Eek! I am a little late writing this post. Woopsies. I finished The Last Lecture about a month ago. The book is about the last lecture, and related stories, of a Carnegie Mellon professor [Randy Paunch] who is facing just 4-6 months to live after discovering he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although a lot of the content is tear-inducing, I found many passages that left me both laughing and smiling.
Overall, this book is about life. That might sound weird – a book ultimately about death is really about life? But, that is how Randy designed it. He wanted this book, and his last lecture, to be a standing testament to his children about how to pursue your childhood dreams.
Randy conveys this message by explaining how he “achieved” each of his childhood dreams. Some of these are silly and a bit ‘stretched,’ like the time he completed his young dream of being an astronaut by talking his way into attending a school trip to NASA’s zero-gravity plane. And, some of his dreams, are so very real, like the virtual design application he helped build at Carnegie Mellon, which still inspires and teaches students today. From Randy, “Through Alice [the virtual design application], millions of kids are going to have incredible fun while learning something hard. They’ll develop skills that could help them achieve their dreams. If I have to die, I am comforted by having Alice as a professional legacy.”
I am a firm believer in discovering and pursuing your passion, and I feel like The Last Lecture is a sort of Bible to doing just that. Randy pushes the boundaries of typical social norms, by challenging his readers to think outside the lines, through his own life events. Take, for example, the time he convinced his mother to allow him to write inspirational sayings/drawings on the walls in his room. Or, the time he proved a point to his neice and nephew by dumping an entire bottle of soda on the back seat of his brand new car. The point is that yeah, life is going to throw you some curve balls, but it’s how you react to the twists and turns that determines your integrity, values and overall fate as a person.
There are a lot of great quotes from Randy throughout the book. My favorites include:
“Engineering isn’t about perfect solutions; it’s about doing the best you can with limited resources. Both the lecture and this book are my attempts to do exactly that.”
[I am all about ‘doing good’ for humanity, especially through Random Acts of Kindness!, but I also found great truth in this message.] “When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but too often, you’re working at the margins. When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved.”
“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.”
“But in the end, people will show you their good side. Almost everybody has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.”
“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
“Despite everything that is going on in my life and with my medical care, I still try to handwrite notes when it’s important to do so. It’s just the nice thing to do. And you never know what magic might happen after it arrives in someone’s mailbox.”
“I always liked telling my students ‘Go out and do for others what somebody did for you.’”
“I’ve found Thin Mints are a great communication tool. They’re also a sweet reward for a job well done.”
“My dad had created a new set of communitarians. He knew: when we’re connected to others, we become better people.”
“So my dreams for my kids are very exact: I want them to find their own path to fulfillment. And given that I won’t be there, I want to make this clear: Kids, don’t try to figure out what I wanted you to become. I want you to become what you want to become.”
Ultimately, for me, The Last Lecture is an uplifting reminder of the important things in life. Through Randy’s life lessons, I found many experiences similar to mine and oppositely different. Each of them taught me something unique about my journey – what it is now, and what I hope it to be. If you’re looking for an inspirational read about what life has to offer (even to a dying man), I highly recommend The Last Lecture.
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