Leadership – “Experience is what we get, when we don’t get what we wanted”

Hola Todos!

Today’s leadership nugget comes from someone very inspirational to me – Professor Randy Pausch.  Dr. Pausch was a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University when he learned he had pancreatic cancer. In August of 2007 after learning of his terminal diagnosis, he gave an inspirational lecture titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” (click here for video and click here and here for more background on Randy and his book). Professor Pausch died of complications from the pancreatic cancer in July 2008.

I was watching a DVD I have of Professor Pausch and he said something that made me stop the treadmill and rewind the DVD.  In an interview, Randy was asked, “Because our past is tied so intricately to our future, do you feel that one’s worth or even legacy includes all the regrets – brick walls succumbed to – or does it matter at all in the scheme of things in this universe or this life?”

Randy responded: “Absolutely, our legacy includes all the brick walls – the ones we got over and the ones we didn’t, right?  I didn’t get into the NFL and I talked about that in the lecture, as you know.  But again, at Electronic Arts, I learned this wonderful expression – experience is what we get, when we don’t get what we wanted – and of course part of our legacy is all the things we failed at because failure is where most of the learning occurs. So I like to tell my students, you know if you are failing a lot, you are probably learning more per time-unit then most of your peers, so don’t get discouraged.”

This quote echoes my teaching philosophy that “knowledge is constructed (e.g., experienced), not received” (click here & here for full post) and the idea of failing but failing forward (click here for full post).

Something to think about today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o