If someone asked you, “What’s unique about you?” how would you answer? You’d probably stop dead in your tracks. And more than likely, you’d take time to think before you answered. That’s the question Randy Pausch asked himself when he was about to prepare his presentation for The Last lecture Series. The book, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, was eventually published.
Initial thoughts on The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Many of you have probably heard about Randy Pausch, and have seen the video – to date viewed over 18 million times – that went viral a couple of years ago. Pausch had pancreatic cancer, and the treatments he underwent did not work.
He desperately wanted to live because he loved his wife deeply. And he had three children five years and under whom he wanted to live for. He wanted to see them grow up, but that was not to be the case.
UPDATE: This was first published in May 2011.
Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture YouTube Video
At many universities, professors are asked to do a presentation on their last lecture, which deals with topics that really matter to them. In this instance, Pausch who was a professor at Carnegie Mellon, was really going to be giving his last lecture. He had been given six months to live, and hence he asked himself the question, “What’s unique about me?”
He knew it wasn’t cancer, because there are many people suffering from cancer.
“Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer; half of those with it will die within six months, and 96 percent die within five years.”
And according to Natural Health Dossier Health Watch, every 55 seconds someone dies from cancer in the United States.
For Pausch, what made him unique was the fact that he achieved his childhood dreams. How many of us can honestly say that?
Pausch wanted to leave a legacy for his young children, he wanted to leave them things to remember him by. The book, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is one of the things he left behind as a legacy for his wife and children.
What is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is About?
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is an easy read, that’s packed with a lot of punch. It’s a collection of 61 short stories and is a celebration of a life worth living. Pausch packed a lot of living into his 47 years.
To achieve his childhood dreams, there were often obstacles in his path – the proverbial brick wall.s And in The Last Lecture, Pausch walks us through how he went through these brick walls. For instance, when he was a child, he dreamed that he would some day work at Disney.
He got the opportunity to be an Imagineer at Disney because he was a computer scientist with a lot of experience in virtual reality. But the brick wall he faced was to get a six-month sabbatical from his professorship. It wasn’t easy, but he built his case and even had to go a level up in the university bureaucracy to get the time off that he needed. Pausch found a way to push through the brick wall. And you see the many brick walls he pushed through to achieve his childhood dreams.
Pausch says there are three parts to an apology and when you read what he says, it makes sense.
- What I did was wrong.
- I feel badly that I hurt you.
- How do I make this better?
Nothing less will do, and explaining yourself dilutes the apology. As far as he is concerned, no apology is better than a poor apology.
There are many nuggets of wisdom interspersed throughout The Last Lecture.
“When you go into the wilderness, all you have is what you take with you. What’s the worst case scenario and plan for that,” says Pausch.
When I read this, I was reminded of some conferences that I attended where the technology failed to work and the presenters either fell apart and got mad, or the show went on. For those who recovered quickly, the difference? They were prepared for their presentation. To them, PowerPoint was only a tool that they could do without if the need arose. They were able to engage the audience, even without the flash.
Seven Great Ideas from Pausch in The Last Lecture
- If you want something bad enough, don’t give up.
- Luck = Preparation + Opportunity (Seneca).
- Recognize when it’s time to change your strategy. “I signed up for the hardest treatments that could be thrown at me because I wanted to be around as long as possible to be there for my kids.” When Pausch realized that, that was not going to be the case, he changed his strategy to leaving a legacy and spending quality time with his wife and each of his three children.
- Get the fundamentals down for everything. Have you mastered the fundamentals for your job?
- Your attitude affects the outcome of every situation.
- Complaining does not work as a strategy.
- Value people more than you value things.
Pausch wasn’t perfect because no one is. In The Last Lecture he talks about being a recovering jerk. A professor who saw his potential, called him on his attitude and that was critical to how much he achieved in his life.
“I’ve been lucky enough to benefit over the years from people like Andy [his professor], who have cared enough to tell me the tough-love things that I needed to hear.”
Do you take the time to give tough-love to those you care about, without diminishing them as a person? And how well do you accept the tough-love that’s given to you?
While reading The Last Lecture, I gleaned three questions to differentiate us, and I’m still trying to answer them for myself:
- What are three things that matter the most to you?
- What’s unique about you?
- What do you alone truly have to offer?
Final Thoughts on The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I recommend The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch because you’ll get some nuggets of wisdom. I am confident that you’ll take away at least one thing from it.