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'The Last Lecture'

by Randy Pausch, with Jeffrey Zaslow

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


'The Last Lecture'
Hyperion, April 2008

Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less time than you think. - Randy Pausch

Each year at a series known as The Last Lecture, a Carnegie Mellon University faculty member is asked to deliver what would hypothetically be a final speech to their students before dying. It is a wonderful tradition in which both speaker and listeners take a moment to reflect upon what matters most in this life. In September 2007, the speaker, 47-year-old computer science professor and father of three, Randy Pausch, didn't have to imagine that he was confronting his imminent demise because, in fact, he was. Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, at the time of his Last Lecture, had only been given three to six months to live. Pausch's speech, entitled "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," was every bit as upbeat and inspirational as the man himself. Rather than focusing on dying, it was a speech about living, about achieving one's dreams and enabling the dreams of others, about truly living each day as though it were your last.
As of this writing, Randy Pausch's Last Lecture has been downloaded by over 10 million viewers. If you haven't watched the Last Lecture, let me recommend it as an excellent investment of one hour of your day today. You'll find various methods of doing so here: www.cmu.edu/uls/journeys/randy-pausch

So far Randy Pausch has beaten the odds, and he continues to inspire his audience. The Last Lecture, published April 2008 by Hyperion, resulted from a collaboration with Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. With a desire to elaborate on his ideas in print form, but not wanting to take precious time away from his children, Pausch, a self-avowed efficiency nut, spent fifty-three daily bike rides on his cellphone headset conveying his thoughts to Zaslow who helped shape the stories into book form.
The Last Lecture is a slender book that can be read in just a few sittings. It is full of stories and aphorisms, many of which are familiar from its video progenitor. We revisit Randy Pausch's fulfillment of his childhood dreams and the principles he learned along the way. These gems include Pausch's view that "life's brick walls are there to show us how badly we really want something," the notion that "experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted," and a quotation from the Roman philosopher Seneca who said that "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Pausch is a fantastic storyteller, and recalls and distills the essentials of his life's anecdotes more than most of us would be able. The Last Lecture addresses more of his struggles with cancer than it did in video form, but always from the angle of a challenge requiring a creative solution, which is how Randy Pausch seems to have approached his entire life.
This book will be read by millions, but was written solely for Randy Pausch's three young children, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe, for whom Pausch is recording all of the fatherly advice he won't be around to give later on. It is because Pausch's advice is so universal in its wisdom and his voice so clear in its delivery, that we eavesdroppers can also benefit.

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