Pausch delivered his "Last Lecture", titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007. This talk was modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical "final talk," i.e., "what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?"
A month before giving the lecture, Pausch had received a prognosis that the pancreatic cancer, with which he had been diagnosed a year earlier, was terminal. Before speaking, Pausch received a long standing ovation from a large crowd of over 400 colleagues and students. When he motioned them to sit down, saying, "Make me earn it," some in the audience shouted back, "You did!" During the lecture Pausch was upbeat and humorous, shrugging off the pity often given to those diagnosed with terminal illness. At one point, to prove his own vitality, Pausch dropped down and did push-ups on stage.
The below long Gist of his book for your reference and reading and sharing. Would love if you share it with your children too.
THE LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch
Some excerpts from the book
It has become a common exercise on college campuses, professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matte4rs most to them. And
I knew what I was doing that day. Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up o the beach for my children. If I were a painter I would have painted for them. If I were a musician I would have composed music. But I am lecturer, so I lectured.
While I went through treatment, those running the lecture serried kept sending me emails about my talk and kept asking for the abstract. There is a formality in academia that can’t be ignored, even if a man is busy with other things, like trying not to die. By mid-august I was told that I have to decide on the topic as a poster has to be designed.
“Call me selfish”, Jai (my wife) told me. “I want all of you. Any time you will spend working on this lecture is lost time, because its time away from the kids and from me.
When Jai asked Randy Pausch why he wants to give this lecture, if it was for the kids, he told Jai, “One thing I have learned,” I told Jai, “is that when parents tell children things, it does not hurt to get some external validation. If I can get audience to laugh and clap at the right time, maybe that would add gravitas to what I am telling the kids”
In the hall full to the max with 400 people with his wife Jai in the audience at the last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, Randy Pausch started with the following words. “In case there is anybody who wandered in and does not know the back story, my dad always taught me that hen there is an elephant in the room, introduce it. If you look at my CT scans, there are approximately ten tumors in my liver, and the doctors told me I have three to six months of good health left. That was a month ago, so you can do the math.”
I also wanted the audience to know that I looked good, and felt Ok. “I am in phenomenon good health right now,” I said, “I mean, the greatest thing of cognitive dissonance you will ever see is that I am in really good shape. In fact, I am in better shape than most of you.” I moved sideways toward the center of the stage. Hours earlier, I wasn’t sure I would have the strength to do what I was about to do, but now I felt emboldened and potent. I felt emboldened and potent. I dropped to the floor and begin doing pushups.
THE LAST LECTURE
REALLY ACHIEVING CHILDHOOD DREAMS:
My father would also warn me that even if I was in position of strength, whether at work or in relationships, I had to play fair. “Just because you are in the driver’s seat, “He would say” does not mean you have to run people over.
I Never Made It To NFL: I some time think that I got more from pursuing that dream (Dream of making it to the National Football League) and not accomplishing it, then I did from many of the ones I did accomplish.
You have got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise that fancy stuff is not going to work.
Assistant coach of the football team told me, when my coach Graham used to ride me hard, “when you are screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore that means they have given up on you.”
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.
A SKILLSET CALLED LEADERSHIP
For ambitious young boys, born in 1960, with scientific bent there could be no greater role model than James T Kirk, Captain of Star Trek. He was not the most intelligent officer on the ship, or the Doc or the chief engineer, so why did he run the starship? Because of his leadership skills. He was the distilled essence of the dynamic manager, a guy who knew how to delegate, had the passion to inspire, and looked good in what he wore to work.
When Shatner (Captain Kirk) came to visit the virtual reality world that me and my student worked around the clock to built of his starship’s bridge, he stayed for hours playing with it. He just kept asking and asking. I was hugely impressed. Shatner was the ultimate example of a man who knew what he did not know, was perfectly willing to admit it, and did not want to leave until he understood. That’s heroic to me. I wish every grad student had that attitude.
THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH
In 1969, as I stood in the line with other kids at Walt Disney, all I could think was, “I cant wait to make stuff like this” When two decades later I got my PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon, I thought that made me qualified to do anything, so I dashed off my letter so f application to Walt Disney Imagineering. And they sent me some of the nieces go to hell letters, I have ever received.
