Time Is All You Have

“Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” – Randy Pausch

When I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air, my wife walked into our bedroom and found me with tears running down my face. I’m not talking about a single renegade tear that fought its way down my cheek, this was a whole army of them. I had a similar experience while reading The Last Lecture (although this time I made sure to lock the door!). Randy Pausch, like Paul Kanathi in When Breath Becomes Air, documents the final months of his life as a father, a husband, and a professor at Carnegie Mellon.

My mother passed five years ago and having experienced it, I can say the phrase “time heals all wounds” is mostly true. The wound that’s caused by losing a part of your soul leaves behind a wicked scar, but the suffering absolutely diminishes over time. I loved reading these books because they take me back to a place I have trouble getting to on my own.

Randy Pausch knew how to live life, and he left for all of us who didn’t know him some of the most inspiring words you’ll ever read. Below are some bits that really moved me.

“When I told Carnegie Mellon’s president, Jared Cohon, that I would be giving a last lecture, he said, “Please tell them about having fun, because that’s what I will remember you for.” And I said, “I can do that, but it’s kind of like a fish talking about the importance of water.” I mean, I don’t know how not to have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it.”

“I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every time, because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term. Earnestness is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with the surface.”

“If I could only give three words of advice, they would be “tell the truth.” If I got three more words, I’d add: “All the time.”

“If nobody ever worried about what was in other people’s heads, we’d all be 33 percent more effective in our lives and on our jobs.”

“Phrase alternatives as questions: Instead of “I think we should do A, not B,” try “What if we did A, instead of B?” That allows people to offer comments rather than defend choice.”

“Halfhearted or insincere apologies are often worse than not apologizing at all because recipients find them insulting. If you’ve done something wrong in your dealings with another person, it’s as if there’s an infection in your relationship. A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.”

The passage below hit me hard because it was so real for me. This is exactly how I felt when I watched my mother die. I felt sorry for her, she was robbed, not me. She was robbed of getting to walk me down the aisle, of seeing her grandchildren, and of growing old with my wonderful stepfather, Peter.

“When I cry in the shower, I’m not usually thinking, “I won’t get to see them do this” or “I won’t get to see them do that.” I’m thinking about the kids not having a father. I’m focused more on what they’re going to lose than on what I’m going to lose.”

My Uncle always says to enjoy life because you only get one shot at it; This is not a dress rehearsal. If you need to be reminded of just how precious life is, read The Last Lecture, or if you’d prefer to actually watch it instead, you can do that as well.


The Last Lecture

When Breath Becomes Air