Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How Badly Do You Want Your Bliss?

As I was sorting through the e-mails that stacked up while I was away on vacation, one stood out: a link to a final lecture from Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who is dying of pancreatic cancer.

I first read the story on the ABC site, but then clicked to watch the lecture, titled "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams." I actually haven't finished it--there are four parts, and I've only finished part one, but already I know that this man's wisdom--and humor, because he's very funny--speaks exactly to what I'm trying to do here on Gimme Bliss.

I'd like to break out pieces of his lecture and expand on them, because each sentence of this lecture is richer than the last. I suppose this comes from the intimacy he now has with his own mortality, which most of us really can't or don't want to face most of the time. Did you ever see that great HBO series Six Feet Under? Someone asks undertaker Nate Fisher why we die. His answer: "Because death gives life meaning."

So back to Randy Pausch's lecture. In the first part, he mentions several times the idea of the "brick wall." As in, he wanted to be a Disney Imagineer, but after earning his Ph.D. and sending off an application, they sent him, to paraphrase, the most nicely worded go-to-hell letter ever.

What he said next was very wise. I'm paraphrasing, but he said:
Brick walls are not there to keep you out, but to remind you how badly you want something. Brick walls aren't there to keep you out, they're there to keep all those other people out.
The audience laughed, because he obviously did not once consider himself one of those other people.

I absolutely love this. If everything were easy, what would be the value of achieving your dreams? What would separate the most devoted, most persistent from the merely lucky, or the just plain lazy? Just as your birthdays are there to remind you of time passing, brick walls show up when you most need to reevaluate your commitments and reenergize your focus.

After all, if you don't really want to become a musician, or brew your craft beer or write that book, that's a place where it's okay for you to give up. That's where the universe is asking you if you're really sure about all this. And maybe you're not. I know some people decide that the sacrifices and the work aren't going to be justified by attaining that goal. Maybe it's where you find something else you were supposed to be doing, but weren't aware of it.

But, if you're certain that you're on the right path, that this goal of yours is in line with your gift, with what you have to offer the world, and if it's something that you can't do without--then this is the point where the universe separates the merely talented from the truly passionate.

In other words, this is where you discover that that brick wall doesn't apply to you. That wall is for other people. Sure you may not walk right through it as though it were a mere illusion, but as you press up against it, searching its surface for a hold, you will get close enough to see what others can't: the irregularities in the surface, the places your fingers and toes will fit, that it's not as high as it seemed when you first saw it.

And then you will climb over the wall, and end up on the other side. But before you do, you will stand for a moment on top of the wall, looking out over the view, at what you've achieved, and you will look back and you will look forward, and you will be so very thankful that the wall was there to climb.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Randy Pausch would be proud of you and your own interpretation of his wonderful brick wall. Reading it was a very emotional & glorious moment for me.

You will achieve all that you dream of!