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026: Dave Rendall: I was in trouble my whole life

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Dave Rendall Show Notes

Dave Rendall was in college and was asked by his resident director if he was going to sign up to be a resident assistant. Thinking he was the reason resident assistants existed Dave failed to see that he was a good candidate. His resident director then became the first person to tell Dave that what he sees as weaknesses are actually his strengths. This was a major breakthrough for Dave that started him on the path to seeing goodness where everyone else had only seen badness which set a new course for his life. Listen to Dave’s story about how you can amplify yourself and get over the hump.

David Rendall started life as a pigeon-toed baby in Milwaukee. When he was eleven years old, his parents sent him to school with patches in his pants. He decided this was unacceptable, so he began collecting aluminum cans from dumpsters and got a job delivering newspapers at five o’clock every morning. Since then he has been a stock boy, lawn boy, caddie, painter, janitor, tutor, resident assistant, job coach, supervisor, nonprofit manager and senior executive.

He’s hyperactive, loud and rebellious. He’s also too idealistic and bad at managing details. All of these weaknesses have helped him succeed as a speaker, leadership professor, stand-up comedian and endurance athlete.

During the last fifteen years he has spoken to audiences on every inhabited continent. His clients include the United States Air Force and the Australian Government, as well as companies in the Fortune 50, such as AT&T and State Farm.

Early in his career, he managed nonprofit enterprises that provided employment for people with disabilities. He has more than twenty years of experience leading people and organizations. David has a doctor of management degree in organizational leadership, as well as a graduate degree in psychology.

He is the author of three books:

Dave currently resides in Pikeville, NC with his wife and three daughters.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen and @daverendall will help you get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“What a lot of folks think are weaknesses are actually strengths.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“The things that people think are wrong with us are actually the best things about us.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“Deviance will always generate external pressures to conform.” R. Quinn by Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“We’re afraid to stick out, so we try to fit in.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“What makes us weird, makes us wonderful.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“What makes us weak, also makes us strong.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet 

“What if my biggest weaknesses we’re also my biggest strengths?” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet 

“Instead of me trying to force myself to fit in, how can I start finding the right fit?” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“What if I listen for criticism and start to look at what the upside of that might be?” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“There’s an upside for every down side.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“Where can I get rewarded for being who I am instead of being punished?” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

“Great leaders make other people great.” -Dave Rendall Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Dave Rendall was always told he needed to be quite, sit still and do what he was told. Dave was led to believe he was bad and had several weaknesses that he had to overcome. Then when Dave was in college and was asked by his resident director if he was going to sign up to be a resident assistant. Thinking he was the reason resident assistants existed Dave failed to see that he was a good candidate. His resident director then became the first person to tell Dave that what he sees as weaknesses are actually his strengths. This was a major breakthrough for Dave that started him on the path to seeing goodness where everyone else had only seen badness which set a new course for his life. Listen to Dave’s story and it’s sure to help you to move onward and upward faster.

Advice for others

Ask yourself, “What if my biggest weaknesses we’re also my biggest strengths, what would life be like?” And “How instead of me trying to force myself to fit in, how can I start to find the right fit?”

Holding him back from being an even better leader

To find better and better partnerships with better and better people.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Mark Twain Quote – “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Secret to Success

Being myself. Trusting myself. Tapping into my motivation.

Best Resources in business or Life

Constant learning.

Recommended Reading

Now, Discover Your Strengths

StrengthsFinder 2.0

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Contacting with Dave Rendall

Website: drendall.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daverendall

Twitter: https://twitter.com/daverendall

More Resources

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Click to access edited transcript
2026: Dave Rendall: I was in trouble my whole life

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Jim Rembach: Thanks Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion we’re going to have some extra fun today because we have somebody on the show who really focuses in on some of the things that we try to do here at the Fast Leader Show and that is entertain as well as educate, and his name is Dave Rendall. Dave Rendall started life as a pigeon-toed baby in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew to be 6’6 and 6’9 in heels.

