“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

Watch The Video: The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” stood out in my mind as I thought about about purpose and passion. His life embodied both, and Pausch was a great model for us all. And so I thought I would write about him and his now immortalized lecture.

Randy Pausch

A professor of computer science, human-computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pausch’s lecture was ironically scheduled as part of a last lecture series in which professors would pretend this was their final time at the dias and impart their most significant lessons. For Pausch, however, it would truly be his last lecture, as he had been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer and given six months to live.

Watching the lecture was a very different experience than reading the book, and was so much more powerful. Pausch’s personality, wit and passion jump out of the screen. It is hard to imagine that he is dying and will soon be leaving a beloved wife and three young children.

Pausch does talk about his diagnosis but without a shred of self-pity. “That is how it is,” he says. “We can’t change it. We just have to decide how we’re going to respond to it. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand,” and he proceeds to teach us invaluable life lessons.

Spicing his lecture with personal anecdotes, Pausch spoke with the ease and calm of someone who has found his place, found his version of success and found his purpose. In his case, it grew out of his passion. That’s a wonderful way to arrive at our life’s purpose, but not the only way.

Using his childhood dreams as a starting point, Pausch said that we should not lose site of the fact that the inspiration and the permission to dream are huge.

His talk, which lasted more than an hour, was riveting. Some of my favorite life lessons include:

  • When you’re doing something very badly and no one says anything to you about it, that means they gave up. It’s a very bad place to be. Your critics, however, are telling you that they still love you. When people give you feedback, cherish and use it.
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • The brick walls are there not to stop us but to show us how badly we want something and how deep our dedication is. They also show us the people who don’t really want to achieve their childhood dreams.
  • Don’t complain, just work harder. Be good at something, as it makes you valuable.
  • Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s too important. It’s what drives us.
  • Find the best in everybody no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it.
  • If you lead your life the right way the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

“I’m dying and I’m having fun,” adds Pausch. “And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left because there is no other way to play. I don’t know how to not have fun.”

I encourage you to watch the video or read the book. Sharing his vision of a life worth living, Pausch sends a message of hope, patience and no regrets.