Monday, September 2, 2013

Tools for the Journey #30 - Brick Walls

The brick walls are there for a reason.
The brick walls are not there to keep us out;
the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show
how badly we want something.
- Randy Pausch

Blog post #30 seems about as good a time as any to address this under appreciated and misunderstood Tool for the Journey. I'll admit I didn't begin to grasp the potential when faced with Life's strategically placed brick walls until I read the above quote by Randy Pausch.

I was cruising through life like any other person and far too often bumping into the dreaded brick walls. One moment the brick wall du jour was just a frustrating barrier to where I wanted to go, and the next instant...BAM! Poof! Ta Da! A moment of crystalline-clarity and a paradigm shift thanks to Professor Pausch! This Tool for the Journey goes to show you never know where or when a new tool will be presented to you.

Randolph Frederick "Randy" Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) was an American professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pausch learned he had pancreatic cancer in September 2006, and in August 2007 he was given a terminal diagnosis: "3 to 6 months of good health left". He gave an upbeat lecture titled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" on September 18, 2007, at Carnegie Mellon, which became a popular YouTube video. He then co-authored a book called The Last Lecture on the same theme, which became a New York Times best-seller. Pausch died of complications from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008. (Wikipedia)

The day I first heard The Last Lecture the weight of a ton of bricks was lifted off my shoulders. I'd been banging in to brick walls with frustration and fully believed they were there specifically to keep me out of where I wanted to go - or at the very least to slow my progress down considerably. It was Professor Pausch's quote which paradigm-shifted everything for me with regards to these red-brick-barriers.

A paradigm shift provides us new eyes on an old problem. The new paradigm isn't something we slog towards and figure out over time, but is rather a instantaneous shift of consciousness past which there's no going back. It's not more knowledge as much as new knowing; once seen it can't be unseen.

Previously brick walls were seen as purely negative; they were to be despised, resisted and sometimes even walked away from even if it did mean turning away from a goal or destination I was passionate about. Randy Pausch changed all of this for me. Talk about an alchemist! He turned the lead of terminal cancer into precious 'gold' which he left behind for us to make use of if we would just open our hearts and minds to The Last Lecture.

We all have our loads to burden, but we get a choice on how we bear our load and how we deal with adversity. Will we sing in the lifeboats or complain and make the journey miserable for ourselves and those traveling with us? Will we brave the brick walls we encounter or turn away because it's too difficult to find a way over the top or around or through?

For me these 'news eyes' are the secret. This Pausch-paradigm-shift has given me a new frame of reference, a way of looking at the problem which I didn't have previously. My friend, Erik Weihenmayer talks about how we can choose to use adversity as fuel. He asserts we don't succeed in spite of our adversity, but rather because of it. I think Professor Pausch would have liked this idea.

As I stand here before my present brick wall I've got my red cape on and I'm electing to use my new eyes. I'm not resisting the brick wall, nor am I pounding my fists (or my head) against it or trying fruitlessly to push it down. Am I uncertain how to get to the other side? You bet! Does it seem unmovable, impenetrable? Absolutely. But the good news is I'm still here, I'm figuring it out and I'm not giving up whereas before this is the point at which I might have stopped. Now in the back of my mind I hear Professor Prausch telling me this barrier is only here to give me the chance to show how badly I want what is on the other side. The new paradigm empowers and encourages me to find a way to scale this wall or blast through it or take it down brick by brick if necessary; whatever it takes. I can take this wall. I'm up to the challenge.

If you need to drive a nail and you have a hammer then it's a pretty simple task because you have the right tool for the job. However, if you have a nail but no hammer this simple task becomes a problem which is difficult to solve. Thus, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. Randy Pausch provided me with the right tool for the job of dealing with brick walls and it is a valued tool for my journey.

I can't leap tall buildings or brick walls in a single bound just yet, but I'm working on it and getting better every time I try. OK, I'm not saying I'm Wonder Woman, I'm just saying no one has ever seen us in the same room together! (wink)

Here's to the journey!

“The questions are always more important than the answers.”
- Randy Pausch