Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lessons Learned

By Amy

Have you seen this yet? He's Professor Randy Pausch of Carnegie-Mellon University and he's dying.

Prof. Pausch wanted to share some life lessons with his students in the time he has left. Not every dying man has wisdom to impart. These days, I spend a fair amount of time around the terminally ill. Some want a warm sweater on even the most stifling day, many cry for their long-dead mothers, and nearly all reach out a hand to strangers passing by, desperate for human touch from just about anyone. It's difficult to hug some of them, impossible not to. None speak of great accomplishments or obstacles overcome. I hear only regrets.

But Dr. Pausch isn't so desperate, at least not so far as we can see from this video. Instead, he's sanguine about his life's course, grateful even. He doesn't want our pity, so I'll honor that. Instead, I'd like for the writers reading this to focus on one lesson in particular Dr. Pausch has learned in his 46 years.

Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.

As a writer how many brick walls have you encountered? How many unfinished manuscripts do you have, how many rejection letters for that book under the bed, how many days and weeks have you spent wiping away the tears, drinking away the grief because you've slammed headlong into that damn brick wall. Again. Do you still want it so badly your gut twists, so much that you fall asleep at night dreaming about your writing, wake several times through, and then in the morning linger in that dream state because reality is too much to bear. Do you want it that much? Do you?

Well, then you'll probably find a way over, under, around or through that brick wall. Because you're a writer. That's what writers have to endure. It's not exciting or romantic, but when you get beyond the wall, you'll know you've earned it. Each of us has a brick wall in our path -- or a journey peppered with them. This is the life we chose, the one that chose us. Accept it, embrace it, learn from it and know how badly you want it.

Watch the video and you'll hear Randy Pausch share his childhood dreams, discover how he achieved nearly all of them. His lesson to each of us is that bricks and mortar are no match for our dreams. Not even close.

I promised I wouldn't pity Dr. Pausch. It's hard not to do when you see his three young children. So much lost, yet so much found.

No pity, Dr. Pausch, instead thanks for extending a hand to us.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


I love the metaphor. Brick walls indeed. Yet imagine the day you get over one, and it's there for you to lean on.

Beautiful post, thank you.


kristen spina said...

I agree. This post really touched my heart. Thank you Amy for sharing it.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Lynne, we shall see, though my friends who have say the view on the other side is magnificent.

Kristen, thank you. Dr. Pausch touched mine and thousands more.

Carleen Brice said...

Thank you so much for this post! No pity, but total admiration! "If you live the right way...the dreams will come to you." Wow.

Anonymous said...

Another swell column, Amy! Many thanks,

Larramie said...

Absolutely no pity for Dr. Pausch, instead we need to honor him and his life lesson by knocking down every brick wall that lies in our path. Whether we're writers or not, this lesson -- if taken to heart -- can only led to success and a life without regrets!

Thank you for sharing, Amy.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Carleen, there's so much to take away from his lecture, it was hard to choose just one lesson. Blessings, Dr. Pausch.

M,you just made my day. Thank you!

Larramie, as always, so nice to see you. Let's all bring our wrecking balls out into the world. No telling what we can accomplish.


Therese Fowler said...

I love this post.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thank you, Therese. I suspect this lecture of his will imprint itself on may psyches for years to come. Isn't it funny how sometimes we don't discover our true purpose until the end? Though he's probably served many purposes.


Lisa said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I think Larramie is right. To knock down every obstacle in order to reach our dreams honors the memory of men like Dr. Pausch.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Lisa, you put it so well. What a legacy he leaves the world.


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I loved this video and this post. In fact, I think I'm going to show it to my students as it is an important lesson. Life is full of brick walls - but the goal achieved is more fulfilling when it was accomplished despite life's hurdles. I don't pity him, but I could not help but tear up for the beauty of his spirit.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Ello, aren't you curious to know how many thousands of people have viewed, and variations of, this video? Such strength of character, and yes indeed, a good soul.