My schedule last week included a long day of cross-country travel, with a 2 hour plus layover between the flights, so I tucked several books into my carry-on bag, one of which was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Dr. Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University when he was invited to give a “last lecture,” which is apparently a common practice on many campuses today. Popular professors are asked to consider their demise, the wisdom they would want to pass along, and how they would want to be remembered. In Pausch’s case, this task did not require a huge stretch of imagination, as he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He called his lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”; rather than being about dying, he focused on really living. The video of the lecture went viral on YouTube, and the slim volume that became a national best-seller grew out of that lecture.
The last section of the book is Randy’s guiding principles, the rules by which he tried to live his life. While some of the short chapters were fairly predictable (Dream Big, Loyalty is a Two-Way Street, Never Give Up), one that both surprised and pleased me was titled Be a Communitarian. Pausch required his computer science students to sign an agreement outlining their rights and responsibilities, including working cooperatively in groups and helping their peers by giving honest feedback. In other words, he expected them to become a participating members of a community, or as he called it, “communitarians.”
As you may imagine, this did not always go over well with his students, but Pausch would make it clear:
Everyone was to contribute to the common good.
I never had a professor require such an agreement of me when I was at university, and at that time I’m not so sure I would have been all that keen on it, but I am really sold on the idea now. When all the members contribute actively to a community, the community becomes better, and the members become better.
So my challenge to each of you today is: what are you doing to make our SAP communities better? No matter what your forte, there is a need for your talents and a place for you to make our communities in the SAP ecosystem stronger. ASUG is always looking for volunteers: to help plan programs at local chapters, to speak on web casts, to plan events. There are Special Interest Groups covering the technology spectrum as well as processes and industries. The Call for Speakers for both ASUG and SAPPHIRE 2009 will be here before we know it.
Right here at SDN and BPX, there are many opportunities as well. If blogging seems like too big a commitment, start out by browsing the unanswered questions on your favorite discussion forums. You may have the suggestion that helps another member find his or her way out of a jam. If in recent weeks you have not written a blog, answered a forum question, participated in a web cast or conference session, or served in a volunteer role, consider taking your participation on our communities to another level by “kicking it up a notch.” With Community Day in Las Vegas right around the corner, this is a perfect time to consider what you can do to be a better communitarian. There will be lots of discussions that will only be as good as the session participants make them. If you don’t already know, I predict that you soon will, that by stepping up your participation level, you will get much more back from the communities than you ever imagined you would.