For those of you not familiar, Pausch was an accomplished professor at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On July 25, 2008 Pausch died. That in itself isn't overly significant. More than 30,000 Americans die each year from this hideous disease. It's the legacy that Pausch left that is significant.
In September 2007, he captivated an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University, when he delivered the Last Lecture called, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. The lecture became a phenomenon, as millions of people around the world viewed his lecture on the web.
Throughout the book, Pausch uses a brick wall as a metaphor to describe the challenges we face in our lives. He writes: "The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough." and "They [brick walls] give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
Throughout our lives, each of us face brick walls. Sometimes we want something bad enough that we climb over that wall. Other times, we look back and regret that we didn't want something bad enough. If only we had done things differently. The point isn't to dwell on those "if onlys". The world isn't a perfect place and neither are we, but if we can learn from those experiences, we'll be ready when we come to the next wall.
Pausch talks a lot about childhood dreams, and as the title of the lecture suggests, really achieving those dreams. As I was reading the book, I began to realize that I didn't really have a whole lot of childhood dreams to reflect upon. I remember telling my parents that I would move out when I was 18, spend six Christmases by myself (whatever that meant), and then get married when I was 24. Not surprising, my life didn't play out like that. It was my parents that moved out when I was 20, and I didn't get married until I was 28. And when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I used to pace when I was talking, especially when debating and arguing different points of view. I would also act as an arbiter in some of my parent's disputes. My mother said I would make a good lawyer. But when I hit that brick wall, I suppose I didn't want it bad enough.
I asked my wife if she had any childhood dreams. And apart from marrying some handsome, brilliant and charming man, she rattled off three--swim on the Great Barrier Reef, jump out of an airplane, and go on safari in Africa. She's done two of the three...she still yearns to see the world's biggest zoo.
Not long ago, my three-year old son, Jack, said to me, "Daddy, I would like to go to Paris one day." I'm sure he's not alone, but it is refreshing to see such a young boy with big, worldly dreams.
While I don't have a lot of childhood dreams, I surely have many as an adult. And maybe that's how it should be, as our life experiences show us opportunities that we didn't know existed as children.
So, I started making a list. In a sense sharing your dreams with others can make you feel vulnerable, but vulnerability is one brick in that big wall. It keeps forcing us to ask the question, how badly do we want it?
In no particular order, here are my dreams
- take Jack to Paris, so he can ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower
- there isn't a place in this world that I wouldn't want to visit, but high on my list are India, Pakistan, South Africa, Morocco, Vietnam, and Granada, Nicaragua. My wife and I attempted to get to the latter, but circumstance foiled us, and despite a great story to share about spending the night in an impoverished Nicaraguan village, I still yearn to get to Granada.
- walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem
- take my parents to a part of Europe (Venice, Vienna, Prague) they might not normally go to. A reminder there's more to Europe than Britain.
- show my in-laws some vibrant cities in East Asia
- explore New York City with my family, and take my sons on the big Toys R Us Ferris wheel in Times Square
- Visit New York, or Chicago, or Boston to watch a Vancouver Canucks game with my wife, or father-in-law, or my friend, K2
- drive across the United States
- go to the World Hockey Championships in Europe
- raise $1,000,000 for charity
- have an article published in National Geographic or National Geographic Traveler (even better would be for my wife's photos to accompany the story)
- interview Robert Milton, who is the Chairman, President, and CEO of ACE Aviation Holdings, the parent group of Air Canada (I had been chasing an interview with Mr. Milton for a few years, but kept running into brick walls)
- work in the aviation industry, whether for an airline or airport
A link to the Last Lecture website