Yesterday, I watched the ABC Primtime special The Last Lecture: A Celebration of Life, which was a tribute to Randy Pausch. For those that don’t know, the recently deceased Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon that was given a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. What made him more than just another cancer victime was “The Last Lecture.” According to Pausch, Carnegie-Mellon has a custom where professors give a yearly lecture where they discuss a topic of their choosing. In this particular case, he gave a lecture that on the surface were a series of lessons that centered on how to live and achieve dreams. The punchline was that the lecture was a gift to his three young children. Somehow, video for the lecture made it to Youtube and became a huge sensation. Subsequently, Paush co-wrote with Jeffrey Zaslow “The Last Lecture.” This book has also became a runaway success.
When I recently heard about his death, I was tremendously saddened by his loss. I didn’t cry but felt a tremendous sense of loss. A person who made a huge contribution to the world and changed it for the better died. Pausch did it all along during his life in the way that he lived his life. He lived in the moment and took risk in order to achieve success. Pausch spread this message to his friends, family and everybody taht encountered him. Now, when he delivered “The Last Lecture,” it became a distillation of the message the he lived. Whereas others learned this by watching how he lived, we either saw his message online or through some of his TV appearances.
As I watched the special last night, I had a hard time holding back. It really made me think about how I’ve lived my life and I came to a realization. I have been living my life as a coward-living in fear and for what? What have I been afraid of? I’m still relatively young, have excellent health and have full control of my faculties? If I have all of this, then why haven’t I done more? To be honest, I couldn’t come up with a good answer. The simple answer is that I need to do more.
The sad reality is that we don’t realize how we haven’t lived up to our full potential except when confronted by ours or others’ mortality. It’s not just the process of dying but in dying with dignity in a way that the person lives in the present. Once that any of us realize that we’re dying or at least that our time is up, then we’re most present and “living in the moment.” Whether it’s from receiving a terminal diagnosis or being a soldier with death all around, death rather than scaring that individual gives them a sense of tremendous calm. When you know what to expect, then what is there to fear?
I hope that this entry gives you a tremendous sense of not just what kind of man Pausch was but, most importantly, the message that he spread. It’s a message that we should keep alive constantly and remember always. Otherwise, we’re condemened to complacency and stagnancy. I’m not suggesting that anybody develop a death wish, but just remember the lesson. When looking at fear, they’re usually insignificant when comparing it to the overall big picture? So if this is the case, why let fear stand in the way of moving forward?