Lecture of a Lifetime – Randy Pausch

1 Comment October 13, 2007 / Posted in Mindfulness

Present Moment
Wonderful Moment

In the September 20th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Jeff Zaslow wrote about Randy Pausch in his column. The article is titled: A Beloved Professor Delivers the Lecture of a Lifetime.

As Zaslow says:

They had come to see him give what was billed as his “last lecture.” This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O’Connor recently titled her lecture “Get Over Yourself.” At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled “Desire,” spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

Randy truly lives mindfully.

What was interesting to me was the fact that Randy was given several months to live. Bruce West in his book: Where Medicine Went Wrong talks about the fact that medicine in its statistics used the Gaussian Curve, better known by most of us as the Bell shaped curve. This curve is known as The Law of Frequency; of Errors or just the law of errors or called: The Standard Deviation of the Mean.

In simple terms we are looking at the average of the averages. So what it means is that we are never looking at a unique point. It is the average of many points. So when it comes to us humans, the statistics are mortality statistics that are averaged. So the person who lived 14 years and the person who lived 2 months or 1 week after being diagnosed with an life ending illness, are lumped together with the millions of others that died from that illness and we come up with: The Standard Deviation of the Mean.

Bruce talks about the Inverse Power Law where the unique individual can be included. It has a long tail so everyone is at a specific point along that curve.

Under the Gaussian Curve Randy has been given so many months to live. In reality, we don’t know how long he will live, until he dies. I met a young man years ago who was given months to live and like Randy he had pancreatic cancer. When I spoke with him to speak to another person with pancreatic cancer, it was 8 years and counting since his diagnosis of several months to live.

In Present Moment Wonderful Moment Thich Nhat Hanh reflects on the 50 Gathas, short verses said during parts of the day to help one stay in the present moment. The first called Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Randy Pausch shares with us what it means to be aware, awake, and present.

1 Comment... What do you think? Subscribe via RSS
  1. Sara Gold said on October 29th, 2007 at 6:22 am

    Some lessons from Randy Pausch’s last lecture that especially moved me:

    1. Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.
    2. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
    3. Never lose the child-like wonder.
    4. If we do something which is pioneering, we will get arrows in the back. But at the end of the day, a whole lot of people will have a whole lot of fun.
    5. Be good at something; it makes you valuable.
    6. If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, and the dreams will come to you.

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