Randy Pausch & a Legacy of Lasting Value

How important is it to leave a legacy?

One of the most powerful examples of a dad taking this seriously is from Randy Pausch. More than 13 years ago, Pausch gained notoriety because of his “Last Lecture” video.

Randy was a husband and father of three and an innovative computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Professors there do a “last lecture” when they retire or move on to other pursuits, but Randy, at age 46, was doing neither of those. He had pancreatic cancer, and had been given only a few months to live. He actually made it ten or eleven months before he died, but his lecture became hugely popular and turned into a best-selling book.

During that 70-plus-minute lecture, Randy talked about principles he believed in, illustrated with stories from his life. In the end, he was mostly speaking as a dad. He said he was trying to put himself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for his children.

The video of the entire lecture is at the bottom of this page, but here’s a five-minute video about Randy:

In the lecture, Randy talked about the importance of having fun, and that you can find the best in everybody if you wait long enough. He said that brick walls are not there to keep us out; they are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. (It’s definitely worth your time to watch it if you haven’t seen it yet.)

For fathers, the idea of a “last lecture” is closely related to our desire to leave a legacy of lasting value. And watching Randy Pausch’s story should give all of us a sense of urgency.

Imagine yourself in his situation, knowing you only had a few months to live. What changes would you make?

The big point for us is that we shouldn’t wait until we’re confronted with our own mortality to invest ourselves more in areas where we’re truly indispensable—and that’s not at work, but in relationships with those we love.

Let’s commit today to follow this dad’s lead and start thinking about what “message in a bottle” we want to leave behind for our children. Maybe it starts by sitting down with your wife or a good friend and asking questions like:

“What would you do if you had only six months to live?”

“What are the most important principles and life lessons you have learned to embrace?”

“How do you want your children to remember you?”

Like Professor Randy Pausch, it might turn into a recorded speech or a journal or a long letter. Or simply modeling a life well lived. In any case, as we all face an uncertain future, dad, please stop and consider:

What will your legacy be?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind as you think about leaving a legacy for your children? Inspire (and be inspired by) other dads on our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • Start a list of ideas—even just one to begin with—of the truths, stories, and values that you live by or that have made you who you are.
  • Have you known someone who knew he or she was going to die soon? How did they handle it? What have you learned from them?
  • If you were going to “put yourself in a bottle”—or maybe a box—for your kids to know about you in the future, what would go in the box?
  • What would your kids put in a box of keepsakes to help them remember you? Ask them.
  • Tell your kids a story about your dad (or another father figure in your life) or a lesson you learned from him.

Here’s the full Last Lecture video:

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.