Carnegie Mellon University used to run a lecture series called “The Last Lecture”.
The premise was that, if this was your last lecture before you died, what would you say? It invited some of the great minds to give this ‘last lecture’.
It then changed the name of the lecture series to “Journeys”.
The irony of this was not lost on lecturer Randy Pausch. For his lecture fell into the “Journeys” series but, in fact, it was his last lecture. That part of it, he had nailed – he had terminal cancer. He was 47.
It was pancreatic cancer, which is one of those ‘no tomorrow’ types of cancer that has taken the lives of many, including Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, Luciano Pavarotti and Di Gribble. It remains one of the cancers that is considered mostly incurable.
Yet, in the face of his impending death, Pausch gave this remarkable last lecture about achieving your childhood dreams.
He doesn’t talk about cancer. He doesn’t talk about his personal struggle with saying goodbye to his wife and kids. He doesn’t talk about spirituality.
He does, however, explain that he had a deathbed conversion. He bought a Mac.
He also explains how he achieved his childhood dreams and what he learned in his pursuit of them.
The lecture was recorded, almost as an after thought, for friends and family of Pausch who could not attend. Nearly 16 million views later it remains an inspiring, optimistic look at dreams, leadership and entrepreneurship.
It’s incredible stuff.