Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch’s last lecture titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered on September 18, 2007 in a packed McConomy Auditorium at the CMU, where he talked on his childhood dreams, enabling the dreams of others and some lessons learned in his journey of life. Below is the full transcript of the lecture by Randy…
It’s wonderful to be here. What Indira didn’t tell you is that this lecture series used to be called “The Last Lecture.”
If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would it be? I thought, “Damn, I finally nailed the venue, and they renamed it.”
So, in case there’s anybody who wandered in and doesn’t know the backstory, my dad always taught me, when there’s an elephant in the room, introduce them. If you look at my CAT scans, there are approximately ten tumors in my liver, and the doctors told me three to six months of good health left. That was a month ago, so you can do the math. I have some of the best doctors in the world.
So that is what it is. We can’t change it, and we just have to decide how we’re going to respond to that. 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, sorry to disappoint you. And I assure you, I am not in denial. It’s not like I’m not aware of what’s going on. My family, my three kids, my wife, we just decamped. We bought a lovely house in Chesapeake, Virginia, near Norfolk, and we’re doing that because that’s a better place for the family to be, down the road.
And the other thing is I am in phenomenally good health right now. I mean, it’s the greatest thing of cognitive dissonance you will ever see is the fact that I am in really good shape. In fact, I’m in better shape than most of you.
So anybody who wants to cry or pity me can come down and do a few of those, and then you may pity me.
All right, so what we’re not talking about today, we’re not talking about cancer, because I spent a lot of time talking about that, and I’m really not interested. If you have any herbal supplements or remedies, please stay away from me.
And we’re not going to talk about things that are even more important than achieving your childhood dreams. We’re not going to talk about my wife. We’re not talking about my kids, because I’m good, but I’m not good enough to talk about that without tearing up.
So we’re just going to take that off the table. That’s much more important. And 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.
Now, I knew I’d get 9% of the audience with that. All right, so what is today’s talk about then?
It’s about my childhood dreams and how I have achieved them– I’ve been very fortunate that way– how I believe I’ve been able to enable the dreams– I’ve been able to enable the dreams of others, and to some degree, lessons learned– I’m a professor, here should be some lessons learned, and how you can use the stuff you hear today to achieve 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.
So What Were My Childhood Dreams?
Well, I had a really good childhood, I mean, no kidding around. I was going back through the family archives, and what was really amazing was, I couldn’t find any pictures of me as a kid where I wasn’t smiling, all right? And that was just a very gratifying thing.
There was our dog, right? Aw, thank you. And there i actually have a picture of me dreaming. And I did a lot of that. There was a lot of “wake ups,” you know? And it was an easy time to dream. I was born in 1960, all right? When you’re eight or nine years old and you look at the TV set and men are landing on the moon, anything is possible, and that’s something we should not lose sight of, is that the inspiration and the permission to dream is huge.
So what were my childhood dreams? You may not agree with this list, but I was there. Being in zero gravity, playing in the national football league, authoring an article in the “World Book” Encyclopedia — I guess you can tell the nerds early — being captain kirk. Anybody here have that childhood dream? Not at CMU, no.
I wanted to become one of the guys who won the big stuffed animals in the amusement park, and I wanted to be an imagineer with Disney.