Robinson – Taking Aptitudes for Granted

This post is part of a series where I am deconstructing Ken Robinson’s book “The Element”. The element is that place where your aptitudes meet your passions — where you can “be in your element”.  We are now looking at what we mean by aptitudes

So what are you naturally good at? You might have an intuitive answer to this question, but is it an informed answer? Tim Robinson explains that we often take for granted what our abilities are and are not. When we make these assumptions, we shape our self-image and limit who we can become.

So, for example, how many senses do you have? These are basic capacities, and we — or at least most of us — might shout out five – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Perhaps some might think “intuition” is like a “sixth sense”.  If there is a sixth sense, intuition, what organ does it use?

But what about our sense of balance? What about our sense of temperature?  What about our sense of pain?What about our sense of movement? And what about our sense of proportion (that allows us to sense where are arms and legs are)? Each of these capacities add to your sense of intelligence.

So how intelligent are you on a scale of 1 to 10? Answering presumes that your intelligence is a fixed thing that can be measured. And this is a strong cultural bias — that intelligence is fixed. Smart people are always smart and dumb people are always dumb. So we are enthralled by “IQ”. In fact, IQ testing evolved out of a cultural bias that values math and verbal reasoning. Similary the famous US high school test the “SAT”. The scores on these tests reflect only certain aptitudes.

Instead of asking “how intelligent are you”, we should be asking “how are you intelligent?”In other words, there are a number of ways to express intelligence. In this, we are all different.  But there are at least three features

  • its extraordinary diversity (we learn in many, many different ways)
  • it is tremendously dynamic (you use different parts of the brain for each and every task – and how you combine these inputs affects your ability to do them well)
  • it is entirely distinctive (each and every one of us is different

A first step in finding “the element” – where your aptitude meets your passion is to grasp that your intellectual capacity – your intelligence — is diverse, dynamic and distinctive. Don’t take it for granted.


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