So that was a setback. But I kept my mantra in mind: the brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. They are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
In 1995, I had become a professor at the
and I had helped build a system called Virtual Reality in 5 dollars, when the VR experts insisting they need half a million dollars. After many tries and obstacle with Walt Disney as well as my university I took a sabbatical and joined the team there as Imagineer. University of Virginia
AND LESSONS LEARNED
My medical odyssey began in 2006. A slight pain in the upper abdomen turned out to be pancreatic cancer, the highest mortality rate of all cancers. On 15th August, 2007, doctors informed me that he has 3-6 months of “good” health. Leaving the doctor’s office, I thought about what I had said to Jai in the water park in the after glow of the speed slide. “Even if the scan results are bad tomorrow,” I had told her. “ I just want you to know that it feels great to be alive and to be here today, alive with you. Whatever news we get about the scans, I am not going to die when we hear it. I wont die the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. So today, right now, well this is a wonderful day. And I want you to know house much Im enjoying it.” I thought about that, and about Jai’s smile. I knew then. That’s the way the rest of my life would need to be lived.
THE DUTCH UNCLE:
I always have had a “healthy” sense of myself since childhood and my sister Tammy who was two years older than me, had to put up with me – A know all kid, always mouthing off and advising. One day she, about 9 years old, decided that she had enough of me and dropped my lunch box in the puddle. Principle let our parent take a call on this and when mother told my father about the story, he laughed hard and did all but congratulated her. Though this lesson did not sink in at that time, and in my college, my friends knew me as a person who lacks tact and a person quickest to offend some one he had just met. My hero at the college, the legendary science professor Andy van Dam, who hired me as his teaching assistant, took me for a walk one day and said,” Randy, its such a shame that people perceive you as being so arrogant, because its going to limit what you are going to be able to accomplish in life.” Looking back his wording was perfect. He was actually saying, “Randy, you are being a jerk.” But he said it in a way that made me open to his criticism, to listening to my hero telling me something I needed to hear. There is an old expression,” a Dutch uncle”, which refers to a person who gives you honest feedback.
POURING SODA IN THE BACK SEAT
For a long time, a big part of my identity was “bachelor uncle” as in my twenties and thirties I had no kids, and my sister’s two children, Chris and Laura became objects of affection. Once about a dozen years ago, I picked both of them 7 and 9 years old at that time, in my brand new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible. My sister advised them to be careful with the car and don’t dirty it, wipe your feet before you get into the car. I listened to her and thought as only a bachelor uncle can:” that’s just the sort of admonition that sets kids up for failure. Ofcourse they will eventually dirty my car. Kids can’t help it.” So I made things easy for them, I slowly opened a can of soda and deliberately poured it on the cloth seat in the back. My message, people are more important than things. I ended up being glad that I did that as later in the weekend Chris got flu and threw up all over the back seat. He did not feel guilty. He was relieved; he already watched me christen the car. He knew it would be ok.
Recently I asked both Chris and Laura now 19 and 21 to do me a favor. After I die, I want them to take my kids for weekends here and there and just do stuff. I also want my niece and nephew to tell my kids a few things. First they can simply say: “your dad asked us to spend this time with you, just like he spent time with us.” I hope they will also explain to my kids how hard I fought to stay alive. Oh one more thing, If my kids mess up their cars, I hope Chris and Laura will think of me and smile.
ROMANCING THE BRICK WALL
The most formidable brick wall I ever came upon my life was just five feet, six inches tall, and was absolutely beautiful. But it reduced me to tears, made me reevaluate my entire life and led me to call my father, in a helpless fit, to ask for guidance on how to scale it. The brick wall was jai.
I met her one a lecture tour to her college where she was a Grad student. I was 37 and she was 31 and she had been married earlier so did not want to get in a serious relationship again. We both liked each other and had invited her to come over to my college in the next holiday but she wrote back that she is not looking for a long distance relationship. When we both finally decided to move to
Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
LUCY I AM HOME
One day after our marriage, she told me that she had hit one car with the other and asked if I want to go and look at them. I said lets have dinner. After dinner we looked at the cars and she said that she will get it repaired. I told her that was not necessary. The dents would be ok. Jai was a bit shocked.” We’re really going to drive in dented cars?” Well you cant just have some of me” I said.” You appreciate the part of me that did not get angry because of two things that we own got dented. But the flip side of that is my belief that you don’t repair things if they still do what they are supposed to do. The cars still work. Lets just drive them.
