Many of you may have heard about Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who became famous for his "Last Lecture" entitled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.
Pausch was diagnosed in September 2007 with terminal pancreatic cancer. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to give a "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon. The school has a long tradition of such lectures where professors are invited to give a theoretical last lecture about the BIG ISSUES that are most important to them, the wisdom they would like to impart, the lessons they would like to leave their students and colleagues. Pausch's lecture really was his last and it was funny, touching, and deeply personal and it soon became a monster hit thanks to YouTube. Ultimately, the lecture was a love letter to his children but we can all learn something from his words.
How Randy Pausch chose to live his life after his diagnosis is inspirational... not in a big flashy way - although he did get to do some really cool stuff - but in many, many small memorable ways. He resigned his teaching position and, despite the growing number of requests for interviews and TV appearances, he and his wife Jai focussed their energies on living each and every day thereafter to its absolute fullest. He spent much of his time with her and their three young children. They may have been creating memories but I bet that they were really just soaking up the minutiae of each day - knowing how few of them might remain. They seized the day.
Professor Pausch enjoyed many academic and professional achievements and inspired many of his students and colleagues to find the joyful creativity in their lives. His "Last Lecture" may not be ground-breaking academic theory but in many ways it's even more important because of its simplicity: live life fully, find joy and passion, remember the wonderful evocative smell of crayons, figure out how to climb over the brick walls in your life, choose Tigger instead of Eyore (watch the video - it'll all make sense).
Randy Pausch died at home, aged 47, on July 25 in the loving company of his wife Jai and their three children.