The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow)

29 Mar

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

A lot of professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them and give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” What wisdom would they want to impart to the world if they knew it was their last chance? 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 on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”- wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others and of seizing every moment. It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

Though the lecture was initially meant for his kids, others found value in it and millions watched the lecture online. Since Randy did not want to take time off from being with his family with the  limited time he had, Jeffrey Zaslow – a Wall Street Journal columnist who had attended his last lecture, wrote the story (with Randy’s inputs) that helped fuel worldwide interest in it and later on, became a best-seller. The book is an expanded version of the inspiring lecture which can all be read in a sitting. Alternatively, one can read 2/3 chapters, reflect on them and then move ahead. 

Given his shortened life span at the time of publication, the book felt a little rushed. There are some chapters that are little more than a couple of paragraphs with a random anecdote that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. Some chapters have the style of a blog entry, the book is not actually a piece of literature; it has bits and pieces of generic advice on how to live a fulfilling life (although still true, and still somewhat helpful to put it back on top of the radar). Everyone is likely to take something different from this book. Even if you’re not normally drawn to self-improvement books or memoirs, try this one. Besides being an easy read, it will give you a lot to think about on what your life’s priorities are and what you might say to the people you love if you had to leave them behind.

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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Books


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