Randy Pausch

If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, "tell the truth." If I got three more words, I'd add: "All the time."

Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960July 25, 2008) was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States and a best-selling author, who achieved worldwide fame for his speech The Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon University, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and having only a few months to live.

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The Last Lecture (2007)Edit

The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
Remember brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from the people who don't really want to achieve their childhood dreams.
You get people to help you by telling the truth; by being earnest. I'll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short-term, earnest is long term.
You obviously don't know where the bar should be, and you're only going to do a disservice by putting it anywhere.
When you do something young enough and you train for it, it just becomes a part of you.
Never lose the child-like wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us.
If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.
The Last Lecture (18 September 2007) Lecture transcript
  • We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don't seem as depressed or morose as I should be, I'm sorry to disappoint you.
  • We're not going to talk about spirituality and religion. Although I will tell you that I have experienced a deathbed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh.
  • So what is today's talk about then? It's about my childhood dreams and how I've achieved them — I've been very fortunate that way; how I believe I've been able to enable the dreams of others, and to some degree, lessons learned: I'm a professor — there should be some lessons learned — and how you can use the stuff you hear today to enable your dreams or enable the dreams of others. And as you get older you may find that enabling-the-dreams-of-others thing is even more fun.
  • When you're eight or nine years old and you look at the TV set men are landing on the moon — anything is possible. And that is something we need to not lose sight of, is that the inspiration and permission to dream is immense. [...] It's important to have specific dreams.
  • Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcomed.
  • You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.
  • He said, when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.
    • When Pausch spoke of "when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gaveup." he was quoting an assistant coach of football coach James Graham
  • When you’re only doing it for one play and you’re just not where you’re supposed to be, and freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, boy are you going to clean somebody’s clock for that one play.
  • When you do something young enough and you train for it, it just becomes a part of you.
  • Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.
  • Having been selected to be an author in the World Book, I now believe that Wikipedia is a perfectly fine source for your information, because I know what the quality control is for real encyclopedias — they let me in.
  • 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 a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!
  • Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. He said, when you are pissed off at somebody, and you're angry at them, you just haven't given them enough time. Just give them a little more time — and they'll almost always impress you. And that really stuck with me. I think he's absolutely right on that one.
    • When Pausch spoke of "when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gaveup." he was quoting Jon Snoddy
  • It's very important to know when you're in a pissing match. And it's very important to get out of it as quickly as possible.
  • What he said was: "You obviously don't know where the bar should be, and you're only going to do a disservice by putting it anywhere." And boy was that good advice. Because what he said was, you obviously don’t know where the bar should be, and you’re only going to do them a disservice by putting it anywhere.
    • When Pausch spoke of "You obviously don't know where the bar should be, and you're only going to do a disservice by putting it anywhere." he was quoting the advice of Andries van Dam on challenging his students after they already completed excellent performances on their first two week assignment.
  • And I think that that’s one of the best things you can give somebody – the chance to show them what it feels like to make other people get excited and happy.
  • And the course was all about bonding. People used to say, you know, what’s going to make for a good world? I said, I can’t tell you beforehand, but right before they present it I can tell you if the world’s good just by the body language. If they’re standing close to each other, the world is good.
  • When you’ve had something for ten years that you hold so precious, it’s the toughest thing in the world to hand it over. And the only advice I can give you is, find somebody better than you to hand it to.
  • The best gift an educator can give is to get someone to become self reflective.
  • The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they're learning something else. I’ve done it my whole career. And the head fake here is that they’re learning to program but they just think they’re making movies and video games.
  • Respect authority while questioning it.
    • Presentation placard
  • And he put his arm around my shoulders and we went for a little walk and he said, Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life. What a hell of a way to word “you’re being a jerk.” [laughter] Right? He doesn’t say you’re a jerk. He says people are perceiving you this way and he says the downside is it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish.
  • I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play.
  • You just have to decide whether you are Tigger or an Eeyore. You have to be clear where you stand on the Tigger/Eeyore debate.
  • Never lose the child-like wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us.
  • Help others.
  • We keep what is valuable to us, what we cherish.
  • It took me a long time but I finally figured it out: when it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it's really simple: just ignore everything they say, and only pay attention to what they do. It's that simple. It's that easy.
    • Quoting a CMU secretary
  • Never give up.
  • How do you get people to help you? You can’t get there alone. People have to help you and I do believe in karma. I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the truth; by being earnest. I'll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short-term, earnest is long term.
  • Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself.
  • Remember brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from the people who don't really want to achieve their childhood dreams.
  • Don't ball. The best of the gold’s at the bottom of barrels of crap.
  • When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.
  • Get a feedback loop and listen to it. ... When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don't complain; just work harder.
  • Be good at something. It makes you valuable.
  • Junior faculty members used to come up to me and say. "Wow, you got tenure early; what's your secret?" I said, "It's pretty simple, call me any Friday night in my office at 10 o'clock and I'll tell you."
  • Work hard.
  • Find the best in everybody. [...] you might have to wait a long time, sometimes years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting, it will come out.
  • And be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.
  • Did you figure out the head fake? It's not about how to achieve your dreams. It's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.
  • Did you figure out the second head fake? This talk's not for you. It's for my kids.

