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Inspiration and story: living the message (redux)

Ichi-nichi issho: Each day is a lifetime

You may have already heard about the remarkable Dr. Randy Pausch and his "Last Lecture" presentation. Randy, a professor at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University in the USA, was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas in the summer of 2006. In August of 2007, Randy was told by the doctors that he had 3-6 months of healthy living left. A month after Randy was given just 3-6 months to live, he delivered an inspiring presentation at his university, a presentation that has touched millions of people around the world. His presentation is a remarkable contribution.To get some background on Randy's story and lecture watch this short video promo below from an ABC special on the "Last Lecture."

If you would like to see a shorter version of his September 2007 presentation, watch this 10-min slide presentation below that Randy did on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Below is the original presentation that Randy did called "The Last Lecture." It's 76 minutes long, but try and set some time aside to watch it this weekend. (Randy wrote a book as well called The Last Lecture along with Jeffrey Zaslow).

How do we inspire others?
Inspiration matters. A lot. Both our own inspiration and the inspiration we instill in others. Randy Pausch's presentations are great, and his words inspiring. But inspiration does not come from mere words, it comes from actions and behaviors. Words matter and words and speeches inspire and stories can change the world. However, it's not only the stories we tell, it's really about the stories we live. It's not about platitudes and wishful thinking, it's about this moment and about you and me taking the chance to reveal who and what we are and why it matters. Our daily life is our story, the actions and the behaviors of our everyday life is the story that can truly inspire others far beyond the ephemeral influence of a single presentation. Randy is a wonderful example of a man whose life is the story, whose life is the message.

Keeping the channel open
We are our stories — though thanks in large part to our education and habits — we have learned to doubt our stories and edit them; we have learned to doubt ourselves. This is the greatest shame of all. Randy reminds us that we can choose to live the life —and tell the story — that is truly within us. Randy's life story is perhaps a reminder to you: What's holding you back? We may each just be a blip on the continuum, but we matter while we're here, so why not make a difference? Why not make a big difference? This is my takeaway from Randy's amazing presentations. And this reminds me of a wonderful Martha Graham quote that was featured in The Art of Possibility:Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. I made the Keynote slide below with the quote and use it occasionally; in hangs on my wall next to my desk as a reminder to "keep the channel open." (Click for the full size.)

Marth_graham_slide_2 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”            
                                                            — Martha Graham

Your approach to today
About four years ago I read Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo. I loved it and quoted Philip a few times in my presentations. Then about a year later I found his website and started reading every word about his battle with cancer. I was at that time shocked and sadden to read that Philip had already passed on June 9, 2002 at age 42. Philip too was an inspiration to me, though we never met. Throughout his ordeal his message was clear: this is the moment, this is the day—we must live every moment as we live our life.The slide below features a quote from Philip's website. This quote is a take on the Japanese expression of ichi-nichi issho (within each day is a lifetime) that fits well with Randy's message as well.


Randy's website including day-to-day updates from Randy
Last Lecture page on the ABC News website


Michael Sporer


Great post! Check out a gentleman here is Scranton, PA who has an inoperable brain tumor. He is dedicating his life to helping others, and is quite inspiring.


Saraswathi Mukkai

Hi Garr,

A wonderful and inspiring post! Each day is indeed a lifetime. Randy Pausch's last lecture truly touched my heart.

This reminds me one of Mahatma Gandhi's anecdotes. Someone asked him: "What message would you give to people?" He answered back saying: "My life is my message".

Boris Gloger

I want to say: "Thank you!" I read your blog since about a year and you showed me many inspiring ideas, video and "presentations" -- this entry once again strikes a chord in me. What I see in your blog and in your presentations is the sense for emotions, for sensuality and for the intangible things that surround us. You contribute a lot to all of us by telling theses stories. Thanks. Boris


Zen Guitar is one of my favorite books of all time. Nice to find someone else who enjoys it as I do.

Luis Iturriaga

Dear Garr,

Randy's story is fantastic and inspiring in itself. And as you say to inspire others the story we live is very important. Besides Randy's story another one that has tocuhed me deeply is the one about the Hoyt Team (father and son). If you haven't heard of them here are some links to them:

They give speeches, I haven't seen one, but they certainly have an inspiring story just as Randy.

Thanks for posting Randy's Story.



Unbelievable. Now *that* is inspiration. *That* is a story. Words escape me...

Everyone has got to watch the Hoyt team story. Thanks so much Luis! -g

Michelle Nicol

Thanks for your own piece of inspiration. I'm just starting to put together a collection of poems based on my own trip to Japan last year. This morning I was working on a piece about the cherry blossom, which I was lucky enough to see in full bloom during my visit.
Ichi-nichi issho sums up the emotions of a wonderful day spent in Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi Park, perfectly.

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