What if you only had a few months to live and you knew it? What would you do? How would you live your remaining days? What words of wisdom would you leave behind, especially if you had young children? Such was the dilemma for Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor and a married man with three young children, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live.
His final lecture, which he gave this past September, was videotaped and has been downloaded by over six million people. He was featured on Oprah and on Diane Sawyer and has even given testimony before Congress, as he is doing everything he can to raise public awareness and research funding for pancreatic cancer. He has an incredible website at: http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/ which includes his last lecture, his special on Diane Sawyer, and his day-to-day update page.
His lecture, which he really gave for his 3 children to watch when they grow up, was not about death, but about how to live. He pointed out that while we can’t control the cards we are dealt, we can control how we play them. He believes we should never forget our childhood dreams, nor lose the spirit that anything is possible. It’s important that we keep our sense of fun and wonder. He discusses the importance of humility and of how we should value people rather than things. He suggests that we decide early on if we are a tigger (full of fun, energy, and enthusiasm for life) or an eeyore (full of complaints and a negative view of the world).
He believes that we should live with integrity. We can do this by telling the truth and by apologizing when we mess up. He points out that there are three steps to an apology. We should say we are sorry, admit it was our fault, and ask how we might make it right. He feels that no one is evil and that if we wait long enough, they will show us their good side. He also discusses the importance of showing gratitude.
I found his lecture to be so inspiring. I marvel at how Randy could have chosen to become bitter about his situation. Instead he chose to be an example to others of how to live our lives, even under the most difficult circumstances. As of the writing of this late in May, he is still alive. He has lived far longer than was expected and, of course, he is grateful for that. I hope we all learn to play the cards we’ve been dealt and to follow Randy’s inspiring example.