A Dying Man’s Perspective

by Al Smith

guest post by Craig McBreen 


A Dying Man’s Perspective

 Looking at the title you might wonder if a post like this belongs on Al’s blog. This is a place about gratitude, forgiveness and being positive, right? Bear with me, please.

 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.

 I’m sure Randy would have been a big believer in the C.A.R.E. movement.



 Craig McBreen owns and operates McBreen Design, but you can also find him at craigmcbreen.com or Twitter. A rookie blogger and student of social media, Craig is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but now resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife and two kids.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaarina Dillabough November 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

Craig, this post brought both tears to my eyes and wings to my heart. Beautifully written and a powerful reminder to live each day as if it were your last. Thanks, my friend. Cheers! Tigger Kaarina
Kaarina Dillabough recently posted..Are you the person you dreamed you’d be?


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Kaarina,

I especially like his message on how to treat people. He really goes in-depth with this in the book. Admitting his flaws, but making a change for the better earlier in his life. So thanks again for the recommendation.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Al Smith November 7, 2011 at 9:28 am

Thanks Craig. What an incredible reminder of this wonderful man, this speech and his willingness to share with the world. Talk about CARE ? Wow. Randy epitomizes the word. So moved and touched by his story. i cry every time I attempt to watch the video.

What is life really all about ? Watch “The Last Lecture” and decide for yourself.

Thanks again Craig. Feeling much gratitude today.



Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hey Al,

Thank you for having me, man! I really appreciate it. Randy’s message does epitomize everything the CARE movement stands for. He admits he wasn’t perfect, but describes how he made changes to be a better person. He did leave a legacy, and his message lives on to inspire and change so many.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Lori Finnigan November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

Very nice post Craig. It is our job, our duty really, to live each day to its fullest. Some days are better Tigger days than others, no doubt, but one must always be a Tigger.



Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

Hi Lori,

Thank you. Agreed that some days are better than others and we are not perfect. But, you can change a lot just by the way you choose to look at each day. It may not be the perfect day, but you can often make it better. Tigger has that one nailed!
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Barbara Klein November 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

Craig, this is so lovely, thank you so much. And I will make sure to listen to the Last Lecture, what a great gesture in his situation, celebrating life and showing gratitude, forgivennes and positive thinking.
Barbara Klein recently posted..Double Celebration for Two Impressive Ladies


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hi Barbara,

Thank you and yes, it’s well worth the time. I imagine he realized this would become much more than just a video for his kids, but probably had no idea how big it would become after he passed away. Sure glad it did explode though, so many great messages within the speech, and book.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Ted Coine November 7, 2011 at 9:40 am

Craig, this post has me all choked up. I just lost a friend to an accident a couple of weeks ago. He left a young daughter and a wife who is too young to be a widow. His passing made me think of whether or not I’m ready, which your post does as well. I can’t wait to watch Randy’s video tonight after work. But even before I do, your post has inspired me. Thank you for sharing!
Ted Coine recently posted..Stop Beating Yourself Up


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hi Ted,

I can’t imagine someone not getting choked up while watching it. Sorry to hear about your friend. That’s the thing, we just don’t know what is around the corner, so it’s best to live your life like Randy chose to. If nothing else, treat people well and try to have a little humility. Amazing that he projected such a positive message. It inspired the heck out me, really.

Thanks for stopping by.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Betsy Cross November 7, 2011 at 9:59 am

Loved his “Last Lecture”! The quality of our lives really is a choice. Isn’t it? Doesn’t matter where you are, what you have, or who you know. It just matters that you live and live well.
Thanks for the reminder!


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hi Betsy,

Yeah, it’s all about perspective, and we have that power within us. His message is kind of like a best practices manual for living.

Thanks for the nice comment.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Lori Gosselin November 7, 2011 at 10:55 am

Hi Craig, Hi Al!
I can’t watch the whole video – my brother-in-law is in this situation. It’s too close to home.
I think the significant thing for me is that he left a legacy. It reminds me of a quote to the effect that we shouldn’t be so concerned about bragging about our ancestors, but should concern ourselves, instead, with giving our descendants something to brag about. Leaving a worthwhile legacy for our children and grandchildren is as inspiring as it gets!
Lori Gosselin recently posted..What is the Soundtrack of Your Life?


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

Hey Lori,

Yes, if it hits close to home it would be next to impossible to sit through. My father is in very poor health, so it hit me hard too and I had to watch it in segments. Also made me think how honest and humble my father was. The video is worth it for the lessons though. Yes, the legacy: for his family and a message that will touch so many.

That’s a very good point, Lori. About less bragging and more doing. Thank you.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Bill Dorman November 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Ok Mr shameless plug; if you read my post then you definitely need to let me know about stuff like this now that I’m taking a laissez faire approach to my social activities.

I liked the “Do the right thing, and let karma take care of the rest, and dreams will come to you.” I am nowhere close to perfect, but I do try to do the right thing and I do thing I have some good karma around me. I fully expect for good things to happen………..

I have read Randy’s lecture and it is interesting to see what he feels is important when he knows it is ‘his time’. Whereas there are no truer words sometimes it is still difficult to make yourself slow down and truly live within the moment. My wife has read some of my posts where I talk about this, and she will call me out if I’m not doing it. Sometimes I need that….

BTW – my post wasn’t that serious; I did throw the social media guru link in there…..

Good to see you at Al’s; great job my friend.
Bill Dorman recently posted..I was almost duped into oblivion


Craig McBreen November 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Hi Bill,

Not sure that I’d define your new approach as laissez faire ;)

I think Randy was all about hard work and determination and all that, but really paying attention to how your actions affect those around you. He even saw problems with his attitude and worked for change. I do agree with you that it’s really tough to slow down and live in the moment. It is a constant effort for me. Sounds like it is for you, but you have that accountability parter. ;)

Yes, loved that video. Now that guru didn’t mess around, did he? That was great. When I need a laugh tomorrow, I’ll check it out again.

Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


Bill Dorman November 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

On the guru video, I liked when she asked of his experience and he said he had been doing it for 6 months. The funny thing was, we could all identify with that………:)
Bill Dorman recently posted..I was almost duped into oblivion


Craig McBreen November 8, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Yeah, that was funny, but so true, eh?
Craig McBreen recently posted..Stop looking for success and happiness


John Sherry November 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Beautiful share and message here Craig, very clearly communicated. Life leads to death, no avoiding that, but it also leads to self-discovery, and joy from the pain of challenge, and love, glorious, joyous love. We all leave a trail and a legacy so build them well and wisely and never give up because mortal life may end but your light will never ever cease shining in hearts and minds.


Claudia November 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Hi Craig…I have seen The Last Lecture and I cried through most of it as I cried through some of your post as well. My tears are not only for the sadness death, and in particular, young death, brings. But also for the beauty of the powerful message that Randy Pausch shared with us now and his children when they are ready. I am moved, if not a bit embarrassed, that it takes a dying man to make me take a look at my life and see all of it’s potential…al of it’s gifts…all of it’s beauty. I am so grateful to Al Smith for this wonderful month long project of CARING to share a wealth of gifted writers that speak their vision of care, gratitude and happiness. Your post today Craig, was beautiful, touching and more than appropriate for this space! Thank you!
Claudia recently posted..We Did the Monster Mash – Imagination and Halloween


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