My favorite speech on life

by Craig McBreen · 26 comments · General


This is a post I originally wrote for The C.A.R.E. Movement.

This is a guest post that was originally published on Al Smith’s The C.A.R.E. Movement in November. C.A.R.E stands for Communicate, Appreciate, Respect, and Encourage. Al has an important message, so do yourself a favor and check out his uplifting site.

Live your life the right way

“Do the right thing, and let karma take care of the rest, and dreams will come to you.”

This is an excerpt from Randy Pausch’s last lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” In fact, it’s a parting message delivered at the end of his magnificent, arresting, and uplifting speech.

You probably know the story
I did too, but on Kaarina Dillabough’s recommendation, I actually picked up the book, “The Last Lecture” and watched the entire one hour and 16 minute talk.

If you don’t know the story
Randy Pausch, A professor at Carnegie Mellon University, award-winning teacher and researcher, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in 2006 and given just three to six months to live. Happily married with three young children, he wanted to leave a legacy for his kids. In academic tradition, a last lecture is hypothetically what you say if you know you are going to die. His fate was confirmed, which makes the tone of the talk that much more amazing.

In the talk we see snapshots of Randy’s life, from a childhood dreamer, a kid fascinated with the NFL and Walt Disney, to his work in virtual reality and his experiences working with Disney Imagineering. For him, a dream come true. Presenting his background story, he infused many weighty, but valuable messages that stick with you. The speech was about life and childhood dreams, not death. Upbeat and inspirational and laced with fragments all about living each day as though it were your last. Powerful stuff.

Strangely enough, it was a dying man speaking about the best possible outcome.

He truly did want to leave a legacy for his kids, but the brilliance of the talk was how well he articulated several core words of wisdom. Pearls of advice about making the world a better place. I’m convinced his speech and subsequent book touched and changed the lives of many people.

As a child he dreamed of working for Disney, specifically an Imagineer. In fact after college he tried, but was actually rejected. Those first rejection letters were more inspirational than anything. You see, one of his lessons was: The brick walls are there for a reason: to let us show how badly we want something. He eventually went on to work with the company that lived in his dreams, as a virtual reality consultant.

Celebrate life
He achieved his childhood dream, but the speech was about so much more. Remember, he was at death’s door at the time of this talk. A dying man enjoying life, celebrating life to the very end, but doing what he did best, teaching. The speech sticks with you, inspires and amazes.

Anything is possible
A precocious child, he believed that anything was possible. And he almost pleads with us to never lose that spirit or child-like wonder. But along the way, show gratitude, help others and don’t complain. Accept criticism as a form of help, then work harder and never, ever, ever, give up. And when you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.

Some other fine pearls:

Decide early on if you are going to be a Tigger or Eeyore
Tiggers are adventurous, have fun, engage and explore. Tiggers aren’t afraid to ask questions. You all know what Eeyore was about. Randy was a Tigger, no doubt.

Work and play well with others
You can’t get there alone. Listen. Tell the truth. Apologize when you screw up, and mean it. Wait and people will show you their good side. No one is pure evil. And if you wait long enough people show you their admirable qualities.

Show humility
After Randy’s father passed away they discovered something special while going through his things. His father was awarded a medal of valor while serving in World War II. Somehow it had never come up in 50 years of marriage.

And my favorite
Don’t bail: The very best gold is at the bottom of the crap barrel.

The head fake
At the end of the talk Randy asks the audience if they figured out the head fake: The speech wasn’t about how to achieve your childhood dreams, really. They were duped. It was about how to lead your life. Remember the karma quote?

The second head fake? Addressing the audience, he said, “the talk is not for you, it’s for my kids.” He really wrote this speech for three small people too young to really have known him before he passed away.

He left a legacy for his family no doubt, but in the process created something truly special. The Last Lecture has been downloaded by over 14-million viewers. If you haven’t watched the talk, it’s an excellent investment of one hour and 16 minutes of your day, after all, it is about gratitude, forgiveness and being positive.

Has anyone inspired you to change your perspective on life?

What do you want your legacy to be?

How are you living life the right way?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaarina Dillabough December 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm

This is such a great post, Craig, and I’m delighted I was able to point you in the direction of The Last Lecture. I’m a Tigger for sure…A Tigger with snowshoes, haha! Merry Christmas Craig, and all the best for a happy, prosperous, fun new year! Hugs, Kaarina
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 12:08 am

Hi Kaarina,

Yes, I was truly inspired by Randy’s book, so thank you.

I definitely want to know more Tiggers, so very good to know you! Merry Christmas to you too, Kaarina, and here’s to a great 2012!

