Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

What an absolute treasure! I bought The Last Lecture by the late Randy Pausch, for my husband for our anniversary, and recently read it myself. This book is a must read! It is a follow up to The Last Lecture he gave as a professor at Carnegie Mellon, which was videotaped and became a youtube sensation. It is a fairly small book, and an easy read, it is filled from cover to cover with wisdom and life lessons.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, Randy Pausch was a beloved professor at Carnegie Mellon. He was married and had three young children. And he received his death sentence when he found out he had pancreatic cancer that had metastasized. News this hopeless would overwhelm, stop cold, depress and anger most people. But Randy instead chose to spend his last months of life living, and loving, and giving one last lecture. It was for his students and colleagues, but most importantly, it was for his children.

The Last Lecture is full of stories about making the most of your life, overcoming obstacles, reaching for the stars, achieving your dreams, living with passion, etc. It also speaks to the problem of overly-coddled, overly-praised, spoiled children, and the way it ill-prepares them to face and succeed in the real world.

On July 25, 2008, Randy Pausch died, at the age of 47. And though I’ve never met him, I believe this world is a lesser place without him. But because of the video and book he left behind, his legacy lives on.


The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch
with Jeffrey Zaslow

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.


Quotes from Randy Pausch:

~ Better to fail spectacularly than do something mediocre.

~ Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

~ The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are 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. They are there to stop the other people!


  1. I've seen this book and heard it's great, but I've been hesitant because someone told me it had some anti-religious things in it. I'm sure you would've mentioned that, though. I'll go with your review, Tracy.

  2. Nice, Tracy! I love that lecture. . .lots of good stuff! Thanks for the post!

  3. Thank you for posting this review and mentioning some of the quotes that may help others.

  4. Tracy, I remember when Randy Pausch died last year. Life can *feel* immortal and it's good to have a reminder like this. Thank you for the review!

  5. I saw this man in a short 10 minute clip. What he said was incredible. HOwever, I do remember that he didn't endorse any religious message at all.

    As a purely secular message, it was a power-packed video. I highly recommend watching it!