How to leave a lasting legacy

By | January 5, 2008

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Famous Last Words

I’ve seen this referenced many times since it was first released, but I never watched it until recently, figuring it would be depressing (plus I just didn’t have the time). I was wrong. Ignoring the circumstance for a moment, this is an incredibly good example of how to give a lecture – a format I usually don’t support. Randy Pausch was apparently a great teacher. Just looking at the lecture, he pulls it off with a minimum of technological showiness (and he’s a leading technology guy!), and instead relies on simple images and props, and meaningful text on his PowerPoint slides. He most certainly does not “read the slide”.

And he’s got loads of humor in there as well, which is all the more impressive given the circumstance (which, for those who don’t already know, is that he has only a few months to live at the time of recording, and the point of the lecture series is, ironically, “what would you say if you only had a few months to live”). From the video:

“We’re not going to talk about spirituality and religion. Although I will tell you that I have experienced a deathbed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh. I knew I’d get 9 percent of the audience with that.”

The topic is ostensibly how to reach your childhood dreams. He delivers it in the context of his own dreams and how he achieved them – and he’s achieved a lot, especially in the realms of Virtual Reality, teaching, and storytelling (and the combination of those things).

Everything about this recording is interesting to me:

  • From a technology standpoint, what he has achieved and set in motion
  • From a teaching standpoint, how he delivered the lecture – the design, “tech elements”, and presentation style
  • From an emotional standpoint, how he pulls it together in the end. Absolutely perfect.
  • From a personal standpoint, how he comes across as completely genuine and open. Someone you’d really like to get to know.

I never met the guy or heard of him before, but he is now one of the most impressive people I’m aware of.

I strongly urge you to watch the video in one form or another. Bryce has multiple versions (one that’s only a 15 min segment) on his site, linked above. Here is the full Google Video version, and here’s his recap and segment on Oprah (~10 min). If you’re pressed for time, the Oprah segment is good, but the full speech is well worth the time investment.

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