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Lessons you will learn from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Lessons you will learn from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

by Harsh Kichambare

The Orange Wave came quickly and swept everyone, even people who never picked up a book. Everywhere I saw, there it was. From the people sitting in the corner of a crowded railway station to Instagram stories, it was gaining followers. I had to know what was up, how was this thing infecting so many people? I did the brave task of going to a shop and getting it for myself. Started it, couldn’t read it at all and kept down ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F***’.

That bit may be a tad dramatized, but it was genuinely intriguing how this book had seeped into the environment around me. I tried reading it and it was a huge let-down, especially considering it was such a massive hit. The book seemed to just repeat itself throughout and the more I read it the more I was convinced of the theory that it was popular because of its edgy name. Dissatisfied with it, I tried to find a different Self-Help Book and ended up reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow.

Lessons you will learn from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Introduction to The Last Lecture

Before reading the article further there are a few things you need to know. Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was one of the leading proponents of Human-Computer Interaction at the time, working with Virtual Reality Projects. He had worked with several companies such as Google, Disney, and EA. He has authored and co-authored 5 books and over 70 articles. His list of Achievements is endless.

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However, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given only three to six months to live. He quickly moved his family to Chesapeake Bay, Virginia to be close to his wife’s family during his final time. This was the time that Pausch was given, was the time he had left to leave something behind in this world. And he decided that he wanted to leave a legacy behind for the world and also for his three children. And that is the subject matter of the book in question, i.e, The Last Lecture.

Whenever talking about the subject of death, people always contemplate who will miss them when they are gone, what impact on the world would they leave, and what would be the last words they’d speak before they go?

People often like to contemplate this with either ennui for the living or the curiosity of death. In the book, Randy Pausch combines two things - one is the legacy that he leaves behind that the world will follow for the years to come and to give his children a guide so they can navigate through life when they have to live it without him.

The questions surrounding the type of legacy we leave behind can be well-thought-out if only we know how long we are going to live. But we naturally can’t predict how long that is going to be. We always conceive the idea of death occurring to someone older. As Albert Camus said, “One should not wait for the final judgment, it comes every day.” We often forget this. We keep on thinking that our bodies will be healthy and will support us through our ignorance of death.

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Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Childhood dreams often seem the only reality when we are little. However, as we grow up we are constantly being told to put them aside and go for some “realistic” goals instead. Soon, we end up in a small cubicle, with our best friends, Powerpoint and Excel, waiting for the clock to strike 5 in the evening. Just like us, Randy Pausch also had childhood dreams and he fulfilled them.

Randy Pausch had a lot of dreams growing up, some as extravagant as wanting to experience zero gravity, play in the NFL, be a Disney Imagineer, and some as small as winning stuffed animals. According to him, these dreams are not something that would never come true and hence, you shouldn’t give up and aim for lower goals. Instead, he said that running into brick walls happens for a reason.

Brick Walls aren’t there to tell us how unrealistic our dream is but to make you realise how much we want a particular thing. If you do run into a brick wall, you have to work harder and pull through to get to that goal. On your way to that goal, you will face a lot of challenges but if you do keep at it (with a specific set of rules) you will get through the wall.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Lessons you will learn from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch:

  1. Blinding Optimism

Whilst I was doing research for the book and the person, Randy Pausch, I came across a few of his lectures on the web. These Lectures were specifically designed to teach students about the things Pausch had learned, which would later be compiled into this book. In one of these lectures, he did pushups just to showcase that even if he was diagnosed with cancer and had a few months to live, he was healthy. And throughout the lectures, he just seemed to be beaming with Optimism.

The popular context of being Optimistic today is that people feel the person is not optimistic but rather in denial. That they fail to assess the real-life risks and are happy in hoping for the good. Randy Pausch radiated Optimism, but that doesn’t mean that he was in denial. He was well aware of the fact that he had a few months to live and that he couldn't spend such precious time feeling sorry for himself.

According to him, feeling sorry for himself won't do any good as he would then just spend the rest of his time worsening the situation. Instead, he could just embrace the situation and then focus on making something of his time left. If he can attempt such a feat in the grave times of being diagnosed with Cancer, surely we can adapt it for our minor inconveniences.

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  1. Specificity of Dreams

One thing that is to be noted about all of Randy Pausch’s dreams is that they were really specific. For example, one of his dreams was to win stuffed animals. In the Lecture he delivered, he brought stuffed animals on stage he had won throughout his life. This was just done to show the folks that he had achieved his dream, no matter how specific. According to him, your dreams should be specific and not general. In the sense that everyone wants to change the world, however, this will just lead to more and more confusion for the dreamer.

Instead, if he focused on the things he can adapt and use within himself to help the world, that would be a much more specific and achievable goal. And even if this specific goal is being met with brick walls, one can actually pull through with hard work, persistence and break through this wall.

  1. Not being able to achieve your dreams

One of Randy Pausch’s dreams was to play in the NFL. However, he was the shortest guy on his football team and going through with it, he wasn’t good enough to play in the NFL. However, this doesn't mean that his dream was a bad thing. But according to him, sometimes it is best to fail at things and just move on. Because in doing so you would actually be learning more about yourself than you could have by accomplishing that thing, and hence, some brick walls are only present to reroute you in another direction.

These were the three main takeaway lessons from the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It is a good self-help book with an easy, simple language and has a lot of heart in it, and surprisingly no F-bombs. If you like Self-Help Books to come from a place of personal development and lessons the author has learned by himself, this book is for you.

Also Read: 7 Must Read Personality Development Books (on growth and self improvement)

Happy Reading! (Unless you are reading Subtle Art of course)

- Harsh Kichambare

To read more article written by Harsh Kichambare - CLICK HERE


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