“Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” -Randy Pausch
Maybe you’ve never heard of Randy Pausch. If not, them I’m thrilled to be introducing him to you. But if the name rings a bell, it’s because he was the Carnegie Mellon professor who gave the famous Last Lecture in 2008. And wrote the book of the same name. Unfortunately, Randy Pausch did not survive his fight with pancreatic cancer, which hit me so hard in the gut because my grandmother died of that same dreaded disease. But when I heard how much Randy loved Disney, I felt an instant kinship.
One of Randy’s goals was to become a Disney Imagineer, born of his early experiences at Disneyland. And as an accomplished computer science PhD, Randy figured he could find a niche at Walt Disney Imagineering. But as he puts it, they sent him the nicest “go to hell” letters he’d ever received.
Remembering his mantra–the brick walls are there for a reason–he approached his quest from a different angle.
This time, knowing that Disney was working on a virtual reality project (which is now the the Aladdin attraction at Magic Kingdom), Randy doggedly pursued the project’s team leader-even making a cross country trip to California to meet him (saying he was already planning on being there)! The story has a fairytale ending: despite additional obstacles thrown at him by his dean, Randy was ultimately able to take six month sabbatical from teaching to become a Disney Imagineer. Childhood dream accomplished.
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”-Walt Disney
Fittingly, Randy has a Disney memorial plaque (shaped like a leaf) located in front of the Mad Tea Party. Just like our favorite attractions, this has become a “must-see” location for us (despite the fact that it always makes me well up with tears and I have a mascara mess). I cry tears of sadness AND joy. Certainly because of the untimely death of a devoted husband and father of three. The loss of a man who inspired so many. But also with awe and respect. Randy never gave up. He didn’t just scale those brick walls, he took a wrecking ball to them. Walt would have been so proud.