When he was 11 years old his parents send him to school with patches on his pants. He decided this was unacceptable so he begin collecting aluminum cans from dumpsters and got a job delivering newspapers at five o’clock every morning. Since then, he’s been a stock boy, lawn boy, caddie, painter, janitor, tutor, resident assistant, job of supervisor, nonprofit manager and senior executive.

He’s hyperactive, loud, and rebellious. He’s also too idealistic and bad at managing details. All of these weaknesses had helped him succeed as a speaker, leadership, professor, standup comedian and endurance athlete. During the last 15 years he has spoken to audiences on every inhabited continent. His clients include the, United States Air Force and the Australian government as well as companies in the Fortune 50 such as AT&T and State Farm. Early in his career he manage nonprofit enterprises that provided employment for people with disabilities.

He has more than 20 years of experience leading people and organizations. David has a Doctor of Management degree in Organizational Leadership as well as a graduate degree in Psychology. He is author of three books: The Four Factors of Effective Leadership; The Freak Factor; and the Freak factor for Kids. Dave’s legacy is that he wants to help people see surprising strengths in others and focus on positives. He currently resides at Pikeville, North Carolina with one wife and three daughters.

Dave Rendall, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Dave Rendall: I am ready, let’s go. Alright.

Jim Rembach: This is going to be a good one folks, so, make sure that you go to iTunes download and subscribe and rate and review this episode and all the others on the Fast Leader Show. Okay, Dave, I’ve given our listeners a brief introduction about you but can you please tell us with her current passion is so that we get to know you better?
Dave Rendall: Yeah. My passion is, as you said, with the legacy to help people discover what I discovered in my own life, which is that for most people I think for all people, where a lot of folks think our weaknesses are our strengths but things that people think are wrong with us are the best things about us. The things that people are telling us to turn down the volume on are precisely the things that we should be turning off the volume. And once we understand that, that has profound implications for the way we take care of children, the way we live our lives and relationships with others, the way we manage people and the way we manage our own careers.

Jim Rembach: I think those are some really interesting points, Dave because we actually live in a society that emphasizes conformity. Now, we do essentially see some of that breakout pieces through the expressions that people have with their different—YouTube’s and chat and tweets and things like that, but how is it when you start talking about the workplace environment and being more creative in your thinking and innovative. How can you make sure that you are part of that instead of being that total outlier that nobody wants to participate with?

Dave Rendall: I think it is about being an outlier, in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be the best at something. And to be the best at something it’s not going to be about sitting in to somebody’s organization or trying to get people like us, it’s going to be people acknowledging and seeing that we’ve developed a tremendous amount of skill. And because we’ve been unusual because we put 10,000 hours into something because we’ve been obsessive, because we’ve been unreasonable, because we’ve been extreme.

One of the parts of my framework that I try to teach people with the Freak Factors amplification that we need to be turning up the volume instead of turning it down. And you don’t get to 10,000 hours by casually pursuing something. You don’t get to 10,000 hours by doing things the way that everybody else does things. So, one of my favorite quotes is, deviance will always generate external pressures to conform, and you’re right we’re afraid to stick out and so we try to fit in. And part of what I’m trying to communicate to people is that, the way people try to make us fit in is by telling us that our difference is weakness by telling us that the thing that makes us unusual is a problem that we need to repair. What I try to show people is that, that is the exact opposite of the truth. The very thing the people are trying to take away from us is the very thing that we should hold on to and try to build up.

Jim Rembach: Now I know for me, I often say that I’m a freak in certain ways. I like to chase shiny objects, I like to do some of these things. And I don’t fit in a box that somebody has created for me, as a matter of fact, I’ve always try to kick my way out of it. And there’s been ups and downs with that, I mean, there’s an emotional roller coaster sometimes with that. So, one of the things that we focus on the Fast Leader show is leadership quotes because it gives us some grounding and gives us the opportunity to say, “Hey, I know this sticking out pieces making me atypical but I need to keep doing that because that’s me and that’s where I find some of my passion.” Is there a leadership quote or a passage or something for you that does that?

