All You Have Is What You Bring With You
Pausch has always believed he must be prepared for every situation. He asks himself what he might need every day before he leaves his house, and he anticipates any questions students might ask in class each day. Now, as he is preparing for his family’s future without him, he thinks about the preparations he needs to make before he goes.
His mother took him to the grocery store when he was seven. When she got to the checkout lane, she realized she had forgotten several items on her shopping list. She left the cart with her son and went to grab the final items on her list. In the short time she was gone, Pausch had loaded everything from the cart onto the moving belt and the cashier had rung up his order. Then he was left staring at the cashier as she expected him to pay for the groceries.
The cashier decided to have some fun with him and asked how he planned to pay for his order, but Pausch did not understand she was just teasing him. He simply stood there, mortified and embarrassed. When his mother returned, Pausch turned on her angrily, scolding her for not leaving him any money. He was mortified that when the cashier asked him for money he had nothing to give her.
Now, Pausch never has less than $200 in his wallet. He is prepared. Though he could certainly end up losing that money through theft or carelessness, it is a risk he is willing to take and can afford. In his mind, not having the cash when he needs it is potentially a worse problem.
Pausch has always admired people who are over-prepared. In college, one of his classmates was giving a presentation using an overhead projector; in the middle of the talk the projector bulb blew out and the audience groaned, knowing it was going to take ten minutes to find a replacement projector. The presenter announced that they had nothing to worry about as he took a spare bulb out of his backpack.
The professor, Andy van Dam, was sitting next to Pausch; he leaned over and said that this young man would be “going places.” Van Dam was correct, for that young man became a top executive at Macromedia Inc., and nearly everyone who uses the Internet has been impacted by him.
Another way to be prepared is to think negatively, to anticipate the “worst-case scenario.” Pausch calls it the “Eaten By Wolves Factor,” and this kind of thinking makes it possible for him to remain an optimist. When everything goes wrong, he knows he has a plan and will be prepared for anything. He tells his students that the only thing they can count on in the wilderness is what they take with them—and the wilderness is any place but home or work. To be prepared, they should bring money, imagine the wolves, and pack a lightbulb.