Your doctor has just told you that you have an incurable cancer, and that you have – at most – 6 months to live. You’ve got a wife, and three children.
What do you do?
Do you cry? Do you feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity? Do you incessently wonder “why me” and not someone else? Or do you face the inevitable head-on and do the most with the time you have?
This is a post about someone by the name of Randy Pausch.
Randy Pausch is Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In September 2006, he was diagnosed with (terminal) metastatic pancreatic cancer. A deadly form of cancer that is not curable.
Last night, while flipping channels on the TV I landed on the ABC television network that was airing a story about this brave man and his story. It was truly inspiring.
As you watch the story unfold, you never hear from Randy about how unfair everything is. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He has no personal regrets. What he does regret is that he will not be there for his young family. That he will not be there as the safety net to catch them should they fall. Rather than waste away the time he has remaining, he is working on building those safety nets. He is sewing the nets that will keep his family safe long after he has gone.
“I mean, the metaphor I’ve used is … somebody’s going to push my family off a cliff pretty soon, and I won’t be there to catch them. And that breaks my heart. But I have some time to sew some nets to cushion the fall. So, I can curl up in a ball and cry, or I can get to work on the nets.”
Although his children do not know something is wrong, Randys’ wife suspects that their oldest son knows something — but doesn’t understand. They’ve chosen NOT to tell their kids what is wrong until the time that Randy is bed-ridden, and they will at that time explain to their children what is wrong with their daddy.
Therefore, the decision was made not to tell the children until their father is much sicker. The Pausch family asks any viewers who might run into them to respect the experts’ opinion and say nothing.
Randy and his lovely wife, Jai, are facing this challenge head on – living every day to their fullest.
Randy Pausch delivered his “Last Public Lecture,” titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” at CMU on September 18, 2007. This talk was modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical “final talk,” i.e., “what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?”.
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, alternating between wisecracks, insights on computer science and engineering education, advice on building multi-disciplinary collaborations, working in groups and interacting with other people, offering inspirational life lessons, and performing push-ups on stage.
You can view the full lecture here – please note, that this lecture is about 76 minutes long.
There are several different versions, most have been shortened. The one above is the longest one I was able to find on YouTube.
Professor Randy Pausch also has a personal website available at CMU – http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/ - note that the site is very busy and difficult to get through to at times. There is a lot of great information on Randys site at CMU, including a transcript of the lecture he gave the CMU.
Professor Pausch has also been featured on Oprah, and others:
- http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5700431505846055184 – 104 minute video
Randy Pausch has also written a book, entitled “The Last Lecture” that you can purchase from Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Last-Lecture-Randy-Pausch/dp/1401323251.
As I watched the story on TV you saw how Randy was making a difference in the lives of millions of people. ABC spoke to several people that were inspired by Randy, these people made ever-lasting changes in their lives. If Randy can do it, why couldn’t they?
Alfred Nicolosi of Salem, N.J., said the night he watched Pausch’s lecture was the “same night when Randy’s life turned mine around.” Battling depression, cancer surgery and facing heart problems, Nicolosi cleaned up his life, literally.
“I had never been very organized person, but this was exceptional. I’d allowed piles of boxes, groceries, laundry, books scattered everywhere. There was absolutely no order to my life, no way to find things, it was just lost. So immediately after seeing the lecture, I began to organize my house, and I felt like I was rediscovering my life in the process.”
After battling breast cancer, Kaje Lane of Los Angeles says Pausch has inspired her to pursue singing — a passion she had put aside for many years.
“I think so many people relate to Randy because every one of us has some sort of dream they want to make real, or some sort of passion that they want to tap into if they’re not already thinking that way. … I think people are just drawn to that. It’s very magnetic to see someone positive not just about the big things but the little things.”
One part of the story was incredible. Students are memorizing his lecture, and giving it to their peers! That is how much this individual has touched millions around the world.
So what would you do if you were told you have 6 months to live?
Although I don’t know if Randy will see this post, I wish the best for him and his family. I pray that they maintain the strength and patience needed to face this challenge and every challenge which they will face. May God bless Randy, and his family.
Randy is truly an inspiration, if only we could live our lives as fully as he is.