Friday, May 9, 2008

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture Part-2

Randy Pausch: OK, let's talk about football. My dream was to play in the National Football League. And most of you don't know that I actually -- no. [laughter] No, I did not make it to the National Football League, but I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish. I had a coach, I signed up when I was nine years old. I was the smallest kid in the league, by far.

And I had a coach, Jim Graham, who was six-foot-four, he had played linebacker at Penn State. He was just this hulk of a guy and he was old school. And I mean really old school. Like he thought the forward pass was a trick play. [laughter] And he showed up for practice the first day, and you know, there's big hulking guy, we were all scared to death of him. And he hadn't brought any footballs. How are we going to have practice without any footballs?

And one of the other kids said, excuse me coach, but there's no football. And Coach Graham said, right, how many men are on a football field at a time? Eleven on a team, twenty-two. Coach Graham said, all right, and how many people are touching the football at any given time? One of them. And he said, right, so we're going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing. And that's a really good story because it's all about fundamentals. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You've got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn't going to work.

And the other Jim Graham story I have is there was one practice where he just rode me all practice. You're doing this wrong, you're doing this wrong, go back and do it again, you owe me, you're doing push-ups after practice. And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn't he? I said, yeah. He said, that's a good thing. He said, when you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that's a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody's bothering to tell you anymore, that's a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

After Coach Graham, I had another coach, Coach Setliff, and he taught me a lot about the power of enthusiasm. He did this one thing where only for one play at a time he would put people in at like the most horrifically wrong position for them. Like all the short guys would become receivers, right? It was just laughable. But we only went in for one play, right? And boy, the other team just never knew what hit 'em. Because when you're only doing it for one play and you're just not where you're supposed to be, and freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, boy are you going to clean somebody's clock for that one play. And that kind of enthusiasm was great.

And to this day, I am most comfortable on a football field. I mean, it's just one of those things where, you know, [pulls out a football] if I'm working a hard problem, people will see me wandering the halls with one of these things, and that's just because, you know, when you do something young enough and you train for it, it just becomes a part of you. And I'm very glad that football was a part of my life. And if I didn't get the dream of playing in the NFL, that's OK. I've probably got stuff more valuable. Because looking at what's going on in the NFL, I'm not sure those guys are doing so great right now.

OK, and so one of the expressions I learned at Electronic Arts, which I love, which pertains to this, is experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And I think that's absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it's the first example of what I'm going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don't want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it's really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff.

But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they're everywhere.

All right. A simple one, being an author in the World Book Encyclopedia. When I was a kid, we had the World Book Encyclopedia on the shelf. For the freshman, this is paper. ...We used to have these things called books. [laughter] And after I had become somewhat of an authority on virtual reality, but not like a really important one, so I was at the level of people the World Book would badger.

They called me up and I wrote an article, and this is Caitlin Kelleher [shows slide of Caitlin wearing virtual reality headset manipulating a 3D world], and there's an article if you go to your local library where they still have copies of the World Book. Look under V for Virtual Reality, and there it is. And all I have to say is that having been selected to be an author in the World Book Encyclopedia, I now believe that Wikipedia is a perfectly fine source for your information because I know what the quality control is for real encyclopedias. They let me in.

All right, next one. [laughter] [shows slide "Being like Meeting Captain Kirk"] At a certain point you just realize there are some things you are not going to do, so maybe you just want to stand close to the people. And I mean, my god, what a role model for young people. [laughter] [shows slide of Captain Kirk sitting at his control station on the Starship Enterprise] I mean, this is everything you want to be, and what I learned that carried me forward in leadership later is that, you know, he wasn't the smartest guy on the ship. I mean, Spock was pretty smart and McCoy was the doctor and Scotty was the engineer.

And you sort of go, and what skill set did he have to get on this damn thing and run it? And, you know, clearly there is this skill set called leadership, and, you know, whether or not you like the series, there's no doubt that there was a lot to be learned about how to lead people by watching this guy in action. And he just had the coolest damn toys! [laughter] [shows slide of Star Trek gadgets] I mean, my god, I just thought it was fascinating as a kid that he had this thing [Takes out Star Trek Communicator] and he could talk to the ship with it. I just thought that was just spectacular, and of course now I own one and it's smaller. [takes out cell phone] So that's kind of cool.


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