Dave Rendall: For me, one of the things I repeat in my book, one of things that I repeat consistently in presentations is, what makes us weird makes us wonderful and what makes us weak also makes us strong. I think we’ve been thought that what makes us weird is what makes us awful and we need to fix it, we need to change it, we need to conform and what makes us weak is what makes us wrong and I think that’s the opposite of the truth. If we believe that what made us weird is what makes us wonderful we’d want to become even weirder if you believe that what made us weak also made us strong we’d be willing to become weaker in some areas so we could become stronger in others.

Jim Rembach: I appreciate you sharing all that. Several things that you said in there are quotes that we could pull out and use in order to give us energy. That’s one of the things also that we do at the Fast Leader show is we create a show notes from these interviews and make tweetable moments as well as things that we can take in. And you’ll find those at the show notes page which is at fastleader.net/Dave Rendall. Okay, Dave, when you start talking about navigating that path, and everything from that pigeon-toed kid which by myself I was as well, and I remember the corrective shoes that I just could not stand—

Dave Rendall: Yeah, the braces.

Jim Rembach: Luckily I don’t have to go braces, but I did go corrective shoes, and man it was a pain. That course and that path oftentimes just has so many twist and turns in that we had a lot of learnings, realizations and we call them epiphanies on the show, but is there a time where you can remember that stood out for you as a defining moment that helped you get on the right path and build some of that confidence that you are talking about? Can you take us back to that time?

Dave Rendall: Yeah. There was one definitely that didn’t take me all the way there but at least started me on the path. I was in college and I was a junior or I was a sophomore going into my junior year, and the resident director, the person responsible for managing the man’s dorm, came up to me, and I thought I was in trouble, and he said, “Are you going to sign up to be a resident assistant? Are you going to apply for the job?” And I said, “No, I’m the reason you have resident assistants. I’m not the resident assistant.” And he said, “No, no, no”. He said, “The very thing that makes you think that and the very thing that everyone else thinks is wrong with you is the very thing that I see as leadership skills. I see a lot of myself in you and people told me that I was bad and that I was wrong, and that I was different, and that I have a lot of weaknesses.” But he said—basically, he didn’t say it this way but it’s what I got from [inaudible 7:46] that’s the way I see it now, I see your weaknesses’ also as strengths.

And when he told me that he was the first person in my life to ever frame it that way, the first person in my life to ever say, “I see an upside cause in fact, nobody had even seen it as neutral people had only seen the downside so that’s what I saw too. And that was a major breakthrough for me and it didn’t all fall into place at that one moment. I realize that everything that was wrong was actually right, everything that was weak was also strong in that moment but that started me on the path of seeing goodness where everyone else had only seen badness and started me on a path that I’d never really been on before.

Jim Rembach: So, you talked about that it wasn’t necessarily the switch that tripped it all for you but it was kind of a moment, how long did it take for that to really start taking a foothold for you?

Dave Rendall: Yeah, I think it’s when I started seeing it for more than just 1% and started seeing it in more and more situations. So for me, what happened was I was in community leadership programs and participating with the Chamber Commerce and when they’d ask somebody to speak no one wanted to do it and they’d volunteer me. And then I would do it and people will laugh and people will have fun and I would have fun and they would enjoy themselves and people would tell me I did a good job. And I realize that my whole life I’ve been giving them trouble cause I couldn’t sit still be quiet and do what I was told and now I was getting rewarded for standing up and talking and doing my own thing and being in charge and being upfront. Being the center of attention that was another thing I got in trouble for big time as a kid, all day I guess you just want to be the center of attention, don’t you? And it was like, ta-da—I am the center of attention now.

And so, I think that’s when I had the breakthrough when I had a couple of those situations with that mentor kind of person. But then, over time too randomly and haphazardly started to stumble across the truth that the things that seem to be wrong with me. I was also reading some things, I was reading now, “Discover your Strengths” by Gallop, that kind of a positive psychology stuff. And I’m reading another book as well, about how we tend to want men to be more like women and define female characteristics, say positives, especially in relationships and male characteristics as negative, like aggressiveness and violence and things like that as opposed to being protectors and soldiers.

