Professor, Author, Husband, Father and Hero, Randy Pausch
A rare act of courage.
That is one of the phrases I would use to characterize the contribution of Randy Pausch. Randy Pausch died this past week, but not before he would encourage millions to live every moment thoughtfully and with passion.
A rare gift.
That is how I would define his powerful legacy.
University of Virginia
November 28, 2007
Click here to read the full speech (PDF) or scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the video.
Thank you, that's very kind, but never tip the waiter before the meal arrives.
Thank you, Gabe and Jim, I couldn't imagine being more grateful for an introduction. These are two people that I've known a long time, I taught here at UVA, I love this school, it's an incredible place filled with tradition and history and respect, the kind of qualities that I really admire, that I want to see preserved in American society. And this is one of the places that I just love for preserving that. I think the honor code alone at the University of Virginia is something that every university administrator should study and look at and say: "Why can't we do that too?" I think there are a lot of things about this place to love.
I'm going to talk today on the topic of time management. The circumstances are, as you probably know, a little bit unusual. I think at this point I'm an authority to talk about what to do with limited time. My battle with pancreatic cancer started about a year and a half ago. Fought, did all the right things but as my oncologist said, if you could pick off a list, that's not the one you'd want to pick. On August 15th, these were my CAT scans. You can see that if you scroll through all of them, there are about a dozen tumors in my liver, and the doctors at that time said, - I love the way they say it: "You have three to six months of good health left." Optimism and positive phrasing. It's like when you are at Disney: "What time does the park close?" - "The park is open until eight." So I have "three to six months of good health." Well, let's do the math: Today is three months and twelve days. So what I had on my day-timer for today was not necessarily being at the UVA. I'm pleased to say that we do treat with palliative chemo, they're going to buy me a little bit of time on the order of a few months if it continues to work. I'm still in perfectly good health. With Gabe in the audience, I'm not going to do push-ups, because I'm not going to be shown up. Gabe is really in good shape! But I continue to be in relatively good health, I had chemotherapy yesterday, you should all try it, it's great.
But it does beg the question, I have finite time - some people said: "So why are you going and giving a talk?" There are a lot of reasons I'm coming here and giving a talk. One of them is that I said I would. That's a pretty simple reason. And I'm physically able to. Another one is that going to the University of Virginia is not like going to some foreign place. People say: "Aren't you spending all your time with family?" And by coming back here for a day, I am spending my time with family both metaphorically and literally because it turns out that - many of you have probably seen this picture from the talk that I gave, these are my niece and nephew Chris and Laura. My niece Laura is actually a senior... a fourth-year! here at Mr. Jefferson's university. Laura, could you stand up, so they see you've gotten taller? There you are. I couldn't be happier to have her here at this university.
The other person in this picture is Chris, if you could stand up so they see you've gotten much taller? They have grown in so many ways, not just in height. It's been wonderful to see that and be an uncle to them. Is there anybody here on the faculty or Ph.D. students of the history department? Any history people here at all? Anybody here who is from history, find Chris right after the talk. Because he is currently in his sophomore year at William and Mary and he's interested in going into a Ph.D. program in history down the road and there aren't many better Ph.D. programs in history than this one. So I'm pimping for my nephew here! Let's be clear!
What are we going to talk about today? We're going to talk about - this is not like the lecture that you may have seen me give before. This is a very pragmatic lecture. One of the reasons that I had agreed to come back and give this is because Gabe and many other faculty members had told me that they had gotten so much tangible value about how to get more done, and I truly do believe that time is the only commodity that matters. So this is a very pragmatic talk. It is inspirational in the sense that it will inspire you by giving you some concrete things you might do to be able to get more things done in your finite time. I'm going to talk specifically about how to set goals, how to avoid wasting time, how to deal with a boss, - originally this talk was how to deal with your advisor, but I tried to broaden it, so it's not quite so academically focused. How to delegate to people, some specific skills and tools that I might recommend to help you get more out of the day. And to deal with the real problems in our lives, which are stress and procrastination. If you can lick that last one, you are probably in good shape.
You don't need to take any notes. I presume if I see any laptops open you're actually just doing IM or email or something. If you're listening to music, please at least wear headphones. All of this will be posted on my website and to make it really easy, if you want to know when to look up, any slides that have a red star are the points that I think you should really make sure that you got that one.
Conversely, if it doesn't have a red star, well...The first thing I want to say is that Americans are very, very bad at dealing with time as a commodity. We're really good at dealing with money as a commodity. We are, as a culture, very interested in dealing with money, how much somebody earns is a status thing and so on, but we don't really have time elevated to that. People waste their time and it always fascinates me. One of the things that I've noticed is that very few people equate time and money and they are very, very equatable. The first thing I started doing when I was a teacher was asking my graduate students: "Well, how much is your time worth an hour?" Or if you work at a company: "How much is your time worth to the company?" What most people don't realize is that if you have a salary, let's say you make 50,000 $ a year, you probably cost that company twice that in order to have you as an employee because there's heating and lighting and other staff members and so forth, so if you get paid 50,000 a year, you are costing that company - they have to raise 100,000 $ in revenue! And if you divide that by your hourly rate, you begin to get some sense of what you are worth an hour. When you have to make trade-offs of "Should I do something like write software or should I just buy it or should I outsource this?", having in your head what you cost your organization an hour is really a staggering thing to change your behavior.
