Running out of time
Robert Genn July 24, 2009 Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In September 2006 he learned he had pancreatic cancer. Feeling the need to spend as much time as possible with his family, Randy cleared his desk and moved his wife, Jai, and their three young children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe, to another state. Here, he rationalized, the children might be better able to receive the wisdom of their grandparents and begin a life without their dad. A cheerful, optimistic and innately curious chap from the get-go, Randy seemed to accept his fate with more equanimity than his friends and colleagues gave him. As was the tradition with retiring faculty at CMU, he was asked to give a last lecture, a mix of summing up and parting advice to any students or others who might be interested. Just as knowing when the date and time of the end of a vacation determines how one might take advantage of the last days, such a lecture might be particularly cogent. Four hundred people showed up. Videos were made. A book came out if it. Among other things, Randy gave some straightforward advice to anyone who might be running out of time. Time must be explicitly managed, like money. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. Break big tasks into small ones and put them on lists. Ask yourself if you're spending time on the right stuff. Develop a good filing system and stick with it. Get yourself a speakerphone so your hands can stay busy. Learn to delegate, and especially empower younger people. Make occasional time for a genuine time out. To those who heard Randy's reminders, and those who have read "The Last Lecture" in book form, it seems incredible that such straightforward suggestions can come from a terminally ill person. Running out of time, Randy's remaining days were joyful--not that he was going to receive some special dispensation, but he was empowered with the idea that people can be simple bridges to one another. Life itself will go on after we depart, and there will be others eager to keep the faith of trying to figure things out and pass on their findings. Our world is a moldable, improvable place. Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008. He was 47 years old. Best regards, Robert PS: "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think." (Randy Pausch) http://quote.robertgenn.com/auth_search.php?name=Randy+Pausch Esoterica: Randy was upbeat and witty during his lecture, alternating between wisecracks and insights on computer science and engineering education. After doing a few push-ups on stage, he gave advice on building multi-disciplinary collaborations, working in groups and interacting with others, and offered inspirational life lessons. Speakers who followed up were in tears. CMU will celebrate Pausch's impact on the world with a raised pedestrian bridge to connect the new Computer Science Building and the Center for the Arts, symbolizing the way Pausch linked disciplines.