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Keith Davis December 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Hi Craig
Stopped after the first line.

“Do the right thing….”

Got to be the only way to live your life and we usually know what the right thing is.

Not sure about the “….let karma take care of the rest, and dreams will come to you.”

One of my favourite sayings is…

“You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” (Don King)

Sometimes you have to give karma a helping hand.

I’m away now to decide if I’m going to be a Tigger or Eeyore.

Now let me see……
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 12:29 am

Mr. Keith,

I’m one of those guys who doesn’t fully agree with the concept of karma, but I do love the message and simply think you should do the right thing. In the end I simply think it makes for a more fulfilled life with less regrets. And maybe you can spread some of that good cheer along the way. That’s all, really.

Are we talking the Don King with the big hair and big personality? Maybe I should have listened to more of what he had to say. :)

Thanks for showing up at my place!

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Tom Pinit December 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Hi Craig, my perspective on life has absolutely changed within the last couple months. I was cruising right along on the marriage/career/mortgage/kids/retirement Highway of Life, watching the scenery whiz by, when there was a metaphorical “pile up”. The kind that makes you get out of your “car” and wonder why you’re driving so fast on said “Highway”.

As a father of two young boys, I have watched snippets of Randy’s Last Lecture and it brought tears to my eyes. I will indeed make that 76-minute investment and watch the whole thing.

I’ll be officially launching my legacy project shortly, and you’ll be one of the first to know! Thanks Craig.
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 12:20 am

Hey Tom,

Nice to see you here.

This is a great comment and a well-written paragraph, Sir. Love that! I can relate as my perspective has totally changed since I started this online venture. It’s opened up a whole new world to me, really.

It would be close to impassible to get through that video without choking up a bit. Watching the entire thing is definitely worth the effort. I didn’t do it in one sitting, but made it through.

Really looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us with the Legacy Project.

Thanks for the visit.

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Tom Pinit December 23, 2011 at 6:32 am

Appreciate it Craig, thanks!
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Keep me up-to-date. :)

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Bill Dorman December 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I’ve told this story before, but sitting in the emergency room watching my father pass right before my eyes was a very sobering and humbling proposition. Almost instantaneously my perspective on what really is important in life seem to change. Even on the really crappy days, losing an account or some other stinker, it really pales in comparison on the ‘important’ meter.

I want my legacy to be that I was an ‘ok’ guy with a big heart and just tying to do the right thing and be the best I could be.

I am nowhere near perfect (except in my own mind) but I really do try to live my life that is a reflection on who I am; the what you see is what you get kind of life.

When I leave this place, I think I’ll be able to say I had some fun along the journey.
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 12:25 am

Hey Bill,

Yes, such events really make us think about what is truly important in life. My father’s failing health has certainly made me think about how I want to live the rest of my life and how I want my kids to remember me.

“I want my legacy to be that I was an ‘ok’ guy with a big heart and just tying to do the right thing and be the best I could be.”
I’d say that’s a pretty great model to follow. :)

You want to live your life the right way, and having fun along the journey is a big part of that. I guess you have that covered, Sir!

Thanks for stopping by, Bill.

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Jack@TheJackB December 23, 2011 at 6:53 am

My kids are a big part of why I blog. This is where I air it out and figure it out.
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Hi Jack,

When my first son was born that’s part of what motivated me to go into business for myself. Kids can certainly do that. :)

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Adam Toporek December 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hi Craig,

Really loved this post!

I stumbled across the Last Lecture awhile back. I watched it on YouTube, but didn’t really have time to watch the whole thing. Just skipped around and watched a few minutes here and there. It was really thought-provoking, and you have inspired me to put aside some time to watch the whole thing.

It’s funny — the Tigger or Eeyore frame might be the simplest way to look at how we are behaving at any one moment. I was trying to get a read on somebody I had a meeting with this week — looking back, the person really was an “Eeyore”. I think surrounding yourself with the right people is a key ingredient in the points above.

Good stuff Craig! Best wishes to you and yours for a great holiday season and a happy new year!
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Hey Adam,

Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!

Yes, the lecture is pretty long and I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch it all in one sitting. But it’s certainly worth every minute as it really makes you reevaluate things.

Yes, I think that’s one of the best points he made. And it’s important to not only try to avoid an Eeyore-like attitude at all costs, it’s even better to avoid people like that whenever possible.

Thanks and best wishes to you Adam. Here’s to a great 2012!

