Working in ‘your element’….

By 29th March 2024 No Comments

One of the best speakers I have ever heard was Sir Ken Robinson, the renowned author, speaker, and international advisor on education, who sadly died aged 70 in August 2020. Sir Ken’s now iconic ‘TED Talk’ entitled ‘Do schools kill creativity’ was, at the time of his death the most watched TED Talk of all time, with 66.3 million views on the TED channel and millions more on YouTube. Myself, I have watched it countless times as the key message of his speech registered with me when I first heard it as I was a primary school governor at that time.

However, it is another one of Sir Ken’s key tenets which truly resonated with me, the concept that working in ‘your element’ i.e. doing something that feels completely natural to you, is the key to making you feel at your happiest. Sir Ken makes the point in his book, ‘Finding your Element’ – which I found myself reading again last week – that there are plenty of people who live their lives in their element and who wouldn’t dream of doing anything else, but there are also many people who do not, who don’t really enjoy their working lives, it’s something they just endure and they look forward to weekends.     

I can relate to Sir Ken’s premise as I have been fortunate that, for the vast part of my career since I left school in 1973, I have worked in ‘my element’, namely marketing, public relations, promotions, and sponsorship. First with the Midland Bank in the early 80’s when my bosses spotted a talent in me for generating positive publicity for the Bank; then when I was invited by Charlton Athletic in the late 80’s to start what has become a lifetime career in commercial management in professional football. It’s fair to say that I have not only been working in my element but also in my absolute passion – and, coming right up to date, I’m still working in my element as I was delighted last summer to be invited to return to Charlton Athletic on an interim basis by the club’s new owners to help them to re-engage with the business community in the club’s catchment area.    

Of course, I have had my moments in my career when it has felt as far removed from my element as it could possibly be, but I would prefer to call those times ‘challenging’ and ‘character forming’ – the season I spent at Swindon Town FC in 1998/99 particularly comes to mind! Fortunately though, those moments were relatively few and far between!

Something I enjoy doing and always find time for, is assisting students with their dissertations and I have always made myself available for young people wanting to interview me about working in sport and football in general. In fact, many of these students have kept in touch with me as they have gone on to build great careers for themselves working in their own particular ‘element.’      

Naturally a lot of young people contact me to say they want to work in football and if they support Charlton, of course they want to work for the club; but as I always tell them, you can move around in your chosen field – after all, it’s impossible to know what a job will be like until you actually do it.

As my career enters its final stages, I consider myself blessed to have spent so long doing something I really enjoy. For me, although the hours can be long and the work challenging, it has never felt like ‘just a job’, which is so important as we are all a long time at work.

We are all motivated by different dreams and passions and, as Sir Ken Robinson says in his book ”recognising your own dreams and then the conditions you need to fulfil them are essential to becoming who you can be.”

If you have never seen one of Sir Ken’s TED Talks then get yourself a coffee, go to this website and watch one of the best and most engaging orators you’ll ever likely to hear, Sir Ken Robinson. I guarantee you will be in your element if you do!