Randy Pausch

He’s dead. I wrote about him last year when his “last lecture” was first making the internet rounds. Ironically I ran across his book Thursday when I was at Chapters. I didn’t buy it though. I don’t really need a book to remind me to live my life fully. Like Randy and his family, I discovered that through experience.

His death is a timely reminder to us all that life will not wait for us to create the perfect template or get the kids raised first or for us to “get over” whatever traumas and disappointments that hold us fast. 

Randy Pausch is a Professor of Human Computer Interaction, Computer Science and Design at Carnegie Mellon. He is also the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center. And he is dying of pancreatic cancer. When this date rolls around again next year, his wife will be a widow with three small children.

I discovered a link to a speech he gave recently in a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon. It was very positive and meant, I believe, to urge people to look closely at their lives and assess them. Many of us have dreams. Some are relatively recent ones and others are of long standing, but how many of us realize our dreams? Pausch’s speech focused largely on himself. What he dreamt of when he was young and what he had achieved. The best teachers are able to use themselves as examples to make points. His point, in my opinion, was to not lose sight of those things that inspire you, give yourself permission to dream big but specifically, to know what you are and aren’t capable of achieving, and to learn what you need to in order to make your dreams a reality. A message that gets back to the heart of the reason why so many people are failing to live the lives they would like to live, were created to live really. Being the person you dream of is work. It means overcoming shortcomings and obstacles. It means acknowledging that sometimes you can’t have things the way you want them. It means sucking it up, even when the world is giving you permission not to.

Personally, I have to work hard to see the other hand and not dwell on the negatives or the critical nay-sayers. I can’t recall a time in my life that I was handed something I really wanted. Things worth having require time and effort to have and to hold. Maybe this is the nature of the universe or maybe it is just me, I don’t know. I do know that Professor Pausch is in a unique position to teach his students how to deal a hand as dealt. A lesson that our society does not expect any of us to learn because we live in an era of no personal responsibility. There will always be a reason why it’s okay not just to fail but to not try at all. To quote Pausch:

“I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion,” Pausch told Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” today. “We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.”