We tend to denigrate the male characteristics and tell man they need to be more thoughtful and more quiet and more calm and nurturing and tend to see a lot of male characteristics as negative. I was reading how male characteristics can be both positive and negative and I was reading what we’ve done in psychology has been mostly about negative instead of positive. And then I was having these experiences and it all just came together and I started to see if my weaknesses were strengths, I wonder if that’s true for other people. That started a journey of exploration for me to see if that was true and it turned out to be true in ways that I couldn’t even really imagine at that time.

Jim Rembach: It sounds like that has been a lifelong journey. I think a lot of times we get too far off track and it takes us a while to get back on track so that we can do some of things that you’re talking about in the development. And again that’s one of the things that we try doing at the show is that, Fast Leader is something that we oftentimes have to redefine here on the show and that is what we are talking about doing is learning from others so that we don’t hopefully repeat those same mistakes and we come to our own epiphanies a little bit faster so that ultimately we can move upward and onward faster. And so, you shared a ton with us and I really appreciate you sharing your stories and those insights. But if there was one or two pieces of advice that you would really focus on for our listeners, what would it be?

Dave Rendall: I think what you hear is exactly what my mission is. Like you said, if we can learn things without having to go through those same mistakes on our own. The reason I wrote the kids book was because I wish someone would’ve told me this when I was a kid. I wish someone would’ve alerted me to this earlier instead of doing the exact opposite. I read a ton of self-help books, I’ve studied psychology, I read a bunch of that stuff. In my book I call them self-destruction books because I think too often the books that we go to, to try to learn how to be better are busy telling us all the things that are wrong with us instead of helping us to discover what’s working.

If I had to boil it down it comes back to asking yourself that question, what if my biggest weaknesses were also my biggest strengths, what would life be like? And how instead of me trying to force myself to fit in, how can I start finding the right seat? Like you said, that’s not going to happen all at once. I am pretty close to the right seat now, but I think it’s probably taken 3, 4, 5 steps to get a better fit, and then a better fit and a better fit. So, don’t think we necessarily find that answer in a moment but it’s a better question to be asking yourself, how can I find the right fit instead of casually asking yourself, how can I force myself to fit in? How can I change myself? How can I be what everybody else wants me to be? Even if the answer doesn’t jump out in a moment, when we’re asking that kind of question, when we’re exploring the potential of what if I listen for criticism and then over a period of time start to look at the upside about my—for example people are always criticizing you for being stubborn, that’s persistence, people always criticizing you for being slow and indecisive probably because you’re thoughtful and reflective, people are criticizing you for being judgmental because you’re analytical. There’s an upside for every downside and if we start to find that and start to ask, where can I get rewarded for being who I am instead of being punished for being who I am? We start to find new possibilities in our life.

Jim Rembach: Gosh, Dave, thank you so much. Like I said we have a lot of things that we can take from this particular episode, and I’ll say it again make sure you go to fast leader.net/Dave Rendall and forward this episode to your friends because I think there’s several messages in here that we all need to hear, and thanks again. Okay, so, you had mentioned something about being author to three books, you’re public speaker and all this journey that you’ve gone through and help so many others and legacy that you want to leave but as far as your current business is concerned, what is one thing that’s really exciting you about the work that you’re doing today?

Dave Rendall: What excites me the most is the opportunity I’ve had recently to speak to more and more young people. I think it’s cool to speak to adults I enjoy that I get good responses, I love to help businesses be more successful, but when I talk to a group of young people and help them to discover this at a young age or maybe even find it out that this is true before they’ve been pushed too far in the opposite direction and how this has become the way they look at life, the way they see things, that is one of the most exciting things—speaking to students, speaking to young people, speaking to teachers having an opportunity to impact people’s frame of reference for entire life as opposed to trying to redirect people onto a new path and a new direction.

I’m sitting here in my office and there’s a little note that I got from a kid who read the Freak Factor for Kids book and it said, “Thank you Mr. Rendall for the book, it made me feel better about who I am.” And if you can do that for a child, that’s powerful and has an impact for the rest of their life. It’s not that I don’t care about adults, I certainly do. When you start about the thing that I’m most excited about it is the opportunity to talk to people who are younger—I was in a kindergarten class the other day and I got to speak to a group of kindergartners, being able to make at least another perspective so when they hear the standard perspective, the fit and conform do what you’re told there’s something wrong with your perspective, they…Yeah, but there is that one guy that one time who said the opposite whereas for most people it’s all they ever hear and so they assume it’s true. Just like a fish in water they never question it because it’s all around them to the point where they wouldn’t know there’s any other possibilities.