Time Management (2007)Edit

Being successful doesn’t make you manage your time well. Managing your time well makes you successful!
Presentation slides from Randy Pausch's Time Management Lecture on November 27, 2007
  • Being successful doesn’t make you manage your time well. Managing your time well makes you successful!
  • Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.
  • Failing to plan is planning to fail. Plan Each Day, Each Week, Each Semester. You can always change your plan, but only once you have one!
  • Clutter is death; it leads to thrashing. Keep desk clear: focus on one thing at a time.
  • Make your office comfortable for you, and optionally comfortable for others.
  • You don’t find time for important things, you make it.
  • Everything you do is an opportunity cost. Learn to say “No”
  • Everyone has Good and Bad Times. Find your creative/thinking time. Defend it ruthlessly, spend it alone, maybe at home. Find your dead time. Schedule meetings, phone calls, and mundane stuff during it.
  • Avoiding Procrastination: Doing things at the last minute is much more expensive than just before the last minute. Deadlines are really important: establish them yourself!
  • Delegation: No one is an island. You can accomplish a lot more with help.
  • Turn money into time – especially important for people with kids.
  • Eat and sleep and exercise. Above all else!
  • General Advice: Never break a promise, but re-negotiate them if need be. If you haven’t got time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it wrong. Recognize that most things are pass/fail. Feedback loops: ask in confidence.

The Last Lecture (2008)Edit

Expanded and revised publication version of his last lecture
Even if there are failures, it brings experience. Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.
I'm going to find a way to be happy, and I'd really love to be happy with you, but if I can't be happy with you, then I'll find a way to be happy without you.
Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I've always believed that if you took one tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out.
Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.
  • Coach Graham use to ride me hard . . . "you're doing it all wrong! Go back! Do it again!" An assistant coach muttered that it was a good thing Coach Graham rode me hard, because "when you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you."
    • Chapter 7: I Never Made it in the NFL, pp. 36 - 37
  • There's a lot of talk these days about giving children self-esteem. It's not something you can give; it's something they have to build. Coach Graham worked in a no-coddling zone. Self-esteem? He knew there was really only one way to teach kids how to develop it; You give them something they can't do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process.
    • Chapter 7: I Never Made it in the NFL, pp. 36 - 37
  • Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.
    • Chapter 32: Don't Complain, Just Work Harder, p. 139
  • When told by a female colleague about how a girl can pick the right guy, she said . . . "When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."
    • Chapter 37: Watch What They Do, Not What They Say, p. 146
  • As stated in the book, the First Penguin award went to students who went out on a limb and failed! This came "from the notion that when penguins are about to jump into water that might contain predators, well, somebody's got to be the first penguin." So, even if there are failures, it brings experience. Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.
    • Chapter 39: Be the First Penguin, p. 149
  • I've always admired people who are over-prepared. In college, I had a classmate named Norman Meyrowitz. One day he was giving a presentation on an overhead projector" and the bulb subsequently went out. The class thought the presentation was over. "It's okay," Norm announced . . . and he went to his backpack and grabbed an extra bulb he brought with him.
    • Chapter 46: All You Have Is What You Bring With You, p. 160
  • If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, "tell the truth." If I got three more words, I'd add: "All the time."
    • Chapter 48: Tell the Truth, p. 163
  • The questions are always more important than the answers."
  • You can always change you plan, but only if you have one.."
  • People are more important than things."
  • A good apology is like antibiotic, a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound."
  • Its important to have specific dreams. Dream Big. Dream without fear."
  • Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I've always believed that if you took one tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out."
  • It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit...and keep moving forward."
  • When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you."
  • Time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think."
  • Look, I'm going to find a way to be happy, and I'd really love to be happy with you, but if I can't be happy with you, then I'll find a way to be happy without you."
  • The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have."
  • Never give up: There are certain times that you think, “OK, you have beaten me down to my knees. And now the challenge is, I am on my knees and you keep on beating me down. And the question is, are you going to keep beating me all the way to the ground or will I find a way to struggle my way back on to my feet.”
  • We all stand on the dart board and very few of us catch the darts. Do not think it is unfair. It is fair but you are unlucky.
  • Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.
  • Treat the Disease, Not the Symptom.
  • And he (Andy Van Dam) put his arm around my shoulders and we went for a little walk and he said, Randy, it's such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it's going to limit what you're going to be able to accomplish in life. What a hell of a way to word "you're being a jerk." [laughter] Right? He doesn't say you're a jerk. He says people are perceiving you this way and he says the downside is it's going to limit what you're going to be able to accomplish.

CMU Graduation speech (2008)Edit

Graduation address at CMU (18 May 2008)
We don't beat the reaper by living longer, but by living well, and living fully — for the reaper will come for all of us. The question is: what do we do between the time we're born and the time he shows up.
  • We don't beat the reaper by living longer, but by living well, and living fully — for the reaper will come for all of us. The question is: what do we do between the time we're born and the time he shows up. Because when he shows up, it’s too late to do all the things that you’re always gonna, kinda get around to.
  • It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. I assure you I've done a lot of really stupid things, and none of them bother me. All the mistakes, and all the dopey things, and all the times I was embarrassed — they don't matter. What matters is that I can kind of look back and say: Pretty much any time I got chance to do something cool I tried to grab for it — and that's where my solace comes from.
  • You will need find your passion. Many of you have already done it, many of you will later, many of you may take to your thirties or forties, but don't give up on finding it. Right, then all you are doing is waiting for the reaper. Find your passion and follow it. And if there is anything that I have learned in life, you will not find that passion in things. And you will not find that passion in money. Because the more things and the more money you have, the more you will just look around and use that as the metric — and there will always be someone with more. Your passion must come from the things that fuel you from the inside. And honors and awards are nice things, but only to the extent that they regard real respect from your peers. And to be thought of well by people you think of more highly up is a tremendous honor I've been granted. Find your passion, and in my experience, no matter what you do at work or what you do in in official settings, that passion will be grounded in people. It will be grounded in the relationships you have with people and what they think of you when your time comes.

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Last modified on 14 April 2014, at 12:13