- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Two Roads; Latest edition (17 April 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340977736
- ISBN-13: 978-0340977736
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
- Customer Reviews: 2,544 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Last Lecture Paperback – 17 April 2008
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"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." --Randy Pausch
A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.
Questions for Randy Pausch
We were shy about barging in on Randy Pausch's valuable time to ask him a few questions about his expansion of his famous Last Lecture into the book by the same name, but he was gracious enough to take a moment to answer. (See Randy to the right with his kids, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe.) As anyone who has watched the lecture or read the book will understand, the really crucial question is the last one, and we weren't surprised to learn that the "secret" to winning giant stuffed animals on the midway, like most anything else, is sheer persistence.
Amazon.com: I apologize for asking a question you must get far more often than you'd like, but how are you feeling?
Pausch: The tumors are not yet large enough to affect my health, so all the problems are related to the chemotherapy. I have neuropathy (numbness in fingers and toes), and varying degrees of GI discomfort, mild nausea, and fatigue. Occasionally I have an unusually bad reaction to a chemo infusion (last week, I spiked a 103 fever), but all of this is a small price to pay for walkin' around.
Amazon.com: Your lecture at Carnegie Mellon has reached millions of people, but even with the short time you apparently have, you wanted to write a book. What did you want to say in a book that you weren't able to say in the lecture?
Pausch: Well, the lecture was written quickly--in under a week. And it was time-limited. I had a great six-hour lecture I could give, but I suspect it would have been less popular at that length ;-). A book allows me to cover many, many more stories from my life and the attendant lessons I hope my kids can take from them. Also, much of my lecture at Carnegie Mellon focused on the professional side of my life--my students, colleagues and career. The book is a far more personal look at my childhood dreams and all the lessons I've learned. Putting words on paper, I've found, was a better way for me to share all the yearnings I have regarding my wife, children and other loved ones. I knew I couldn't have gone into those subjects on stage without getting emotional.
Amazon.com: You talk about the importance--and the possibility!--of following your childhood dreams, and of keeping that childlike sense of wonder. But are there things you didn't learn until you were a grownup that helped you do that?
Pausch: That's a great question. I think the most important thing I learned as I grew older was that you can't get anywhere without help. That means people have to want to help you, and that begs the question: What kind of person do other people seem to want to help? That strikes me as a pretty good operational answer to the existential question: "What kind of person should you try to be?"
Amazon.com: One of the things that struck me most about your talk was how many other people you talked about. You made me want to meet them and work with them--and believe me, I wouldn't make much of a computer scientist. Do you think the people you've brought together will be your legacy as well?
Pausch: Like any teacher, my students are my biggest professional legacy. I'd like to think that the people I've crossed paths with have learned something from me, and I know I learned a great deal from them, for which I am very grateful. Certainly, I've dedicated a lot of my teaching to helping young folks realize how they need to be able to work with other people--especially other people who are very different from themselves.
Amazon.com: And last, the most important question: What's the secret for knocking down those milk bottles on the midway?
Pausch: Two-part answer:
1) long arms
2) discretionary income / persistence
Actually, I was never good at the milk bottles. I'm more of a ring toss and softball-in-milk-can guy, myself. More seriously, though, most people try these games once, don't win immediately, and then give up. I've won *lots* of midway stuffed animals, but I don't ever recall winning one on the very first try. Nor did I expect to. That's why I think midway games are a great metaphor for life.
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The background is significant. The author, Professor Randy Pausch, then in his mid 40s, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told that he had only a few months to live. He had been married for only eight years and had three young children.
Randy and his wife Jai faced this tragedy with remarkable fortitude. They decided to make the best of his remaining time, moving to a different city, putting their affairs in order, and so on. However, the professor wanted to leave a unique legacy for his students and – more importantly – his children: a lecture on achieving one’s childhood dreams. Most of this book is about how this “last lecture” took shape in the author’s mind and how it was eventually presented to a packed audience.
Despite the devastating circumstances, the author does not lose his sense of humour. For instance, in one of the early chapters, this is what he says about his lecturing skills – being known as the best speaker in the computer science department of his university was like being known as the “tallest of the seven dwarfs”!
As the book progresses, he addresses a variety of topics. Some of his most memorable one-liners are as follows:
• Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
• He changed my life. I could never adequately pay him back, so I just have to pay it forward.
• It can be a very disruptive thing for parents to have specific dreams for their children.
• Time is all you have. And you may find out one day that you have less than you think.
Many of the chapters are illustrated with photos from the author’s own collection, which impart a warm personal touch to his narration.
Interestingly, this book does not contain the last lecture itself, though we are told that it consists of about 300 slides containing mostly pictures and very little text. However, the video of this lecture is available on Internet, and it is extremely inspiring.
By the time you finish this book, you will start thinking of Randy as a good friend and guide. Though the author left this world a few months after the publication of this book, I am sure that his circle of friends and admirers will never stop growing.
This was the question that Randy had, when he was asked to give the Last Lecture. Like other professors, he didn’t had to imagine it as his last, because it was his last as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Those who doesn’t know, Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. In August, 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During this time he was approached to give ‘The Last Lecture’.
Randy wanted his children to know who their father was. He wanted to pass on all the wisdom he collected from his father and his own experiences. Being a professor, he felt this is the only way he can leave a print, for his children, by giving a lecture. The lecture he gave was full of optimism, hope, inspiration and humor. He tried to give the lecture full of snippets of stories and experiences from his own life, providing moral and inspiration. He had that charm to add humor to even a very serious topic. Some of the advises may make you feel that, he was from upper middle class family and he always got the support from his family and friends around. He was a person who had a very clear picture of what he expected and learned from life and what he was willing to share with the world. He always lived by the principles he believed and shared in the hope that others would benefit from it.
Many books dealing with terminal illness become famous because of gaining sympathy from readers. But this book is different. It’s not about dying or the emotional roller coaster the family undergoes when one member of the family has terminal illness. This book is about living. After knowing about his cancer, Randy didn’t brood about it, instead faced moment very optimistically. He was thankful to God that he had got some time to prepare about what he wants to leave as a legacy.
The book is full of inspirational quotes and inspiring stories. He talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude and the things that are dear to him. He lectured about the joy of life and how much he appreciated life, even with so little time left. He mentioned about living the childhood dream, how to achieve the childhood dream and how to enable the dream of many others.
Being a Computer Science lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, he set up a virtual reality lab, where he taught ‘Building Virtual Worlds’. In 1998, along with Don Marinelli, he set up the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), to focus on educational goals and creative development in students. Randy also started Alice. Alice is a free download, innovative software tool that allows students who have never programmed before to easily create animations for telling stories, creating interactive games etc,.
You might not agree with all of Randy’s lessons, but you will be left with choosing to live with fun and optimism.
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand’.
” There’s a decision we all have to make, and it seems perfectly captured in the Winnie-the-Pooh characters created by A.A.Milne. Each of us must decide: Am I a fun-loving Tigger or am I a sad-sack Eeyore?”
After reading the book, i watched the video of his last lecture. I would suggest everyone to watch this video.
” The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”
Top international reviews
Be warned, this book is a real tear-jerker. I know the story from the Lecture, and yet it had me sobbing through my commute!
Nominally about achieving your childhood dreams. More specifically about a life well loved.
Moving and inspiring.
This is a horribly difficult subject and easy to ignore but this book makes it possible to engage with the topic and while the ending is inevitably sad I did find the courage and stoicism shown by the author uplifting.