Because you start realizing that, wow, if I free up three hours of my time and I'm thinking in that in terms of dollars, that's a big savings! So start thinking about your time and your money almost as if they are the same thing. Of course Ben Franklin knew that a long time ago.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Randy Pausch, who after confronted with incurable cancer devised a last lecture that became an Internet sensation, a best-selling book and a celebration of a life spent achieving his dreams, has died. He was 47.
Pausch died Friday of cancer at his home in Chesapeake, Va., said Jeffrey Zaslow, the Wall Street Journal writer who co-wrote Pausch's book "The Last Lecture."
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006. A year later, he gave the popular 76-minute speech titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."
A professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, Pausch was recognized as a pioneer of virtual reality research and became known on campus for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor.
His book was published in April and leaped to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists, where it remained this week.
Pausch said he dictated the book to Zaslow by cell phone.
The speech last fall was part of a series Carnegie Mellon previously called "The Last Lecture," where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk. In Pausch's case, the popular professor really was facing death — and he talked about what his childhood dreams had taught him about life.
His message and story were so powerful they landed him on "Oprah" and other TV shows.
Born in 1960, Pausch received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. He taught at the University of Virginia from 1988 to 1997, when he came to Carnegie Mellon.
So you've got to manage it and you've got to manage it just like you manage your money. Now I realize not all Americans manage their money, that's what makes the credit card industry possible. And apparently, mortgages too. But most people do at least understand - they don't look at you funny if you say: "Can I see your monetary budget for your household?" In fact, when I say "your household budget", you presume that I'm talking about money when in fact the household budget I really want to talk about is probably your household time budget.
At the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon, students would come in during the orientation, I would say: "This is a master's program, everybody is paying full tuition." It was roughly 30,000 $ a semester, and the first thing I would say is: "If you're going to come into my office and say: "I don't think this is worth 60,000 $ a year", I will throw you out of the office. I'm not even going to have this discussion." Of course they would say: "Oh god, this Pausch guy is a real jerk." And then they were right! But what I then followed on with was: "Because the money is not important. You can go and earn more money later. What you'll never do is get the two years of your life back. So if you want to come into my office and talk about the money, I'll throw you out, but if you want to come into my office and say: "I'm not sure this is a good place for me to spend two years", I will talk to you all day and all night because that means we're talking about the right thing, which is your time, because you can't ever get it back."
A lot of the advice I'm going to give you particularly for undergraduates - how many people in this room are undergraduates, by show of hands? Okay, good! Still young! A lot of this - put it to Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Life if you're old enough: "Hear me now, but believe me later!" A lot of this is going to make sense later, and one of the nicest things is that Gabe has volunteered to put this up on the web. I understand that people can actually watch videos on the web now. So a lot of this will make sense later, and when I talk about your boss if you're a student, think about that as your academic advisor, if you're a Ph.D. student, think about it as your Ph.D. advisor, and if you're watching this and you are a young child, think of this as your parent because that is the person who is in some sense your boss.
The talk goes very fast and I'm very big on specific techniques. I'm not really big on platitudes. Platitudes are nice, but they don't really help me get something done tomorrow. The other thing is that one good thief is worth ten good scholars. And in fact, you can replace the word "scholars" in that sentence with almost anything. Almost everything in this talk is to some degree inspired, which is a fancy way of saying lifted, from these two books [Cathy Collins: Time Management for Teachers, 1987; Career Track Seminar: Taking control of Your Work Day, 1990], and I found those books very useful but it's much better to get them into a distilled form. What I've basically done is I've collected the nuggets for your bath.
I like to talk about "The Time Famine". I think it's a nice phrase. Does anybody here feel like they have too much time? Okay, nobody, excellent. I like the word "famine", because it's a little bit like thinking about Africa. You can airlift all the food you want in to solve the crisis this week but the problem is systemic, and you really need systemic solutions. A time management solution that says, "I'm going to fix things for you in the next 24 hours" is laughable, just like saying: "I'm going to cure hunger in Africa in the next year." You need to think long-term and you need to change fundamental underlying processes because the problem is systemic, we just have too many things to do and not enough time to do them.
The other thing to remember is that it's not just about time management. That sounds like a kind of a lukewarm, a talk about time management, that's kind of milk-toast. But how about if the talk is: How about not having ulcers? That catches my attention! So a lot of this is life advice. This is, how to change the way you're doing a lot of the things and how you allocate your time so that you will lead a happier, more wonderful life, and I loved in the introduction that you talked about fun! Because if I've brought fun to academia, well, it's about damn time! If you're not going to have fun, why do it? That's what I want to know. Life really is too short, if you're not going to enjoy it... People who say: "Well, I've got a job and I don't really like it", I'm like: "Well, you could change?!" "But that'll be a lot of work!" - "You're right, you should keep going to work every day doing a job you don't like. Thank you, good night."
So the overall goal is fun. My middle child Logan is my favorite example. I don't think he knows how to not have fun. No, grant, the lot of the things he does are not fun for his mother and me. But he's loving every second of it. He doesn't know to do anything that isn't ballistic and full of life. He's going to keep that quality, he's my little Tigger, and I always remember Logan when I think about the goal is to make sure that you lead your life - I want to maximize use of time, but that's the means, not the end. The end is maximizing fun.
People who do intense studies and log people on videotape and so on say that the typical office worker wastes almost two hours a day. Their desk is messy, they can't find things, they miss appointments, are unprepared for meetings, they can't concentrate. Does anybody in here by show of hands ever have any sense that one of these things is part of their life? Okay, I think we've got everybody! So these are a universal thing and you shouldn't feel guilty if some of these things are plagueing you because they plague all of us, they plague me for sure.