Find Your Element, Overcome Obstacles: 3 Success Stories

The Element cover“We all have distinctive talents and passions that can inspire us to achieve far more than we may imagine,” writes Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., in his phenomenal book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”.

He encourages every one of us to find our Element, “the place where the things you love to do and the things that you are good at come together.”

Some call it “the sweet spot.”

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy. I know that the “necessity” to settle into a routine, to choose job security over job satisfaction, can prevent you from doing what you love. You drift further away from your Element each day, thinking it’s the safest route to take—while the opposite is true.

[Finding our Element] is our best and perhaps our only promise for genuine and sustainable success in a very uncertain future.

— Sir Ken Robinson

To help you find your Element, Sir Robinson prescribes a simple sequence:

  1. “I get it” (know what you can do best);
  2. “I love it” (take pleasure in it);
  3. “I want it” (seize opportunities);
  4. “Where is it?” (connect with others who have the same passion).

Success story #1: Zara — obstacle: herself

Before we move on to bigger, more famous success stories, we would do well to remember that sometimes, success comes in simple forms; that our biggest obstacle is often ourselves.

Zara once gave up drawing because she thought she wasn’t good enough; that others were much better than her. But she dealt with her self-doubt and found happiness in her art. She says:

Just because others can do much more than you can, doesn’t mean you can’t try. You keep trying and trying until you get to their level and higher. Do what you love, regardless if you’re good at it or not.

I couldn’t agree more.

Success story #2: Paulo Coelho — obstacle: parents

“The Element” is packed with success stories diverse enough to relate to, including that of “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera” choreographer, Gillian Lynne.

But my favorite is that of Paulo Coelho, the best-selling author of “The Alchemist”, who knew he wanted to be a writer ever since he was a teenager. Coelho’s parents opposed the idea, believing that a brilliant career awaited their son in the legal profession.

800px-2007-13-Paul-Macleod

On his blog, Coelho writes that his parents went so far as to “[send him] to a mental institution three times,” where he was “locked up for months and fed with tranquilizers.” Despite all this, he never gave up. He urges us to do the same, to “fight for our own dreams from a very early stage of our lives.”

Family support, as highlighted by Coelho’s story, is essential, but sometimes it may not suffice. We may also need mentors who, according to Sir Robinson, can help us “recognize” our talents and “lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we met them.”

Success story #3: Arthur Boorman — obstacle: disability

Diamond Dallas Page—the former professional wrestler who developed DDP Yoga—was an indispensable mentor to Arthur Boorman. Boorman was forty-seven when he took radical steps that changed his life forever. A disabled war veteran, he had been told by doctors for fifteen years that he “would never walk unassisted again.” Weighing almost three hundred pounds, he solicited help from several yoga instructors. Sadly, they all left Boorman to his fate—except Page.

With Page’s help, Boorman soon proved everyone else wrong. His inspiring YouTube video, which has almost nine million views, shows his refusal to surrender to his condition. His message is simple yet powerful:

Never underestimate what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself.

Have you found your Element? Any success story you want to share? Let us know in the comments!


This post originally appeared in the May issue of OZIP Magazine. It has been modified to suit the purpose of this blog.

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17 thoughts on “Find Your Element, Overcome Obstacles: 3 Success Stories

  1. I’m beginning to get the impression that Ken Robinson is a hero of yours… 🙂

    I love his message and as someone striving to do just that– to blaze a career for myself “in my element,” doing what I love– I fully appreciate these examples and the wisdom you shared!

    • Hey Julie. Thanks for reading and commenting. I know, I probably should start writing about some other brilliant character; otherwise it would get monotonous pretty soon. He’s just.. so awesome though. 🙂

      Keep blazing!

  2. I’ve seen the Arthur’s inspirational story on youtube before but it’s worth watching again and again. I didn’t know about the obstacles Paul Coelho faced. Thanks for sharing these inspirational stories.

  3. Paulo Coelho’s story is my story too. I wanted to write ever since I was eight years old. My parents wanted me to have a profession with a steady income (doctor, lawyer, engineer). I chose to be a writer. I can’t say this profession has always been easy. (It definitely hasn’t.) But it is the most satisfying for more.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. It’s actually my story too. I wrote detective stories when I was in elementary school. I think wanting to be a writer has always been in the back of my head. But I always thought that you couldn’t live off it. Actually, I still do. I’ve written about it, I think, in another post.

      Being a professional writer/blogger is going to be tough, I just know it right from the start. All we have are other bloggers and readers who are genuinely interested in what we have to say. I think blogging is much more about building relationships, as opposed to building a “fans” platform.

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