The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (with Jeffrey Zaslow)

On September 18, 2007 Randy Pausch delivered a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” as part of an ongoing “Journeys” series which asked professors to create a lecture as if it was their last — thinking hard about what really mattered to them.  Unfortunately, this really was to be Pausch’s last lecture since he had been given a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer the month before.  Pausch was told that he had 3-6 months to live and as a result, his last lecture was really something special.

Pausch only had an hour for his lecture so in the book The Last Lecture he expanded on his points, describing in detail how, through hard work, resourcefulness and a bit of luck, he achieved nearly all of his childhood dreams.  Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had also taught at the University of Virginia and was a significant contributor to the field of Computer Science.  He gives professional and personal advice on dealing with difficult people and what to do when you realize you’re the difficult one.  He shares stories of speedbumps he experienced and how he overcame them.  He also shares his thoughts about dealing with a terminal illness, knowing that your days are numbered and how to best use the time you have to tie things up and leave a legacy for your family.

Pausch rationalized spending a portion of his precious, limited time on writing his last lecture and this book stating two important goals:  He did it for himself, to prove that he could accomplish this final, difficult task despite the foreboding knowledge of his imminent death, and he did it for his three young children, to whom he wanted to give something of himself that would be available for them when they got older and wondered what kind of person their father was.  There is even a chapter near the end of the book where Pausch speaks directly to each of them.  The reader may feel as if they are intruding on something very personal, but it’s this sharing that allows us to feel especially moved by his emotion and character, and in that way his message to them is a gift to anyone who reads the words.

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.  You can watch his last lecture here:

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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