Dreams, A Better World, and Favorable Energy

A few months back there was a post that didn’t get a lot of play, but one I felt was exceedingly important: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58868

Since this past fall, Randy Pausch’s lectures, interviews, and books have changed my life for the better and have helped me to refocus my energy and efforts. We shared the lecture with all of 1712 in the fall and our larger Tech/Engineering Club as well. Today our 2008-09 team captains and club TSA officers all have a copy of the book as do our two lead faculty members. I’ve read it twice and have watched the lectures (the time management one is highly recommended as well) countless times. I’ve taken many lessons from Dr. Pausch’s words, but the three that hit home most with me are about “enabling the dreams of others,” making the world a better place, and doing these things as efficiently as possible.

Some 17 years ago I was sitting in a evening American Literature class at Ursinus College working on my teacher’s certification when, then Adjunct Professor, Richard Harrington handed back a paper I had written about themes in Moby Dick. To this day, I can’t remember the grade on the paper, but I do remember his written comment like it was yesterday. “Your ability to make connections will be your greatest asset as a teacher.” That single comment has fueled my desire and passion through some fairly difficult times in my career and it’s something I’ve never forgotten. Nearly two decades later, I now realize he wasn’t necessarily talking about themes in literature at all. This post is my attempt to show you the key connections in my life and one simple thing we might do as a community to efficiently enable the dreams of others and make the world a better place.

Books and people in my adult life have presented me with a lot of life’s lessons. You can find some of the books I discussed a few years ago here: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=271852&postcount=15 . As you will see my list is slightly different today, partially influenced by others in that book thread. As for people in our lives, I think it’s a matter of realizing the true gifts we get from others when they are presented to us, so we might take full advantage of what they teach. In both cases I try to just present the key lessons learned connected to the topic presented here.

The Last Lecture/Randy Pausch:
Realizing dreams/enabling the dreams of others is something tangible that can be worked at and achieved. Remembering that the “brick walls” exist to show us how badly we want something and that doing things “efficiently” is of utmost importance. Why? Well…

Steve Barbato (Lower Merion SD Technology Ed/Science Coordinator and Asst. Superintendent) always reminds us at LM that:
The “Systems Model” tells us that to solve any problem we have six sets of resources at our disposal. People, Information, Tools/Machines, Materials, Energy, Capital (money), and Time. In general the two scarcest resources in any instance are always people and time. And…

More briefly my father (Mechanical & Chief Engineer for 34 years) always said:
“Work smarter, not harder.” Not that he was adverse to long hours at deadlines, but he abhorred wasted time and effort.

So with those two pitches for efficiency, knowing how scarce time and people are, how do we really get at these realizing dreams and better world things??? Aren’t they just pie in the sky notions? No…

In Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Remember how much Woodie spoke about this book in 2002/03?) we learn this about optimal experience:
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

OK, so we “can” do this, but why???

Don’t forget Frankl’s words in Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”

And, more briefly in Albom’s Tuesday’s With Morrie:
“When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” We all have a finite time to be here. Why not live and work with that understanding?

I think I’ve always been “into” this kind of global set of goals, and one of the main reasons I stay involved with FIRST stems from the strong philosophical messages and stories we hear from Dean, Woodie, and Dave.

From Dean it’s the 11.13.2002 airing of a 60-Minutes II interview with Dan Rather that did it for me:
Dean starts talking about the need for most people to become contributors, not recipients and states, “These people need to become an educated group that can add to the real value of this world.”
Rather asks a final question, “ And you do or do not believe it’s your destiny to help make that happen?”
Dean, “I get up every morning trying to do that.”
Nearly every day since then I’ve thought about “getting up trying to do that” and I’ve tried to challenge myself by asking, “How am I going to do that, today?”

From Woodie there has been so much, but his best stuff in my mind is when he supports notions like these with great enthusiasm:
“One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”

From Dave, it’s the Colin Angle / Tooth story. I had the privilege of recounting this story for a group of 400 educators last fall and the message is entertaining and powerful. Google search it, you’ll find it.

So, now you might say, “OK, I hear the messages and I see it’s a tangible thing to be able to enable the dreams of others and make the world a better place and I might even know a little of why I should think about a conscious effort. I even see the need for efficiency, but with limited time and people like Steve Barbato says I’m not sure this is a bear I can wrestle.” So…

Celestine Prophecy teaches us about how to find the real source of energy to fuel our efforts. The book, although out there at times, talks about how the human race has become disconnected from the universe’s natural energy source, so, instead we spend time battling for limited energy from one another. In the short run you may be able to be “fueled” by energy from others, but you won’t sustain any lasting effort and you’ll have to “drain” others (which is never a great idea, just ask Woodie) to do it. CP goes on to teach that the energy can best be “found” in the areas between things, you know the places very few people ever even look in today’s world. These are the places and ideas that “connect” people. In other words we often focus on “me” and “you” in a conversation, rather than what lies in between. Real huge amounts of energy lie within the common AND uncommon ground as well as the ideas that lie between people and animals and things. The more we can learn to focus on that otherwise “blank space,” the more connections we make, the more collective energy will uplift us all over a sustained period of time.

