The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I was expecting bigger things from this book due to its ratings and recommendations across the web. It’s a brief and concise read, interesting in relation to Randy Pausch’s meditations on life with death knocking at his door (pancreatic cancer) and enjoyable enough to warrant a fair review. That said, there’s nothing groundbreaking in The Last Lecture that I haven’t read or heard before in most books of this nature. At times you’re looking for deeper insight, greater resonance, something more profound. This never comes but, suffice to say, isn’t a slight on Randy Pausch’s writing nor what he has to say, it’s just that I was expecting, due to what I’d heard about this book, something fantastically philosophical and wise.

As the book comes to a close, it does have the capacity to move you – as most books that take stock of a human life, in the window of death, might be expected to. Pausch’s life, recounted in pursuit of his childhood dreams, and his academic and family life, is just as valid as any other. There are plenty of lessons to learn from reading The Last Lecture, just none that I hadn’t already heard. Perhaps it’ll come better with time, as I move on to fatherhood, marriage, respect and acknowledgement in a career and a better understanding of my craft. Until that inevitable point however, I’ll probably find other books, ones more closely related to the stage of life I’m in right now, to have bigger impact.

Choice Quotes:

Ch.6) “Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.”

Ch.7) “When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a bad place to be. You may not want to hear it, but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you, and want to make you better.”

Ch.11) “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.”

Ch.23) “Time must be explicitly managed, like money.”

Ch.23) “Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.”

Ch.25) “It’s a thrill to fulfil your own childhood dreams, but as you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.”
Ch.25) “Luck is indeed where preparation meets opportunity.”
Ch.28) “Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids’ dreams, too. Once in a while, that might even mean letting them stay up past their bedtimes.”
Ch.32) “Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Ch.50) “There is more than one way to measure profits and losses. On every level, institutions can and should have heart.”
Ch.52) “If you can find your footing between two cultures, sometimes you can have the best of both worlds.”
Ch.53) “Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them – even if someone has practically had to throw you over – it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it.”
Ch.55) “Sometimes, all you have to do is ask, and it can lead to all your dreams coming true.”
Ch.59) “As I see it, a parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams. The best we can do is to help them develop a personal set of tools for the task.”
Ch.61) “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of the rest.”