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Claudia December 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Good morning Craig…I just love this post. I have seen Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture and it has moved me to tears…and not just because it deals with the impending death of someone…the tears are more about the profound nature of his message…it is a message that I think we would all be better served to heed. We talk and talk about living in the moment but, we continue to let ourselves be seduced by the material world and all that it offers if we focus on the future and if we sacrifice the relationships that are dear to us. Sadly, so often it is not until we come face to face with a personal tragedy or a brush with death that we reevaluate our priorities. This post comes at a perfect time of the year…no matter what you believe or don’t believe, there is something powerful about this season that begs us to slow down and show our gratitude and compassion. We stop to review the past year and the lessons it taught us. It is a time for reflection and this post and the suggestion to view The Last Lecture embrace that feeling.
Thank you Craig and, if you celebrate Christmas, may you and your family have a most joy filled and peaceful Christmas!
Claudia
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Hi Claudia,

Thank you!

If this doesn’t move you in some way, well, you’re not human. It is a profound message, indeed. My wife and I have had many discussions about these topics over the last few months … well, simply taking time to stop and smell the roses and stop pursuing so many things that are seducing us in the material world. It can become a crazy hamster wheel-like existence.

Yes, now is a great time for reflection and I think the best lessons for us can be found in Randy’s speech.

Merry Christmas to you, Claudia, and thanks so much for stopping by.

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Srinivas December 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Craig,

As I’ve told you before you’re one of favorite new bloggers to read. I look forward to your posts every week. I remember the first time I saw this talk. It almost makes me wish I had followed in my dad’s footsteps and become a professor. I guess I”m a professor of a different sort :). There’s so much wisdom in this talk that it’s just brilliant. I’m going to have to watch it again.
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Hey Srini,

Thanks! I really appreciate that and it means a great deal coming from you.

I’d say you are a professor of a different sort, and your class is always in session. ;)

The speech is brilliant for so many reasons. I sometimes go back and watch segments when I need a reminder to think about what is really important. Thanks for the visit!

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Bryan Thompson December 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I LOVED “The Last Lecture!” I bought the audiobook at the time and must have seen that YouTube video a thousand times. It’s amazing how clear it all seems when we’ve reached the end of the road. When we have the right perspective, we realize just what it was all about! Hope you’re well, my friend! Hope you’re having a great Christmas season!
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Craig McBreen December 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Hi Brian,

The book is great and I often go back and watch segments of the talk for a reminder of what is really important. Like you’ve said, it’s all about perspective and not thinking or acting like an Eeyore. ;)

Hope you’re having a great Christmas season as well. Nice to see you here.

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Jen Gresham December 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the concept of legacy, and what does that really mean in the face of death, so I appreciate this perspective. I think there’s a natural tension between human connection and Legacy (with a capital L) that we don’t talk about, but should. This is the question I want to answer in 2012. I suspect that the legacy one most wants to leave behind with one’s spouse, children, extended family and friends is one of memories, not ideas. I feel like if I can find that balance, everything else will take care of itself.
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Craig McBreen December 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Hi Jen,

That’s what I think Randy laid out so well in the talk. He really demonstrates the true meaning of leaving a legacy for your kids. I mean he created a brilliant talk that details what he appreciates most about life, who influenced him, and how he went about living the right way. A synopsis of his life with some powerful messages woven in. His big ideas regarding life on this planet. Anyway, he was a brilliant guy and certainly left more than just memories for his family.

Just the way we live our lives day to day is part of a legacy, and the funny thing is you often don’t know how many people you have touched in some way.

If we are talking about ideas, I guess there are some very smart, brave pioneers in art, science, technology, etc. who will be leaving a lasting legacy and are not even aware of it right now.

Thanks for visiting and really opening up the conversation.

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Jens P. Berget December 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Hi Craig,

I read the last lecture just a few weeks after it was published. I sort of bought it by accident, because I needed a book for the holidays. I read it and I was blown away by the power of every sentence in the book. His speech is also my favorite speech on life.

I also remember a speech I watched on TED about a man who was on the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson river. He told us about the last minutes of the flight, what was going through his head, and how this accident changed his life and his perspective on life.

It’s sad that people need to experience death to understand what life is truly about. But I’m so glad that we’re able to learn from their experiences.

Happy holidays to you and your family Craig.
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Craig McBreen December 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Hi Jens,

Yes, loved the book! I saw that speech too. Can you imaging what was going through that guy’s head! Amazing little talk though.

Yeah, but the speech and book not only left a legacy for Randy’s kids, but gave us all something, so we can be reminded of what life is truly about.

Thanks for the visit, Jens!

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fatima mukadam January 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm

hey…actually I havnt read the speech…bt after hearing so good things about it m really looking forwad to see it ..I cant find the route…help me plz….:(

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