Ken Robinson and Finding Your Passion

Passion can actually be a controversial subject when it comes to the early retirement / financial independence discussion. If you truly love your work, then why ever stop working? Alternatively, what if your passion is racing cars or playing basketball? The odds of making a living doing either is very slim. So is the answer to maximize yourself financially (even if you hate it) until you can pursue your passion in retirement?

Ken Robinson is an Professor of Education who argues that passion and creativity are the key for transforming education and the economy. He wrote a book called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything that expands on his views and also includes many stories of people finding their passion. I find his ideas interesting and added this book to my reading queue.

Of all places, I learned about Robinson in an interview inside Costco’s monthly magazine for members (emphasis mine):

Costco Connection: Can you define what you mean by finding one’s element for readers who haven’t read your book The Element?

Ken Robinson: The element is finding that point where talent meets passion. Both are important. If you’re in your element, you’re doing something for which you have a natural aptitude. You get it. I’m not suggesting that you have to be the best in the world or the best in history, but you get it and you have a natural feel for it.

I know people for whom that’s true in every type of work. Aptitude takes many different forms. But being good at something is only part of this. To be in your element, you really have to love what you’re doing. If you love something that you’re good at you never “work” again. And you can tell. If you love something, time changes when you’re doing it. An hour feels like five minutes. But if you’re doing something that you don’t care for or doesn’t resonate with your own particular energy, then five minutes feels like an hour.

I really like this idea of time relativity (having it fly by also known as a “flow” state) as it really applies to me and many activities. It also reminds me of the following Venn diagram:

Finally, watch or listen to Robinson’s related TED talk about how schools kill creativity:


  1. I’m a nay-sayer when it comes to “doing what you love”. What you love is for hobbies and hobbies only. If you tie it to your livelihood, it’s likely that you won’t love it anymore after awhile. I also think that passions change; I might think that I love something now, but when I’m ready to retire I may not. I think it’s good to be prepared either way.

  2. Never works except for few lucky ones. Rest need to find a way to like what they do. These ideas of “what you love to do ” is for those who got financial backing or semi retired folks, not for starters.

  3. >> What you love is for hobbies and hobbies only. If you tie it to your livelihood, it’s likely that you won’t love it anymore after awhile.

    BS. Try it. Then report back.

    I love what I do and I do what I love every day. Though I had to fight tooth and nail to get to that point.

  4. Alexandria says:

    This is certainly my life philosophy. 😀 Of course, there are certainly some passions where the financial reward just won’t be there (or at least won’t be there from Day 1). But my family is heavy in math/business/technology types – definitely in the genetics. Work has absolutely never felt like *work* to me. Or my parents, or to many of my relatives. So this really rings true for me.

    I think there is really a huge element too of it you have natural talents, it does come very easy, you perform better, etc. So passions really can translate well into higher pay.

    The key to make this work is often thinking outside the box a bit. Maybe you can’t be a star basketball player but your dream job would be to somehow be involved on the business side of professional sports. This might not be the best example, but is often how I see passions turned into jobs.

    There is a huge difference, in my opinion, between a hobby and a passion. I have several hobbies that I don’t think would be good as far as career. I think I could turn my music talents into a decent career (teaching can be lucrative – I’ve made good money in the past), BUT, turning my more creative endeavors into a “job” kind of kills it for me. I personally leave the more creative stuff for hobbies (& when I feel like it and when I am inspired – does not work for 9-5).

  5. Tried to do what I loved. Didn’t work out. Ended up doing what I’m good at – which is boring and profitable. Get awards for my work, big bonuses and people from all over the country ask me how I get my departments to run as they do… um…hire people with common sense. Shrug. Really wish I could at least work for a company that i’m proud of, instead of an evil empire…

  6. I also read that article from the costco magazine which shows up in my doorsteps which one of the benefits being a executive costco member. Anyway, I totally loved his concepts and ideas. I especially liked one of his quote which was mentioned in the article “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original”. We might have heard something similar but that quote is very true. Like Thomas edison said, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb”.

  7. What if you don’t know what you love? Or what if you love playing computer games or watching TV and eating sweets?

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