Life & Style

Life is Your Talents Discovered by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDxLiverpool (Transcript)

Educator Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDx Talk: Life is Your Talents Discovered at TEDxLiverpool…

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Life is your talents discovered by Sir Ken Robinson at TEDxLiverpool


I’ve just had to mention this as the Beatles become a theme, that I interviewed Paul McCartney for the “Element.” That’s it. Anyway, Paul McCartney or Paul — I’m just saying — went to Liverpool Institute, which is now LIPA, that was where he went, I went to the Collegiate on the other end of Hope Street. I asked Paul McCartney — I helped a little bit with LIPA in the early days of Mark Featherstone which is the team we got back together. It’s a fantastic school by the way. Mark’s done a wonderful job.

I asked Paul McCartney if he had enjoyed music at school. And he said no, he hadn’t. I said: “Did your music teacher think you had any talent?” He said, “No.” He does, doesn’t he?

One of the other people in the same music program at school, a couple of years younger, was George Harrison. And I asked Paul if he thought that teacher thought George had any talent. He said, “No.”

So I said, “Well, look…” — because part of my argument is that talents are often buried, you have to go looking for it, and create the conditions for it. So I said: “Well, would this be a fair comment that there was just one music teacher in Liverpool, in the late 1950s, who had half the Beatles in his class — and he missed it?”


He said, “Yes, that’s right.”

Well, it’s a bit of an oversight, isn’t it? I’m just saying — Elvis Presley, that Elvis mentioned earlier — went to school in Tupelo, Mississippi, and he wasn’t allowed in the Glee Club at school. They said he would ruin their sound. Elvis. Well, we all know to what great heights the Glee Club went on to, once they managed to keep Elvis out of the picture. And that’s the point, isn’t it? Your life is, you create it according to the talents you discover or not. You mentioned the Dalai Lama, and a few years ago, I hosted a session at the Vancouver Peace Summit, and he was the guest of honor. We had about 2,000 people in the room. It was a session called “World Peace through Personal Peace.”


So we had about an hour to solve that up. We were just killing time for the final 20 minutes to be honest but I had to introduce the Dalai Lama. I mean Herb actually introduced me — Buddhists as you know, you mentioned the great work there, Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so he’s the 14th Dalai Lama. So it’s a lot to get in to an introduction, if you are going to be comprehensive about it.

Anyway, I then realized I didn’t have to introduce him, because I thought if your name starts with ‘the’, you can relax socially, can’t you, at this point? “Excuse me, which Dalai Lama are you?” “That would be “the…”

Anyway, he said a lot of really great things, and may I say, a lot of the great truths to be known since the beginning of time, and they are very simple. But he was asked a question at some point during the session, and we were all sit at 2,000 people waiting for the great man to speak. There were 10 of us on the panel facilitating it. But he was asked this question — you’ve got a picture, he’s sitting cross-legged on a throne — I did actually asked Herb for a throne today, but anyway, we did get a sofa with a teddy bear on it, so, he was sitting cross-legged on a kind of a big wooden chair and with a baseball cap on, and he was asked this question, and he took a deep breath, and pondered this for probably about a minute, it’s a long time. And we were all thinking this is going to be fantastic. This man has the definite article in his name so, he’s going to wait until he comes up with this.


And then he leant forward, he took a breath, so here he comes, and he said, “I don’t know.”

I thought: “What do you mean, you don’t know?” You are the Dalai Lama. You have the definite article right in your name.

He said: “I’ve never thought about that. What do you think? What do you think?”


You see, I love that. It’s been the theme of the afternoon, isn’t it? Knowledge is not about what you know, it’s about what you don’t, and being prepared to say, “I don’t know, I’m going to find out.” It ran through all presentations; what you said about the restaurant, “I don’t know, I’ll try it.” It’s not over as long as you are alive and breathing and maybe, not even then.

And the great teachers are the people who also learn with their students. It’s a big problem of education, we’re all supposed to know, and if you get it wrong, you failed. All the great questions are knowable even at the heart of science.

