Monday, October 22, 2007

... in life and childhood dreams (memorable quotes from Dr. Randy Pausch--delivering his last lecture in Carnegie Mellon's "last lecture series"

"How do you measure a year in the life?" - The Rent

How about ... in Randy Pausch's childhood dreams?

"It's wonderful to be here. What Indira didn't tell you is that this lecture series used to be called the "Last Lecture". If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would it be? I thought, damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it!"

Delivering his "last lecture" in Carnegie Mellon's "Last Lecture Series" with 3-6 months left of good health, Randy talked about his life and his childhood dreams. For complete lecture video and transcript, they are available in Randy's website.

"So what are my childhood dreams? ... And there I actually have a picture of me dreaming. I did a lot of that. You know, there's a lot of wake up's! I was born in 1960. When you are 8 or 9 years old and you look at the TV set, men are landing on the moon, anything's possible. And that's something we should not lose sight of, is that the inspiration and the permission to dream is huge ... So what were my childhood dreams? ... Being in zero gravity, playing in the NFL, authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia ... Being Captain Kirk ... I wanted to become one of the guys who won the big stuffed animals in the amusement park, and I wanted to be an Imagineer with Disney ... OK, so being in zero gravity. Now it's important to have specific dreams. I did not dream of being an astronaut, because when I was a little kid, I wore glasses an they told me oh, astronauts can't have glasses. And I was like, mmm, I didn't really want the whole astronaut gig, I just wanted to float. So, and as a child, prototype 0.0 [slide shown of Randy as a child lying in floating-formation on a table top] But that didn't work so well, and it turns out that NASA has something called the Vomit Comet that they used to train the astronauts. And this thing does parabolic arcs, and at the top of each arc you get about 25 seconds where you're ballistic and you get about, a rough equivalent of weightlessness for about 25 seconds. And there is a program where college students can submit proposals and if they win the competition, they get to fly. And I thought that was really cool, and we had a team and we put a team together and they won and they got to fly. And I was all excited because I was going to go with them. And then I hit the first brick wall, because they made it very clear that under no circumstances were faculty members allowed to fly with the teams. I know, I was heartbroken. I was like, I worked so hard! And so I read the literature very carefully and it turns out that NASA, it's part of their outreach and publicity program, and it turns out that the students were allowed to bring a local media journalist from the home town. And, [deep voice] Randy Pausch, web journalist. It's really easy to get a press pass! So I called up the guys at NASA and I said, I need to know where to fax some documents. And they said, what documents are you going to fax us? And I said my resignation as the faculty advisor and my application as the journalist ..."

And he continued ...

"... Being an Imagineer. This was the hard one. Believe me, getting to zero gravity is easier than becoming an Imagineer ... And so I bided my time and then I graduated with my Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon, thinking that meant me infinitely qualified to do anything. And I dashed off my letters of applications to Walt Disney Imagineering, and they just sent me some of the damned nicest go-to-hell letters I have gotten. I mean it was just, we have carefully reviewed your application and presently we do not have any positions available which require your particular qualifications ... So that was a bit of a setback. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough, they're there to stop the *other* people."

But sometimes, some dreams are just out of reach. Talking about his dream of playing in the NFL, Randy said:

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."

And in the end, he sums everything up nicely:

"Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity."

"It's not about how to achieve your dreams. It's about how to live your life. If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dream will come to you."

(And now, just for fun: ... in more sunsets ... this time from Le Mt-St-Michel in Normandie, France)

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