Monday, July 28, 2008

What really matters

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard the story about Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch and his famous ”last lecture.“

In the summer of 2006 the virtual reality expert was diagnosed pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal. (Steve Jobs being the notable exception). Last September, Prof. Pausch gave a 76-minute lecture to his students which got a standing ovation and has won millions of online views at places like YouTube and Google Video.

Ever since, he has been the subject of ongoing publicity and attention. He was the subject of an hour feature on ABC News Primetime (which is also available online). (A transcript is also available at the CMU website).

The lecture became a book, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has its own website. The book was co-authored by a Wall Street Journal reporter who heard the lecture and worked with Pausch to see it published before he died.

Dr. Pausch died Friday at the age of 47, leaving behind a wife and three kids. Befitting the logic of an engineer, he optimized the use of his final months. As the NYT summarized a few months ago:
The real wisdom of Dr. Pausch is that he tries to enjoy every day he has left with his family, while at the same time trying to prepare them for life without him. To that end, he is videotaping himself spending time with Dylan, Logan and Chloe so they can look back and see how he felt about them.
No one knows how long they have in this world, but Dr. Pausch seems to have made the best possible use of his advance notice — and changed a few lives in the process.

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