The other thing he said, by the way, and he said lots of things, he said: “To be born at all is a miracle. So, what are you going to do with your life?” And this really resonates to me, I am one of seven kids and my brother John, who’s sitting right there, there’s my brother John. I had an arm around him most of the afternoon, I just want to explain what is going on there. It’s so easily misinterpreted. I don’t mind if it is by the way, but, anyway, that’s John.


John has been doing our family tree. It’s not much of a tree, truthfully, it’s like a small shrub, isn’t it? All fungus infection at the roots from what we can make up. But he discovered that seven of our eight great-grandparents, were all born in Liverpool in the 19th century within two miles of each other. That’s how they met. They ran into each other. That’s how people used to meet. You know, life was very local. People didn’t travel great distances like you all do. People just went to work and came home, it was as far as they could walk and then they would come back again. So, that’s how they met.

Now you might say: No, that’s not the case, you are missing the point, there is a cosmic theme here that you misunderstand. The cosmos arranged things so these eight soul mates converge at the same point of the space-time continuum, they should meet and procreate and continue the process that has led to the miracle that it is me. It’s a way of thinking about that, I don’t think so. I just think they had lower standards then, frankly, I think — I think people ran into each other in the street and thought, “You’ll do.”

“I can spend my life with you. I’ll be constantly embarrassed, but it will be fine.” Because they didn’t know Angelina Jolie was in prospect, or Brad Pitt, they didn’t have TMZ or People Magazine, it was just the people around. But here’s the point, you see. They went on and had kids, and eventually our grandparents were born, and then our parents were born, and 50 years later, and there was that night in the pub, and here we are, and it’s a miracle that followed.


But, the thing is, I tell you about that because if you think of the chances of you being born at all, that’s pretty remote, statistically. All the people and the circumstances involved — think how you met your partner, if you have one — those circumstances are remote. Think about what you do and how it came about, your whole life is composed by choices you make, the turnings you move towards, the ones you turn away from, the chances you all are prepared to risk, the way you deal with fear or you don’t, and in the process you create a life of some sort. And it’s a miracle and it’s amazed me how little people settle for very often. They go through their lives in a state of anxiety, thinking: “If I try it, it won’t work.”

And anyone who ever achieved anything in their life was prepared to be wrong and make a mistake and try it, and that’s how culture progresses, how our lives progress, how you build a legacy and have a life in the process. Everyone makes their own choice about that sort of thing. And I just feel that’s been one of the great features of the afternoon and this morning, I’m sure. I wasn’t able to be here, but we’ve had lots of examples of people who’ve created very different lives and they’re affecting people very differently. It’s in the way we do that, that we create a culture and if we got the culture right, we create a life we can live communally.


My final thought in all of this is that’s the difference between human beings and the rest of life on Earth. We are jeopardizing the rest of life on Earth the way we’re behaving, but the interesting thing is that human culture is always progressing through power of imagination, creativity. There’s a big difference between us and the rest of life on Earth, although we’re intimately connected, and we keep forgetting it. If you’ve got a dog, your dog probably has all kinds of feelings, and may have some kind of imagination. But it doesn’t manifest it in quite the same way. You don’t see your dog, starring out the window, depressed, reading Camus. You’d say, “Do you come for a walk?” and he’d say, “No.” “No, you go out, I’m not in the mood, you go…”

Because we live in a virtual world, we live in a world of ideas, we live in a world of thoughts, and feelings, and theories and possibilities. It’s the old maxim: Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. Nothing is so influential as a life well lived. And that’s really, I think, what today has been about and, I want in your behalf, to thank all the speakers this afternoon, Mike for a wonderful round-off and especially Herb, for bringing us all together, so please welcome Herb Kim back to stage.

Herb Kim: Thank you. Let’s give a round of applause for ‘the’ Sir Ken Robinson, for guest housing this final session. And of course, I have to repeat my thanks to all the speakers all day, which have been amazing. I should also add of course, our own staff, Rob and his crew up there have been busy making sure all the stuff behind us was working well, things like microphones and the such like. Is Marie around? Marie Burns, who’s the producer of this year TEDx.


Recommended for Further Reading:

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything


By Pangambam S

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