Book review: The Last Lecture

The Last LectureCarnegie Mellon University has a tradition of inviting prominent academicians to deliver a lecture during the convocation each year. However, these lectures have a string attached. Academicians are requested to think deeply about what matters to them, and deliver the lecture as if this was the final lecture they would ever deliver – ‘what piece of wisdom would they like to impart to the world if they knew it was their last chance?’ This series of lecture is commonly referred to as “The Last Lecture”.

When Randy Pausch, 46, stepped on podium to deliver his Last Lecture on 18th of September, 2007, fate had played its hand, and it was the literal Last Lecture of his life. Randy believed in the saying – If there is an elephant in the room, introduce it. Thus, the first thing he did after stepping on the podium was to tell his audience that this was indeed his last lecture, because last month he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and doctors had given him few months to live. But at the same time he told the audience that he felt fine, and at that time he was probably in a better shape than most of his audience. He also told his audience that his wife had asked him not to lecture, because it was her birthday that day, and they had precious little time left together. Yet, he had felt compelled to do it, because for him, it was also a way of passing on a message to his three children, aged 1, 2 and 5.

Best part of this book is that despite Randy’s condition, the entire lecture, and the book, remains upbeat, alternating between wisecracks, offering inspirational life lessons, and performing push-ups on stage! Randy’s lecture that day was called ‘Really achieving your childhood dreams’. He talked lovingly, humorously and defiantly, revealing the most important things he had learned throughout his life, the wisdom he had gathered. He talked about how we often take the most important things in life negatively, and thus fail to achieve our true potential. Some of the gems that Randy disbursed were:

  • Do not avoid criticism. As long as someone is criticizing you, they still have hopes from you. Consider yourself in trouble if people stop criticizing you.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason. They are not barriers, but gauges to determination and desire.
  • We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.
 YouTube hosts the entire lecture, which is about 1hour 20 mins long. I am embedding the video here if one wants to watch it online. The book though, had far more profound effect on me than the video of the lecture, since the book, gives  the thought that went in each slide.


nish said…
'the last lecture' by Randy Pausch was indeed very inspiational and moving. He has used very simple yet powerful phrases and given some amazing life personal favorite ones (apart from those mentioned in the article) go as -
'experience is what you get, when you didn't get what you wanted'

'wait long enough and people will suprise and impress you..if you are pissed or angry at still haven't given them enough time'

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