And, just to be sure we don’t forget humor and perhaps our biggest barrier to those lofty goals, Dr. Seuss teaches us a lot in Green Eggs and Ham:
Is there any better story about preconceived notions?

So does this mean I shouldn’t be a little concerned about the new FRC controls and what it might mean for my team or event? No, I’m concerned too. But let’s not waste too much collective energy in the wrong direction over this – the clock is ticking and it’s possible it doesn’t even matter. Maybe (and I’m saying MAYBE, so please no long-winded wasted discussions of right and wrong here) our time might even be better spent building a robot for community use in the off-season instead of prototyping a winning design for next year.

Does it mean that your pursuit of a Chairman’s Award (aka “success”) is wrong? No, but let’s remember what it’s really about and why we’re doing it. If we’re draining any energy from others or making silly comparisons in the process, again we’re probably wasting time.

Heck, I would suggest that it’s not even about FIRST at all. (What the @#$%? Did he just say that?) Remember, we are here to enable the dreams of others and make the world a better place. Helping FIRST grow is ONE way to do that. But, let’s remember FIRST doesn’t exist for FIRST’s sake. If, with the remaining days of Dr. Pausch’s life, we could teach him about FIRST, I’m sure he’d be wholly impressed. He’d also probably caution us about the efficiency thing. What about the people, and clubs, and organizations that are important, but will not in the foreseeable future be a part of FIRST? How are you helping to spread these wonderful ideals to those folks in your life as well? If we’re going to really make a global difference isn’t reaching a global audience more quickly necessary?

I’m pretty proud of my team in this area. 1712 is a subset of a larger Technology/Engineering Club that also has participants in TSA and other competitive design events. I’ll let our students tell you more about how these great ideals we learned in FIRST are being spread elsewhere, but in short I’ll say I think we’re starting to reach a greater market share while still building FIRST in our community and beyond.

However, also remember not to kill yourself. This still needs to be fun! Do what “makes sense” to your community, school, team, and region. Emulating other teams is great IF and WHEN it makes sense. For example, there are some parts of the country that just don’t need and can’t fit any more off-season FRC events – they are starting to be a collective “drain” on the system.

I’ve been blessed by getting to pursue these very lofty goals with some amazing people. Whether it’s been FIRST, VEX, or related Robotics Education work, helping others to realize dreams and making the world a better place on a daily basis is an absolute blast. However, it hasn’t been all luck either. As my work habits improve in life, I seem to get luckier and luckier.

So I leave the whole community with a simple way to fuel an effort to better connect with the REAL energy in the universe and be more efficient in this massive culture change effort. The Chinese symbol that currently appears next to my name translates to “favorable energy.” The symbol itself and a brief relevant discussion are found here:

Please use the symbol (personally and/or as a team) as a simple reminder of how to efficiently pursue these culture-changing goals of making the world a better place and enabling the dreams of as many people as possible. Focus on that space in between and make connections. Report back in this thread how it’s going, what has happened, how it may have influenced you, your team, your community, your workplace, etc. This will become an “electronic” place to refuel and renew. Please DO NOT ever use this as a tool to judge others (we already see too much of this with GP, don’t we?). DO NOT misuse the term “favorable energy” nor should you call it something like “positive energy.” While “positive energy” can be good, it also can be obtained from “unnatural sources” and could also be applied for negative purposes. So let’s stay with “favorable energy” and its original intent.

We’re at a very critical point in our efforts. We must be very aware of the potential hazards in becoming too much like mainstream culture by allowing the “program” and “winning” to take over, we need to separate the ideals from the organization when necessary, and we must seek and channel favorable energy from its natural source, not bleed it from each other.

Have a great summer, rest and recover as you need to, and pursue these lofty, global goals in ways that make sense in your community. Together, we will enable the dreams of large numbers of people and make the world a better place.


Mr. Kressly has left us with a post filled with infinite levels of wisdom, knowledge, and connections to explore. This single post will provide many of us with more tools to work with in pursuing our dreams and goals, and in attaining a better understanding of the bigger picture in our lives and in our desire to help create and implement significant cultural changes in our world and our societies.

Each reference is a gem, each author, each individual mentioned - worthy of listening to and paying attention to.

Thank you for taking the time to gather your thoughts and delve into your life’s sources of inspiration and direction to share with all of us in such a wise and quiet way, Rich. You have planted seeds here and many will have an opportunity to grow in remarkable ways.

This post should be stickied for past, present, and future members and readers of ChiefDelphi to have ready access to for an immediate gift of inspiration, beauty, and truth.



Awesome post! Thanks for reinvigorating this thread. Summer is a great time to put everything into perspective.

A few more books for my summer reading list…

Stop making me want to spend money on books! I don’t need any more good influences in my life!!!:eek:

On a more serious note, thank you for your words of wisdom. They gave me pause for thought and added to my reading list.

