Lifestyle

Learning how to surrender

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Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.

—Gail Sheehy

I have a list of favorite Web sites saved on my computer and for the last five months I have been regularly visiting Randy Pausch’s official site. I can’t recall who it was that encouraged me to visit YouTube and watch Pausch deliver a “Last Lecture” to his students and professorial colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, but so significant was the experience I will always remember 2008 as the year daughter No. 2 flew from the nest and I became aware of Professor Randy Pausch. It is the year I once again observed the beauty and utter terror associated with watching someone die from pancreatic cancer.

The last time I walked anyone down that path was two short years ago and that time I walked beside my dad.

I don’t know Randy Pausch personally, of course, but there is everything to love and hate about his story. There is his wife Jai and their three precious young children. There is his distinguished career in academia involving his development of human computer interaction and design. There is knowing he married the love of his life at 39, experienced the joy of seeing three children born, had the good fortune of truly loving his career, and seeing many of his childhood dreams come true because he worked hard and found a way to harness his creativity and passion.

For awhile I have been able to stay focused on all there is to be happy about Randy’s story. I’ve been inspired by his refreshingly candid and straightforward approach to his mortality because his palliative chemotherapy has bought him more time and a good quality of life. I have been able to hear Randy talk about the fact that he will not survive this disease with some amount of distance. “Some day” seemed off in the distance somewhere.

But the last few weeks Randy has suffered from heart and kidney failure — although drug regimens have been restoring the functions of these organs and he is slowly bouncing back. He’s also losing weight once again and this week he notes on his Web site that the cancer is beginning to metastasize into his lungs, chest and abdominal cavity. He hopes to be strong enough in the near future to buy more time with additional chemotherapy.

I am forced, once again to surrender — surrender to the knowledge of the medical community. Surrender my rose-colored world that grants miracles simply because I desire them. Surrender Pausch and others fighting cancer to God who allows these circumstances but also gives people a vision for creating hope and beauty when at first glance it all seems utterly tragic.

This letting go — surrendering to outcomes that takes me away from my sense of security — is tough and it is Pausch who is making it easier. He’s gifted the world with some final thoughts worth considering because they might just make the living so much the better. As Pausch would say it, “Here’s what worked for me.”

Dream Big. As a scientist, Pausch sees inspiration as the ultimate tool for doing good. It’s costly to put man into space, he points out, but it inspires people to achieve the maximum human potential. People possess untapped potential.

Being earnest is better than hip. Hip is short-term; earnest long-term. Being earnest is highly underestimated yet those who are earnest in their endeavors can do things that have the potential to last for generations.

Make Deals. When there is conflict, strike a deal and make a plan where everyone is heard and everyone can win. This means everybody gives up a little something, but can experience a desired outcome.

Meet people properly. Look them in the eyes. Sit beside them. Pronounce their name correctly. Let them talk.

Look for the best in everybody. Almost everyone has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.

Hand write thank you notes. Keep a supply close at hand. Take a minute and express appreciation. You never know what might happen as a result.

Work hard. If you do, you’ll learn your craft and you’ll become more efficient, able, and happier.

Learn how to make a proper apology. It will have three parts:

What I did was wrong.

I feel badly that I hurt you.

How can I make this better?

No job is beneath you. This is a message especially meant for young people who have a growing sense of entitlement. Whatever the job, when you get there, here’s what you do: You get really good at doing it.

Sometimes all we have to do is ask and it can lead to your dreams coming true. No doubt Randy Pausch would have never asked for this deadly cancer, but without it life would not be as deep and wide as it is for Randy and his family. There would be no YouTube lecture, book, or defining moments so rich they take his breath away and ours as well.

Let’s surrender the security. The outcomes may last generations.

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