Thursday, September 27, 2007

Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

I recently came back from a quick trip to Pittsburgh (from Seattle) to see Randy Pausch's last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University (my PhD alma mater). Millions of people have now watched Randy's last public talk, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." It is expected that Randy will pass away sometime in the next few or several months (hopefully many months) due to terminal pancreatic cancer.

Given the seriousness of Randy's situation, it was definitely worth the travel and the impact on an important paper deadline the next day.

Randy has been an important contributor in my field, human-computer interaction, over the last 15 years. He has been a mentor to me and also an example of how to have great positive impact on the world. I went to pay my respects to Randy while he was still alive and I came away inspired in several ways:
  • Inspired to keep working hard at my teaching. Randy reminded me why I became a professor.
  • Inspired to continue to work on creative research projects and invent the future. Randy's success with Alice shows that you can create tools that make a difference in unleashing the creativity of people who may not have the arbitrary technical background that current technology requires.
  • Inspired to keep those first two activities in perspective with respect to the importance of my family and friends. Being a professor at a top rank department can be a lot of work, but in the end it is your family and friends that are really important. I have to admit that at times I do not find a great life-work balance and Randy's talk reminded me of the importance of finding this balance.
If you haven't seen Randy's talk yet, I recommend you watch the video on the Carnegie Mellon University site. You will be impressed. It is worth your time.

Thanks Randy!