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Weakness, a Clue to Your Strength - The Freak Factor – Dallas Growth Summit

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Oct 26, 2015

growth-summit-2015-logo“Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not - because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

Ken Robinson, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life

Just one of many quotes David Rendall, author of The Freak Factor, offered to emphasize how weaknesses can actually be strengths.

Rendall’s book, The Freak Factor, is as good as his presentation and I highly recommend picking up the book.


I’m including a clip of Rendall (Sorry it's 16 minutes) that provides some of the clever and funny material he shared.  He was, unequivocally, the hit of the Growth Summit.

The theme of the Dallas Growth Summit was Mavericks.  Rendall noted some of history’s great mavericks included: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ.  Rendall offered that we kill mavericks!   We frequently view different as being wrong.

He noted that as a child he couldn’t keep still, keep quiet, or be told what to do and during school days he often ended up in the principal’s office.  Yet today he’s taken those so-called weaknesses and turned them into his advantage.  David Randall speaks now in front of thousands of people, can’t keep quiet, and usually does what he’s told not to do.

He offered Jimmy Kimmel as an example of taking a disadvantage and turning it into a disadvantage.  In school, a teacher named Mr. Mills told Kimmel he would never amount to anything if he kept screwing up.  Kimmel, hosting the White House Correspondence Dinner offered this to his teacher, “Eat it Mills!”  Watch the short 35 second clip below:


It’s a sad fact that as children, due to our structured educational system, we are required to conform.  Our creativity, cleverness, genius, inspiration and imagination are stifled by having to conform to the norms of society.  How many highly imaginative and creative young people have lost their initiative and motivation to be different through this methodical regulated environment?

Rendall notes there are four beliefs contributing to our feelings of stress and frustration in our relationships and our careers:

  1. We believe to be successful, we need to be normal; to fit in and not stand out.  This means we should follow the rules and do what we’re told.
  2. We think that we should be flexible, balanced and well-rounded by fixing our weaknesses and improving our flaws.
  3. We’re convinced that we could fit in if we just tried hard enough.
  4. We believe that we could fix our weaknesses if we just had enough self-discipline and perseverance.

While all of these beliefs seem empowering, reality is they are debilitating.  They tell us we have the potential to succeed, but mislead us in the direction of where our potential lies and in how we should apply it. 

These beliefs set us up for failure.  They lead us to be confused and disappointed when we don’t achieve our goals. 

When we keep relying on these incorrect beliefs, it leads to a downward spiral because we continue to take the same ineffective actions those beliefs created in the first place.

Negative Psychology

Rendall shared how the roots of these myths and counterproductive behaviors can be found in psychology.  For more than 100 years, psychologists have been identifying, diagnosing, and treating mental disorders.  Based on the medical model of identifying and repairing illness, psychology has a negative focus.  Counselors and psychiatrists are trained to find and fix our weaknesses.  They don’t study mental health; they study mental illness.  They don’t study happiness; they study depression.  They don’t diagnose satisfaction and fulfillment; they diagnose disappointment and pain.  The overall effect is that we have become a society dominated by the negative psychological paradigm.  We no longer think to challenge the assumptions of this view, even though it has failed to help us live better lives.

Rendall shares similar views on self-help books.  Why, he asks, do self-help books in this century trying to fix the same problems that we had in the last century?  Why, he asks, haven’t we made any progress?

Rendall was a college professor and he asked his students why they failed to make important changes in their lives or failed to achieve goals.  The most common answer is a lack of self-control.  While he strongly believes in our ability to learn and grow, he’s watched so many people struggle with change he’s convinced we cannot change everything we want to change. 

His example: At 6’6” people often ask him if he plays basketball.  If he were to have wanted to be a jockey he couldn’t have been.  He was too tall. 

New Beliefs

Two beliefs lead to frustration and failure in our lives. 

  1. Being normal, following the rules, and fitting in will help you succeed.
  2. Fixing your weaknesses and being balanced and well-rounded is the best route to success.

We need to replace these self-defeating beliefs with a pair of more accurate and more importantly useful assumptions. 

  1. It is good to be different, to stick out, and to be a freak.
  2. It is good to flaunt your weaknesses, instead of fixing them.  It is good to be unbalanced.

Rendal believes, “what makes us weird also makes us wonderful.  What makes us weak also makes us strong.”

There will be more on Rendall and The Freak Factor in a future blog.  I’ve begun reading the book on both Kindle and the hard copy.  The Kindle version has examples which, after having begun reading the book, I find distracting.  Since I now live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and we seldom get noted for anything beyond producing corn and being the first to determine Presidential candidates, I found it interesting to hear Rendall refer to an experiment in Riceville, Iowa that illustrates the power of our beliefs. 

If you plan to join us for your 2016 business planning by attending our November 11th Scaling Up Workshop in Cedar Rapids, IA, I will share this story with you.  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for my future blog on The Freak Factor.

John Mullins knowledge and work at Harvard Business Review (HBR) have been discussed here previously in Cash – How Fast Can Your Company Afford to Grow?  He’s written a book, The Customer Funded Business. The next blog will share his presentation at the Dallas Growth Summit.

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