The Importance of Dying – Part 2

A week ago I posted a video of a 47-year old university lecturer and his last speech.

He is dying of pancreatic cancer.

If you haven’t watched it then check it out here:

The Importance of Dying – Part 1

The full version is 1 hour 44 mins, but the 9 minute interview is much more pithy.


How do you summarize a life in one lecture?


You can’t. Randy doesn’t.

As a counselor I wanted to let Randy Pausch present to you himself before I commented. Because I want to talk about his story behind the story, or at least what can be glimpsed from his lecture.

So many people come to me, and they tell me how wonderful life is for everyone else. Everyone else has more confidence, more success, more fun, more of whatever they feel they are lacking.

It’s not my experience.

I see people who come in and drop the facade that they present to others every day, and they are just as fragile underneath as anyone else.

From politicians to performers, from business people to house wives, I have seen them all in a very different light. My line of work gives me an alternate bias to understanding life.

I see its apparent failings more than its successes.

And so in the light of the inspirational video I want to give you this perspective too. That in all the inspiration there are very human underpinnings we all share.

Randy is not lying when he says “Don’t pity me”, and “I’m not in denial”, he is selecting. He has a purpose for the end of his life, and no time or opportunities to waste.

What you see compressed into his talk is like seeing the final work after you have put all the rough drafts into the bin. But he got there by the rough drafts, and don’t let anyone forget that when they try to emulate him.

His humor he acknowledges, tends to be black. He has had tears, and will have more. His death is unlikely to be pleasant.

He gives a lecture because that is what his training has been for much of his life. An artist might paint, a poet might write, but his self-expression is a lecture.

Could we all be an inspiration to others?

I say yes.

As long as you understand that there is 9/10ths below the tip of any iceberg, no matter how high it towers. Like Randy, at least acknowledge that the other 9/10ths exist, then ask yourself what you are going to put in that 1/10th and what flag you fly at the very top.

-Dr Martin Russell

Read The Importance Of Dying – Part 3 here…

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Dying – Part 2”

  1. Richard Ackerman says:

    Is it reasonable to compare your comments to the general idea behind the book, “Feel the Fear…And Do it Anyway” in that we all have fears of one kind and intensity or another yet we tend to celebrate those who accomplish great things but fail to acknowledge that they, like us, share many similar fear obstacles.

  2. Yes. I think so.

    Susan Jeffers was writing about mental illness, but her approach in that book is good to use elsewhere. I appreciate you blurring the lines between illness and success. I think there is much less gap between those two categories than most people acknowledge.

  3. Kevin Gustafson says:

    Very well said. Your rough drafts hit home. We have influence on how much we put into creating the rough drafts. At the end, whenever that is, do not echo the words of Thoreau, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
    Thank you Maritn for your words.

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