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Randy Pausch: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Just weeks before Randy Pausch delivered his inspirational last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in September 2007, he was told by his doctors that his year-long battle with pancreatic cancer had been lost. The diagnosis was terminal. Randy had perhaps 6 months of bearable life remaining, after which the decline would be precipitous, and terminal.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, or hiding out and waiting for the end, Randy Pausch (pronounced “powsh”) stepped into the public spotlight to deliver what has become an internationally acclaimed lecture – one might even call it a sermon – titled “The Final Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Randy later turned the lecture into a New York Times best-selling book, titled simply “The Final Lecture”.
“You cannot change the cards you are dealt. Just how you play the hand.”
The final lecture was delivered to 400 students and fellow faculty members at Carnegie Mellon, where Randy was a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design. He opened by announcing he had terminal cancer; but his intelligence, wit, warmth and sense of humor soon outweighed any gloom that met his pronouncement.
“So what is today’s talk about then? It’s about my childhood dreams and how I’ve achieved them — I’ve been very fortunate that way; how I believe I’ve been able to enable the dreams of others, and to some degree, lessons learned.”
He said the lecture was really something he was doing for his children to have, after he was gone. And with incredible passion and love, Randy described how he had pursued and achieved his own childhood dreams, and urged his audience to live life to the fullest, pursuing and achieving their own goals in life.
“I’m a professor – there should be some lessons learned — and how you can use the stuff you hear today to enable your dreams or enable the dreams of others. And as you get older you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.”
Fortunately for the world, Randy’s lecture was videotaped. The lecture made it onto Youtube, and other internet sites, and it went “viral” almost overnight – links to the video flew from person to person around the world. The Final Lecture has been viewed by over 10 million people. It has been translated into several other languages, and three years later continues to be viewed by thousands of people every month
“Never lose the child-like wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, and among the most deadly. From the outset, Randy fought the disease with every tool available – radical surgery, many courses of debilitating chemotherapy, and weeks of radiation.
“Never give up: There are certain times that you think, ‘OK, you have beaten me down to my knees. And now the challenge is, I am on my knees and you keep on beating me down. And the question is, are you going to keep beating me all the way to the ground or will I find a way to struggle my way back on to my feet.’”
Born in Baltimore, and raised in Columbia, Maryland, Randy graduated from Oakland Mills High School, earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University in 1982, and his Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1988.
He became an assistant and then associate professor of Computer Science at University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science until 1997, and completed sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts while at UV. He moved to CMU in 1998, and became Associate Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design.
“When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.”
Randy was the co-founder of CMU’s radical Entertainment Technology Center, and he created a pioneering course on virtual reality. Randy also consulted with Google on user interface design, and consulted with Xerox’s PARC labs and Disney’s famed creative center, called Imagineering.
Randy was also the founder of the Alice software project which helps children learn the fundamentals of computer programming. It is still widely used.
“When you’re eight or nine years old and you look at the TV set and men are landing on the moon – anything is possible. And that is something we need to not lose sight of — the inspiration and permission to dream is immense.”
Randy Pausch received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, was a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow, and received two awards from ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, for his achievements in computing education. He was also the author, or co-author, of five books and over 70 articles.
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”
Randy and his wife Jai, and their three small children, Chloe, Dylan and Logan, had hoped to beat the long odds of pancreatic cancer. Randy did push the limits, stretching his time for many more months than the doctors predicted. But early on Friday, July 25, 2008, less than a year after his famous lecture, Randy Pausch passed away at home, with his family nearby.
“You can’t get there alone. People have to help you and I do believe in karma. I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the truth. Being earnest.”
At Novus Medical Detox Center, our clients are facing the long odds of winning out against substance addiction and abuse. As Randy Pausch said, you can’t get there alone, and we are proud to help them overcome those odds. We thought you would like to read one of their success stories.
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