Randy Pausch lecture and feedback

Wax Banks pointed me at this lecture which you can see on Google Video by a CMU professor named Randy Pausch.

Dr. Pausch has lived an incredible life, and this lecture is about achieving your childhood dreams – he talks about his dreams, from being in zero gravity to being an Imagineer for Disney to being Captain Kirk, and how he achieved them (he didn’t get to be Captain Kirk, but he did land a walk-on role in the new Star Trek movie). He goes on to talk about helping other people achieve their dreams, and the satisfaction that comes from that. It’s a great lecture – I meant to only watch the beginning, but I ended up staying up late and watching the entire hour and a half.

One thought-provoking moment from early in the lecture is his experience as a high school football player. He had a bad day, and the coach was yelling at him throughout the practice. At the end of practice, an assistant coach sidled up to him and said “Coach was riding you pretty hard today”, and he glumly said “Yeah.” The assistant coach said, “That’s a good thing. When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you any more, that means they gave up.”

I love that one line summary of the importance of criticism and feedback. I’ve written about the importance of feedback and the feedback sessions. I’ve also written about the value of harshness where I say “I want to be criticized. I want to find out what I’m doing wrong. How am I going to get better otherwise?” And I agree with that unnamed assistant coach – if you’re not getting feedback, that means that people have given up on you.

That sentiment also reminds me of my time at Signature. Signature BioScience had many young folks in their first or second jobs, and we were complaining about everything, sometimes legitimately and sometimes not. One of the older and wiser engineers told me at one point “You don’t understand this now, but it’s a good thing when people are complaining. When they stop complaining, that means they no longer care.” Same sentiment from the opposite direction – if I’m a manager and I’m not hearing anything from my employees, they are either still complaining and I don’t know about it (bad) or they have mentally checked out of the company and are looking for other jobs (worse). Complaining can be a sign of a healthy company where debates are happening between people passionate about trying to make the company successful.

There were lots of other great moments in the lecture, like when he described brick walls as an obstacle to help one figure out how to get past them. It was inspiring to hear about all of his accomplishments and I’ll have to see if I can figure out what my dreams are and how to move forward on achieving those dreams.

One thought on “Randy Pausch lecture and feedback

  1. “Figure out what your dreams are?”

    You are fooling no one. Probably not even yourself.

    That’s the beauty of dreams. They’re right there on the surface. Just admit them to yourself.

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