October 24, 2007
Final lecture creates lasting legacy
If you knew you only had one more opportunity to pass along your own important values, what would you say? And, when would you say it?
The answer varies, from person to person. However, in Jeffrey Zaslow’s Wall Street Journal story about Carnegie Mellon’s computer-science professor Randy Pausch, the question isn't rhetorical. Dr. Pausch, the 46-year-old father of three, has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.
In addition to displaying his own integrity in front of 400 students and colleagues, his “final lecture” has created a permanent legacy for his three young children, ages 5, 2 and 1. Here are some of Dr. Pausch’s “most important” thoughts -
- Recall your childhood dreams and determine how many you were able to experience.
- Pay tribute to your background, which in his case was “as a techie.” Honor your history.
- Reflect on the setbacks, remembering that: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."
- Be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."
- After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."
- Salute parents. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”
- Remember that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. Mentor and encourage members of the next generation.
If the world were to end tomorrow, at Noon, who would you contact and what would you say?
Having faced harsh medical news that I was at high risk for life-shortening pancreatic cancer, in 1993, my response – after absorbing the shock - was to tell those closest to me how much I loved them. Fortunately, I was given more time to work on my “final lecture” which would become the book: Integrity Matters.
Regardless of the length of your final lecture, start preparing your thoughts now. My own father, nearing death from a massive stroke, asked members of the medical staff not to blame themselves for their efforts. He knew it was his time. He then thanked members of the medical team for their kindnesses, and according to my mother’s report, smiled, kissed her, closed his eyes and died. Sometimes our “final lecture” is our final act.
What you know – your “most important” thoughts - can help others; so, please, create and share your “final lecture” – soon!