When Randy receives tenure a year earlier than most professors, one of his colleagues asks what his secret is. Randy replies, tongue-in-cheek, “…Call me any Friday night in my office at ten o’clock and I’ll tell you.” This epitomizes Randy’s idea about success—that earning success through hard work and continued effort is far more rewarding and realistic than being handed success through luck.
Randy holds up a former student of his, Tommy Burnett, as a phenomenal example of earning success rather than feeling entitled to it. Tommy, an artist-turned-programmer, started working on Randy’s research team in 1993, and his greatest dream was to work as a special effects artist on a Star Wars movie. Though they weren’t planning on making any more Star Wars films at that point, Tommy remained resolute that one day they would, and he set out to learn the requisite skills to work on the films in the future. Randy worked Tommy hard, like a demanding football coach, telling Tommy that he was smart, but smart wasn’t enough. Randy’s ideal team member is smart and also “help[s] everyone else feel happy” to be there. After this coaching from Randy, Tommy became a fantastic programmer and team player. When The Phantom Menace was announced, Tommy got hired by George Lucas’s effects company. But, Randy notes, “they didn’t hire him for his dream; they hired him for his skills.” Rather than believing that his dream entitled him to the job, Tommy worked hard, acquired the skills, and earned his dream job.
In the end, Randy believes that earning your accolades is the right thing to do, not only because it is a more successful long-term strategy than relying on luck or resting on pure intellect, but also because earning something through hard work is more rewarding than earning it through shortcuts. If your dream is just gifted to you, you won’t be as qualified to do it well, you won’t work as hard once you get it, and, as a result, the experience will be less fulfilling.
Entitlement vs. Earning ThemeTracker
Entitlement vs. Earning Quotes in The Last Lecture
…even though I did not reach the National Football League, I sometimes think I got more from pursuing that dream, and not accomplishing it, than I did from many of the ones I did accomplish.
…I was hugely impressed. Kirk, I mean, Shatner, was the ultimate example of a man who knew what he didn’t know, was perfectly willing to admit it, and didn’t want to leave until he understood. That’s heroic to me. I wish every grad student had that attitude.
The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
…Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.
I made a comment to my dad about the job being beneath those teachers. (I guess I was implying that the job was beneath me, too.) My dad gave me the tongue-lashing of a lifetime. He believed manual labor was beneath no one. He said he’d prefer that I worked hard and became the best ditch-digger in the world rather than coasting along as a self-impressed elitist behind a desk.
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”