I read a book entitled "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. Randy is a Professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. And he is also battling pancreatic cancer; last August 2007 he was diagnosed with 3 - 6 months to live.
Randy covers a range of different accomplishments in his book, but he has found a way to "pay it forward" on a grand scale by pioneering the Alice project, which is free educational software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment. Alice looks really cool and reminds me of my "The Future of Open Source" post, where I described how Roblox (a 3D world not dissimilar to Alice) is grooming our next generation of developers.
Anyhow, this book struck a chord with me on a variety of fronts. Since my father-in-law died of pancreatic cancer and my own father died from brain cancer, I can relate to what Randy's family is going through.
Randy is only a few years older than me, so I just chuckle at how some of his childhood dreams and travels feel so familiar to me. For example, Randy's sport was football, mine was baseball. While neither of us made it to the big leagues, we both had coaches who taught us the importance of learning the fundamentals; a lesson that can be applied to almost every aspect of life.
The following "Last Lecture" presentation was given at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007. The Last Lecture series asks professors to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. Ironic given the fact that Randy is actually facing his own demise. Anyhow, this inspirational presentation by Randy Pausch offers a nice summary of what's covered in his book:
As if the above presentation was not enough, this past May 2008 (9 months after his diagnosis) Randy gave a 6 minute commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon that is absolutely worth watching. His key point of inspiration to the audience:
Find and Follow Your Passion
Passion does not come from things or money. It comes from things that fuel you from the inside. Passion is grounded in people and what they think of you. Achieving your goals is not easy, so use your passion and the help of people who respect you to break through the "brick walls" that you encounter along the way.
For your convenience, below are a series of links to Randy Pausch videos starting with his Last Lecture in September, his interview with Diane Sawyer in April, and his Carnegie Mellon commencement speech in May.
Randy Pausch - The Last Lecture Presentation on September 18, 2007
Randy Pausch - Part 1 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
Randy Pausch - Part 2 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
Randy Pausch - Part 3 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
Randy Pausch - Part 4 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
Randy Pausch - Part 5 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
Randy Pausch - CMU Commencement Speech on May 18,2008