Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught for a decade. Born in Baltimore, Maryland. He consulted for technology companies and worked for Xerox PARC, a significant technology research lab in Palo Alto, and Adobe Systems. Randy co-founded the Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center and was given accolades for contributions to computing science and education. He built virtual worlds and taught students to do the same, which eventually allowed him to create one of the most advanced virtual rides ever made for the Walt Disney Company. He had a joy his whole life as he pushed forward to make dreams come true. Then he was diagnosed with cancer.
Randy had a desire to achieve his childhood dreams his whole life. Later in life, he was willing to ask why, in all his early photographs, he could see that he was so happy –that there was deep joy and that it was always there. Part of this questioning was brought about after his diagnosis with cancer. Involved deeply in technology, he was consistently able to capture his childhood spirit and engage new ways of using technology to entertain, involve, and educate.
In the book Mastery, Robert Greene explains the concept of the dimensional mind and the original mind and that “masters not only retain the spirit of the original mind, but they add to it their years of apprenticeship and an ability to focus deeply on problems or ideas.” (Greene, 2012 p. 176). Randy Paucsh became a master over time because he never lost his original mind spirit. When he started asking where it had gone later in life, it was clear that it never left –that he had simply grown and evolved as an artist and technologist in a way that mastery snuck up on him. This is also expressed in Greene’s book when he says, “it is hard to say exactly why Masters are able to retain their childlike spirit while accumulating facts and knowledge (Greene, 2012, p. 177). It might be fair to say that mastery, in the case of Randy Pausch, snuck up on him just by the sheer magnitude of his immersion into technology and creative arts and his eventual fifteen years at Walt Disney.
Three core things made up Randy as a human being. The first central piece of Randy’s character was a goal of fulfilling his childhood dreams. Another was focusing on dreaming impossible dreams. Both fulfilling childhood dreams and making impossible things were core to Walt Disney himself -clearly expressed in the song “when you wish upon a star” sung by Jiminy Cricket in the movie Pinocchio. A cornerstone of the Disney Company is about having dreams come true. In the case of Mr. Pausch, his passion in computer science lead him to leading designs in virtual reality and eventually the magic carpet ride at Disney. This didn’t come easy as he was rejected time and again from Disney’s Imagineering department, even though his spirit was clearly completely in tune with the principles that made the Disney Company flourish.
Karma was a part of Randy’s focus. Many people believe that what goes around comes around. In this case, deeper than Karma, it seemed that Randy wanted the original spirit of his childhood to not only be rekindled but to be part of his fuel in creation. In the book Mastery, there is a clear step of finding one’s way, ”To negate the ego you must adopt a kind of humility toward knowledge.” (Greene, 2012, p. 183). This humility seemed naturally engrained in Randy from the very start, and certainly was present at the end.
Later in life, having been diagnosed with aggressive pancreatic cancer, Randy wanted to leave something behind for his children that would give them answers and help guide them once he was gone. This is a passion that many parents feel even before being diagnosed with something that can or will kill them. In Mr. Pausch’s case, he was always in the spirit of paying it forward. It takes a particularly strong kind of person to stand in the light of death and not become bitter or useless to people. Robert Greene expresses that there are steps one can take “… to maintain an openness and looseness of spirit (Greene, 2012, p. 185). Randy, even in the pain of his struggles, maintained that spirit and the people who knew him saw that in him every day.
He died July 25, 2008, at his home in Virginia and is survived by his wife and three children (Wikipedia), living a life of dreams and inspirations along with a legacy of joy and meaning for his children.
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. P.176
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. P.177
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. P.183
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. P.185
Harpo Inc. [user rob logan] (2007). Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture Reprised, Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BODHsU3hDo4