The Importance of Inspiration

Carpe diem! Seize the day – each and every day.

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As a cancer survivor, I constantly seek inspiration to lift me up each day. Inspiration comes in many forms and from many sources. For example, I often speak of Clint Eastwood’s “a man has to know his limitations” quote as a way for us to focus on our current strengths. Yes, that Clint Eastwood offers real inspiration to me.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, inspiration may be defined in this way. It is “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone. : a person, place, experience, etc.”

Today, I’d like to look at the power of inspirational video through three examples involving those who motivate us, even in their absence due to cancer: Jim Valvano, Steve Jobs, and Randy Pausch.

For me, the most inspirational video I’ve seen is a speech given by former champion basketball coach Jim Valvano. He gave the speech at an ESPN ESPY award ceremony shortly before his death. As noted on YouTube: “The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano with one goal in mind: to achieve victory over cancer. Since its start in 1993, the V Foundation has awarded over $170 million in cancer research grants nationwide and has grown to become one of the premier supporters of cutting-edge cancer research funds.”

What stands out and inspires me every day is this Valvano quote from that speech: “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think – spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a heck of a day.” Here’s the YouTube link:

Steve Jobs is certainly well-known for his worldwide exploits while at Apple. And many of us know that Jobs died of pancreatic cancer. It’s hard to believe that it’s already more than seven years ago since his passing. Fewer people are aware of his incredible 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. I say this knowing that the video has been viewed more than 30 million times.

Why is this speech so special? Jobs presented a very different side of himself. The speech was delivered in a rather folksy and personal manner, not as an oracle speaking. He mixed personal stories with humor and down-to-earth advice. He put himself out there by discussing his adoption, his dropping out of college, and a lot more. To this day (and I’ve watched the video more than a dozen times), I am still in awe of this speech and inspired by it. As noted at YouTube: “Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks – including death itself.” Here’s the YouTube link:

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science, human–computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University. He was quite accomplished and popular. Like Steve Jobs, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In September 2006, he learned that he had pancreatic cancer. And in August 2007, Pausch received a terminal diagnosis. He passed away in July 2008.

After receiving his terminal diagnosis, Pausch decided to speak about his illness and offer life lessons, using the theme of The Last Lecture. As noted on YouTube: “Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch gave his last lecture at the university September 18, 2007, before a packed auditorium. In his moving [and inspirational] presentation, ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,’ Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.” Here’s the YouTube link:

Not only do these three speeches inspire me, they also (1) make me realize how very lucky I am to be here today; and (2) motivate me to want to give back to others through my own writings and talks.

Carpe diem! Seize the day – each and every day.

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