Wow. I just watched Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture and all I can say is WOW. Thanks for digging that back up. I am still in a bit of awe after a speech like that.
For those of you that haven’t watched it yet, the actual lecture is only 1:30. If you think that is too much time then I suggest watching it instead of any reality TV or anything else. Very moving. I hopefully will never look at a “Brick Wall” the same way.

Thanks you for sharing your thoughts. I am turning 30 this year and consider it another one of those milestones in my life where I need to reflect on where I am, who I am, and where and who I want to be. I have been veiwing things with that perspective for the last year and have noticed many wonderful things going on in the World.

I set aside a bit each paycheck specifically for books :wink:

Finally, a decent list of books to read. I like how they’re not all the most recent things that ever came out too; that seems to be the problem with most recommended reads I’ve been given.

On the topic of leadership, Leadership Is An Art by Max De Pree parallels Pausch and has become a big part of the way I work: Leadership is about helping others to reach their potential. Leaders work towards intimacy, effectiveness, and health in an organization.

And Mark Piotrowski, another mentor/advisor from the LMHS Tech/Engineering Club: Leaders beget leaders.

It isn’t, and I can prove it. “Dedication to a course greater than oneself” and contributing to society are indeed global goals that I’ve seen in many other places, including the other organizations in which I’ve taken part: the Technology Student Association, and the Student Global AIDS Campaign. In those organizations, I’ve also seen the same problems with pursuit of success, obsession with winning, and excessive focus on “program” that leads to drain.

Inspired by Dawgma, by Mr. Kressly, by FIRST, and by what I’ve seen in TSA as well, I’ve been working on a proposal to create a new award in TSA. The proposed award is called the Inspiration Award, and it will celebrate the same ideals in a way similar to the Chairman’s Award. The proposal is at different stages on both the state level in Pennsylvania and the national level. As with FIRST’s goals, this award’s goals are part of this global set–spreading the above ideals and and bringing about a positive change in culture and society.

I just received news that the award mentioned above has been approved for Pennsylvania TSA!

As Dave reports here: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=758643&postcount=8 , Randy Pausch passed away earlier this morning. If you haven’t had the time to learn from him whlle he was on this planet with us, please scroll to the top of this thread and take the time to do so now. The world will miss professor Pausch, but his legacy will surely inspire millions more in his absence. Be one of those people if you aren’t already.

I always feel so cool when I see someone quote from a book I’ve read. :cool: <—(I can use smilies too). And I as well must add onto my reading list.

I think everyone’s done enough of a job complimenting Kressly on actually taking time to think during summer vacation (really, who does that?), so I won’t bother.

I was surprised to find that when I clicked “cntrl f – gracious professionalism” firefox did not find it once in Kress’s speech! Which means I get to rant about it for a second!

While FIRST is just a method of channeling this “favorable energy,” as somewhat of a noob I must say it seems to do a $@#$@#$@#$@# good job. Every competition I feel like I walked into some new world (comparable only to traveling through Dr. Seuss land at Universal Studios in Florida). My own Dawgma members astound me, helping new teams and ultimately gaining the philly g.p. award! I’m not all into that feng shui (my mom is–she periodically rearranges things to face odd directions), but I do believe that a little bit of g.p. can cause a reaction similar to that of a neutron and uranium (not in the blow-up-everything way, but the lots-of-energy-from-a-little-bit-of-matter way. I’m so good at analogies). In short: we rock.

Well, I believe that well-organized and coherent rant sums it up for me.
Thanks for being awesome Kressly.


I’m not allowed to say $@#$@#$@#$@#?!

Apparently not, but the FIRST experience and traveling through Dr. Seuss land was so much better as a visual anyway.

I wanted to share great news about FIRST exposure via the Technology Student Association website. Since FRC 1712 is part of a larger Tech & Engineering Club that also has a TSA Chapter, we were able to leverage some success the chapter has had regionally and nationally this past year to include FIRST in an article national TSA wanted to publish about our outreach program that began with our FRC students. The credit belongs to club founder/TSA Advisor/and my counterpart Mark Piotrowski who was contacted by the national TSA director and interviewed for the piece. He insisted that the article should include FIRST and TSA, an organization that engages 150,000 students in STEM activities each year. It’s very cool that TSA was gracious enough to recognize FIRST when some might see it as a “competing” organization. It’s nice to know real “coopertition” is alive and well at the organizational level in the real world. The students from both sides of our club are thrilled that their hard work is helping to bring these two worlds together. Here are the links:

http://tsaweb.org/ - look for featured member in the bottom left and/or
http://tsaweb.org/LMHS-Portable%20Inspiration - direct link to the article


Since I originally posted about it in this thread, I thought I’d add an update about the award.

A set of guidelines and judging criteria were recently written for the abovementioned award. Pennsylvania TSA posted it on their website here:

This award will be judged for the first time in the 2009-10 school year, and I’m looking forward to see it grow over the next few years.

Moreover, I hope it can be used as a model of how the philosophy we’ve learned from FIRST–that is, a philosophy that WE learned from FIRST, but one that is bigger than FIRST–can be carried into the other communities in which we participate.