Note to Readers: Our Institute Fellow David Rendall has a fascinating blog called "The Freak Factor" that's built around the idea that what we most often think of as our weaknesses or problems - the things that other people may complain about concerning us - are very often reliable signposts that can point us to what may be our greatest strengths. Rather than just working hard to correct all our "flaws," Dave believes, we should be paying attention to what they can show us about the strengths that we uniquely may have and that we can enhance as we seek to make our proper mark on the world. The name of his blog comes from the insight that the qualities some people think make you a freak might actually help you to hit your true peak! You can find his popular blog here: The Freak Factor. What follows is his newest posting, something he wanted to share with all of us here as well. It's a tribute to a man, now well known, whose life has had an amazing impact during the course of his last days and months among us. Now, with no further introduction, we turn you over to Dave's short essay.

Randy Pausch (1960-2008)

Even though I knew it was coming, I was saddened to learn that Randy Pausch passed away last week. The Carnegie Mellon professor, husband, and father of three young children died of pancreatic cancer on July 25. The video of his Last Lecture has been viewed more than five million times on YouTube and The Last Lecture book is currently #1 on Amazon.com.

I read the book earlier this summer and was inspired and deeply moved by his story. I also discovered that Pausch was a self-described freak, nerd, know-it-all, and inflexible contrarian who was also quirky, wonky, arrogant and tactless. These unique characteristics, which some might see as weaknesses, are the primary reasons that he was recently named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine.

Here are some great Freak Factor quotes from the book.

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

"I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter. I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured."

"'What makes me unique?' That was the question I felt compelled to address."

"I asked myself: 'What do I, alone, truly have to offer?'"

"I had just learned that I would soon die, and in my inability to stop being rationally focused, I found myself thinking: 'Shouldn't a room like this, at a time like this, have a box of Kleenex? Wow, that's just a glaring operational flaw.'"

"Anyone who knows me will tell you that I've always had a healthy sense of my abilities. I tend to say what I'm thinking and what I believe. I don't have much patience for incompetence. These are traits that have served me well. But there are times, believe it or not, when I've come across as arrogant and tactless."

"My good friend Scott Sherman . . . recalls me as 'having a total lack of tact, and being acclaimed as the person quickest to offend someone he had just met.'"

"Like many people, I had strengths that were also flaws."

"Though Jai wasn't thrilled with my bluntness and my know-it-all attitude, she said I was the most positive, upbeat person she'd ever met."

After his wife, Jai, accidentally crashed one of their cars into the other, Pausch didn't get upset. This surprised Jai, who was afraid of his reaction. She was even more surprised when he explained that he wasn't even going to get the cars fixed, since it was just body damage. "Jai was a bit shocked. 'We're really going to drive around in dented cars?' she asked. 'Well, you can't have just some of me, Jai,' I told her. 'You appreciate the part of me that didn't get angry because two things we own got hurt. But the flip side of that is my belief that you don't repair things if they still do what they are supposed to do. The cars still work. Let's just drive 'em.' OK, maybe this makes me quirky. . . Not everything needs to be fixed."

"Scientists like me probably aren't always easy to live with. . . I'm a spreader. My clothes, clean and dirty, are spread around the bedroom, and my bathroom sink is cluttered. It drives Jai crazy. Before I got sick, she'd say something. But Dr. Reiss has advised her not to let small things trip us up."

"This particular bunch of current students was still unsure what to make of me. I'd been my usual self - a tough teacher with high expectations and some quirky ways - and they weren't at the point where they appreciated that. I'm a bit of an acquired taste."

"I'm an efficiency freak."

"Don't obsess over what people think."

"Look for the best in everybody."

The theme of his book is achieving your childhood dreams. In the last few pages he cautions . . .

"It can be a very disruptive thing for parents to have specific dreams for their kids. As a professor, I've seen many unhappy college freshmen picking majors that are all wrong for them. Their parents have put them on a train, and too often, judging by the crying during my office hours, the result is a train wreck.

As I see it, a parent's job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams . . . So my dreams for my kids are very exact: I want them to find their own path to fulfillment."

Randy Pausch is gone. But his words, ideas and inspiration live on. I encourage you to consider the lessons that he shared and apply them to your life. We can all learn from Randy's example. As you increase your freak factor, your happiness and fulfillment will grow as well.

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