Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
—Randy Pausch

On September 18, 2007, Carnegie Mellon professor and alumnus Randy Pausch delivered a one-of-a-kind last lecture that made the world stop and pay attention. It became an Internet sensation viewed by millions, an international media story, and a best-selling book that has been published in 35 languages. To this day, people everywhere continue to talk about Randy, share his message and put his life lessons into action in their own lives.

The lecture he gave “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

A month before giving the lecture, Pausch had received a prognosis that the pancreatic cancer , with which he had been diagnosed a year earlier, was terminal. Before speaking, Pausch received a long standing ovation from a large crowd of over 400 colleagues and students. When he motioned them to sit down, saying, "Make me earn it," some in the audience shouted back, "You did!"

During the lecture Pausch was upbeat and humorous, shrugging off the pity often given to those diagnosed with terminal illness. At one point, to prove his own vitality, Pausch dropped down and did push-ups on stage. He offered insights on computer science and engineering education, multi-disciplinary collaborations, and working in groups and interacting with other people. Pausch also offered his listeners inspirational life advice that can be applied to one's professional and personal life. Shortly after the lecture was presented, a book was written to better educate people on Randy Pausch's methods of living a more fulfilling life, by simply achieving your childhood dreams. The book was written by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

The Last Lecture is the book that Randy Pausch co-authored about everything he wanted his kids to know, after his pancreatic cancer had taken his life. It tells tales of his childhood, many important lessons he wants his kids to learn, and anything and everything he wants his kids to know about him. He makes the point, many times, that you need to have fun in everything you do, you need to live life to its fullest because you never know when it will be taken from you.

In the book, Randy says many times that people told him he looked like he was in perfect health. Even though he was dying of pancreatic cancer , he didn't let it get to him. He says you have to mind the happy medium between being in denial and letting it overwhelm you. He often said that he didn't like his cancer, but he would rather have cancer than be hit by a bus. He says this because if he got hit by a bus, or just died suddenly, he wouldn't have had the time to talk with his wife and make sure that her life, and the rest of his family's, wouldn't be terrible after he died. The cancer gave him the chance to spend as much possible time with his family and getting their life ready for when he passes away.

Randy died July 25, 2008, at the age of 47.


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