What does it really take to make you’re your dreams reality? What would it take to make the next year your best year? For Professor Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, this became more than just a philosophical question. He was given three to six months to live by his doctors, and prior to his death from pancreatic cancer in 2008, he delivered a seminal keynote speech. He called his lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” In it he recalled his childhood aspirations and how he achieved them. It’s incredibly riveting to see Pausch reflect on life—and face death—with no regrets.
In the talk, he makes the case that his mentality might not only help lead you to success, but actually might help you achieve peace as well. Like Lou Gehrig’s famous ‘Luckiest Man Alive’ farewell speech—to which Pausch’s speech has been compared—Pausch’s lecture offers crucial wisdom that the rest of us ought to consider when creating our own plan for our businesses, careers, and our retirement and financial plans.
Here are some of Pausch’s key points:
Set concrete goals. The key to living your dreams, Pausch says, is to actively zero in on very specific goals. The ‘why’ of a goal is often the piece that gets you moving when you truly identify it. The critical first step is to write the ‘whys’ down and incorporate them as the foundation of your planning.
Dream Big. The dreams we have as kids never really go away, Pausch contended, “they just get buried under all of the adult stuff.” Think back to when you were younger. What gave you joy? Did you stop doing it? Why? Are there things you would do if you could? Why aren’t you doing them? What are you waiting for? The time will never be ‘right’. All we have is right now and in the end that’s all we really need. What would you do if you could?
Take care of yourself. Realized goals are the golden eggs, but you are the golden goose! It’s not enough to look like a success; you need to feel like one too. And to feel like one, you need to take care of yourself, both physically and financially. During his presentation Pausch demonstrated one-handed push-ups, proving how a lifelong fitness regimen had kept him strong despite relentless cancer treatments, and a dire diagnosis.
Equally important is your financial health. What are you doing to fine tune your body and mind? What are you doing to prepare for retirement? Don’t wait for a negative event to kick-
start a healthier lifestyle, or a proactive financial approach to your money. In my experience, few things will ever give you the level of peace of mind that you will feel once you know you are taking care of your health and your wealth. And you can take that to the bank (and the gym too)!
Build some fun into your plan. After his terminal diagnosis, Pausch went with his son to swim with dolphins, trick-or-treated with his family while dressed as Mr. Incredible, and otherwise packed all the quality time in that he could. He even found the time to update his web page with his adventures. “I’m dying and I’m having fun and I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left because there’s no other way to play it,” Pausch said. It’s important to put fun into your plan. You can’t put off being happy. So try to combine business with as much pleasure as you can.
Enable others to dream. You owe it to yourself to realize your dreams, said Pausch, but “it’s even more fun” to help others achieve theirs—whether those others are your clients, your friends, your colleagues, or your own kids.
Obstacles are utilitarian. As difficult as challenges are when they happen, hitting roadblocks is a universal experience. “The brick walls are there for a reason, not to keep us out but to give us a chance to show how bad we want something,” Pausch said. “They are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough.” In preparing your personal and financial game plan, you need to decide what you want, and more critically, how bad you want it. What are you willing to give up to get what you want? Will you persist even if support is minimal? Pausch makes the point that “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” As for me personally, I’ve learned more about my self by failing than I ever did by winning. I’ll bet the same is true for you, too. Few things are more valuable or rare than real, genuine experience.
It is the beginning of a new year, a prime opportunity to achieve some of the goals you may want to reach, and you have a simple method!: Play it S.M.A.R.T.!
Gary L. Fisher, MSA, LUTCF, CLTC, CFE
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.