Randy Pausch, Worth Every Second

I’m pretty jaundiced about internet memes, so when I started seeing ed-tech bloggers rhapsodize about a lecture by someone named Randy Pausch, I skipped ahead; yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. But at a certain point I figured there might indeed be something to it, so I went over to YouTube to watch.

In this case, the meme was right.

Randy Pausch teaches Human-Computer Interface Design at Carnegie-Mellon. “Teaches,” in the sense that he has served at CMU for a number of years, and his students have taken his lessons with them and will pass them along for generations. But not “teaches” in the sense of “has a regular class schedule, since he has been told that his particularly aggressive pancreatic cancer gives him only a few more weeks to live.

He and his family moved to Virginia to be near family, but he came back to CMU to give a lecture on September 18th; this is the lecture that’s up on Google Video.

Pausch shows some blind spots, but I know I would if I were in his position; and I doubt I’d show nearly his grace and generosity.

Among my favorite moments:

“When you’re screwing up and no one’s saying anything to you any more, that’s because they’ve already given up.”

“Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you. If you’re really pissed off at somebody and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time.”

“What a privilege and honor it was to teach that course for about ten years. . . . The course was all about bonding. People used to say ‘What’s going to make for a good [virtual] world?’ and I tell them ‘I can’t tell you beforehand, but right before they present it I can tell you if a world’s good just from the body language. If they’re standing close to each other, the world is good.’ ”

“Be earnest. I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short term — earnest is long term.”

“When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.”

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