Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favourite speakers at TED (I blogged about his first TED Talk here) So, I was excited to come across another talk he did, this time about education and how we make a poor use of our talents.
He says: "Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of."
And it's true. There are the lucky few who recognize from an early age what they are good at, and then commit to themselves to cultivate that talent as they grow-up. The rest of us, we forget. We move on.
He reminds us that many people go through life to simply endure it, and live for the weekends. We try to maintain our dreams between our weekend chores. For me, I'll quickly do some prep for a new blog post while my laundry is in the dryer, or read a few chapters before I have to visit my grandma - never fully enjoying either activity because I'm distracted, and often have multiple tasks on my mind.
I think often about slowing down the speed of life. Although, actually making the pace of your life slow down is really REALLY hard. It means re-scheduling or even cancelling commitments, it means clearing clutter, and unplugging from time-wasting devices (anything Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg made). It also means taking time to focus. Focus on your body, mind, thoughts and intentions. When was the last time I reminded myself to live with good intentions?
Robinson makes the case that the education system is partially responsible for dislocating people from their natural talents. And I completely agree. In his first talk, he describes how there is more emphasis placed on math and sciences, followed by social studies and languages, and finally the arts. To the point that most artists are discouraged from becoming so, and he shares a compelling story about a dancer turned multi-million dollar choreographer.
It makes me wonder how obvious our talents are at a young age. I can remember in grade two, my teacher had asked the class to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I distinctly remember that I couldn't think of anything at all. I stared at my blank paper and became panicky when all the other kids were scribbling away furiously. So, without any inspiration, I finally settled on drawing a ballerina. I didn't actually want to be a ballerina and I didn't like ballet or dancing - but I felt I could draw one really well. So, there it was.
I don't have many struggles with my talents these days. I struggle more with my passions. Olympic athlete Clara Hughes once said in an interview "just because you are good at something, it doesn't mean you should be doing it," an idea that had her leave competitive cycling for the world of speed skating. I think about that quote alot, because passion is the filtering of your talents. Where do I put my talents to their best use?
We are so lucky to be living in a world where there are so many gray areas that we are free to put our talents into many different places. The trick is to find them, and cultivate them - and not to lose sight of them. It's so easy to forget the things that brought us happiness early in life, and even easier to fall into the path of what was simply done before. It's all too often I hear an engineer say "well, my Dad was an engineer".
While Robinson makes a clear correlation between our linear education system steering us from our talents, I often wonder if technology and the speed of life are also partly responsible. We humans are now constantly distracted, and I wonder if that will lead us even further away from the talents we cling to.
[Thanks for reading]