But, what if it was also about finding focus, purpose… your “Element”. Why shouldn’t we be just as proud of helping students find what they want to do as we are of creating all-rounders who haven’t got a clue what they want to do?

Some people never find it, you know. And, in many cases, this may be because of their education.




  1. Marc Wannenmacher

    Great article Sam, I wanted to keep reading. You and Chad are both of a different mindset to most school teachers. As I have just finished a 3 year degree at university and being 30+. I noticed that there is a lot of pressure put on the teachers/ lecturers to perform on their work. Eg. Writing journal articles etc. All of the stress the teacher has then seems to pass down to the students they are teaching. I found there were a few lecturers like yourself and Chad, however, the majority did not care about the students as most classes had 500+ students that they had to look after. We do not all learn things the same way, you may be in another learning style to someone else eg. Visual vs Auditory. Although, it doesn’t seem to matter to the lecturer which style you are, they just teach their way. There is a great quote by Einstein “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. There are many problems with the world and as Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
    Keep up the good work. It is certainly refreshing to see Teacher’s that care

    • sherrattsam

      Thanks, Marc… I am so glad you said you wanted to keep reading because I really feel that this posting is not finished!

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