Jim Rembach: Well, Dave, I have to tell you there’s probably a reason you are 6’6 and 6’9 in heels so you can be that imposing image in their mind, that they can connect to it. [Laugh] Alright folks, so not it’s time for the rapid part of our show and that’s the—Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Dave, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Dave Rendall, are you ready to hoedown?

Dave Rendall: I’m ready.

Jim Rembach: What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

Dave Rendall: One of the things that I’m working on lately is to find better and better partnerships. Because I’m not going to fix my weaknesses and I don’t need to because that what makes me strong. I still need to have a more balanced life and more balanced business and the way I’m doing that is finding better and better partnerships with better and better people. And so, that’s like a constant pursuit and a constant need is how do I find the right people to surround myself with, build relationships with, so that we can move forward together as oppose to saying, I need to be better, I need to find better and better people around me.

Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?

Dave Rendall: One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain’s: “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions small people always do that but the truly great make you feel that you too can become great.” And I think that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. If we spent our lives as leaders helping other people to find their greatness, if we bring out greatness in other people that what makes great leaders. Great leaders make other people great.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

Dave Rendall: Being myself. Doing what I want, when I want, where I want. Trusting myself not trying to be someone else. Not trying to fit in to other people’s defined roles. Not trying to follow other people’s rules but creating my own path and tapping into that motivation that I already have instead of trying to fit myself into somebody else’s box.

Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps lead in business or life?

Dave Rendall: Just constant learning. I’m always reading books. I’m always listening to books on audible.com. Listening to podcast, like the Fast Leader podcast. Always taking in more information. One of my top strengths on the gallop strengths finder is inputs and that’s just something that I do nonstop. Even though I have a doctor, I haven’t stopped learning, I’m always taking in new information and trying to synthesize it for other people.

Jim Rembach: Okay, Dave, I know you’re a writer, you’re an avid reader, but is there one book that you would recommend to our listeners, maybe two?

Dave Rendall: Alright, so two books. The one that probably had the biggest impact on me, we already mentioned it, “Now Discover your Strengths” or read “StrengthsFinder 2.01”, and you’ll understand that positive psychology mindset. But also another way to understand more about this Freak Factor concept, that weaknesses are strengths and read the whole book about it called “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about how obvious weakness in all sort of situation, countries, armies, people, turn out to be surprising strengths, and I think it just a powerful reinforcement of my idea that weaknesses are strengths in even more surprising ways that I’d even considered.

Jim Rembach: Thank you Dave for sharing that—we’ll again make those available as well as other items on the fast leader.net/Dave Rendall show notes page. Okay Dave, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything back you can only choose one thing, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

Dave Rendall: There’s no question the thing I would take back was the confidence and the knowledge that I can get paid to speak for a living. That I can do the thing that everybody spent their whole life trying to keep me from doing. That I could get paid to talk, that speaking was a business, that talking and being the center of attention was a positive not a negative, that making people laugh, and goofing around was a positive not negative, and that I could run my own business instead of going to school to try to become qualified so other people would pick me, that I could choose myself, that I could create my own business, that I could create my own future, that I could create my own income, that I didn’t have to do what other people expected me to in order to feed my family and pay my bills, that I could create my own path and then I could do that by being who I already was and just turning up the volume as oppose to try to fit in to what other people wanted me to be.

Jim Rembach: Dave Rendall, it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?

Dave Rendall: Yeah. Just go to drendall.com, TED EX talks of the Freak Factors on there, you can join the Freak nation. There’s an assessment on there if you join Freak nation that’ll help you see how your weaknesses are connected to your strengths. Our links to the books and all the things like that, that’s the best way to get me on those links. There’s links on there to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I love to get connected.

Dave Rendall, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.

END OF AUDIO

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