The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

Many of us tend to drift through life, watching a lot of TV, wasting time in long lines, dealing with "squeaky doors" but not thinking much about how what we do today helps our long term goals and priorities. It usually takes a serious wake-up call for us to realize how precious life is.

Randy Pausch got such a wake-up call. Although he seemed really healthy on the outside, and was a brilliant professor, doctors found that cancer was attacking his systems. He had only a 5% chance of surviving more than five years. He fought the cancer aggressively, but soon it traveled to other parts of his body and his doctors were giving him 3-6 months of healthy living. This is a man who, after waiting a while for marriage, had a family of three small children. Coincidentally, Randy was also asked by his school to give a "last lecture". These lectures are traditional speeches where a teacher tells the audience what knowledge he'd want to impart if he was going to die soon. Since Randy was in fact going to die soon, it made the meaning that much more powerful to him.

Randy's lecture was videotaped and spread like wildfire on YouTube. This book is in essence a follow up to that talk. It describes the context for the talk, and goes over some of the background details for it, but it also expands and offers much more information about Randy, his life and his philosophy.

The key message here is to live in the present, to enjoy what you have. There are always stumbling blocks in life, brick walls that you run into. Your task is not to complain about them, but to barrel your way through. Show your commitment to your dreams and goals. Don't waste your time watching repeats of TV shows when your life-long dream is to run a bakery. Spend your time researching, planning and heading towards that goal. If you have always wanted to hike in the Grand Canyon, don't dismiss it while you spend your extra hours playing video games. Map out a budget, take on a second job, and save up the money. You would be very surprised at how many goals are actually within reach if you focus on them.

You could say that Randy's message is one we've read before, hundreds of times, in other similar books. Sure, that is probably true. However, each of us responds to different language, to different mental images. It might be that someone read 10 other books on similar topics and didn't "get it" - but when they read this one suddenly it clicks. That's the way our brains are. There is always something new to learn from each person's story if we pay attention. Randy's message is to really enjoy the good things you have, rather than obsessing about the problems. We all have blessings in our lives, if we look honestly at our world.

I really like how Randy talks about the students he's influenced, and how they go on to influence others. That is so key in our world. If we are able to lead by example, and help others get onto a healthy path, that causes ripple effects that can go on for years. It is so worthwhile to take the time to help out others. You never know what small gesture will really affect someone's life.

Is this an "ultimate book"? I wouldn't say that. However, it has valuable information in it, and I definitely would recommend that people at least borrow it from the library and read through it. It's a healthy reminder of what is important in life.

Highly recommended!

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