For Jai and me, our dented cars become a statement in our marriage. Not everything needs to be fixed.
IN FIFTY YEARS IT NEVER CAME UP
After my father’s death, I found in his papers a citation and a bronze star for valor (My father was in army before marriage in infantry division) which we never knew about it. In 50 years of his married life, thousands of conversations, it just never came up. So there I was, weeks after his death, getting another lesson from him about the meaning of sacrifice – and about the power of humility.
I AM ON MY HONEYMOON, BUT IF YOU NEED ME…
All my life, I have been very aware that time is finite. Here is what I know:
Time must be explicitly managed, like money
You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
Ask yourself: are you spending your time on the right things?
Develop a good filing system
Rethink the telephone
Take a time out
- Time is all you have. And one day you may find that you have less than you think.
IT’S ABOUT HOW TO LIVE YOUR LIFE
When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but often you are working at the margins. When we are putting people on the moon, you are inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum human capital, which is how our greatest problems will be solved.
Give your self permission to dream. Fuel your kid’s dreams, too. Once in a while that might even mean letting them stay up past their bed times.
EARNEST IS BETTER THAN HIP
Fashion by the way is commerce masquerading as hip
Earnest is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with surface.
RAISING THE WHITE FLAG
Some how, with the passage of time, and the deadlines that life imposes, surrendering became the right thing to do.
LETS MAKE A DEAL
I liked leaning back on the dining room chair and mom would constantly reprimand me till one day she said that if I broke that chair, I have to replace not only that chair but the whole lot. So we agreed to that and the reprimanding and talks about this were stopped. The chair still not broken.
DON’T COMPLAIN, JUST WORK HARDER
Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I have always believed that if you too one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem you would be surprised by how well things can work out.
TREAT THE DESEASE NOT THE SYMPTOM
DON’T OBSESS OVER WHAT PEOPLE THINK
START BY SITTING TOGETHER
Being able to work well in group is a vital and necessary skill in both the work and in families.
Meet people properly
Find things you have in common
Try for optimal meeting conditions
Let every one talk
Check egos at the doors
Praise each other
Phrase alternatives as questions: instead of “I think we should do A, not B, try what if we did A, instead of B?
Look for the best in every body: If you wait long enough,” Jon Snoddy my hero at Disney said,” people will surprise and impress you.”
Advise for my daughter: My colleague told me,” it took me long time, but I have finally figured it out. When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, its really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do.”
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED ….
Try, try a cliché. I love clichés. I lot of them any way.
Dance with one who brought you.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play.
Be the first penguin: when penguin’s are about to jump into water that might contain predators, well somebody’s got to be the first penguin. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. Experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.
Get people’s attention
The lost art of thank you notes
Loyalty is a two way street
Friday night solution: Work hard
Send out thin mints: Thank you for agreeing to do this, “I would write,” the enclosed Thin Mints are your reward. But no fair eating them until you review the paper.”
All you have is what you bring with you
A bad apology is worse than no apology
Tell the truth
Get in touch with your crayon box
The $100,000 salt and pepper shaker: I broke a 10 $ salt and a pepper shaker in Disney land when I bought it for my parents. One adult watcher advised me to go to the shop and change it though I had broken it. I was reluctant but she insisted. We went back to the store and we did not lie. The employee in the store gave us a new one and even let us know that its their fault that they did not pack it properly. When we told parents, they were impressed and made it their destination for the volunteer work.
No Job is beneath you: Many of my graduating students think that they should be hired because of their creative brilliance and not at the bottom rung. My advice has always been: you ought to be thrilled you got a job in the mail room. And when you get there, here is what you do: Be really great at sorting mail.
Know where you are
Never give up
Be a communitarian
All you have to do is ask
Make a decision: Tigger or Eeyore
Way to understand Optimism
Input of others: Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader from
Near the end of my Last Lecture, I got friend of Jai to bring on the stage a large birthday cake and explained the 400 strong audience that yesterday was Jai’s birthday, and as I have not given her a proper birthday it would be great if I can get you all sing happy birthday for her.
As we all sang, I finally allowed myself to look at her in the audience as she sat in the front row, wiping away her tears with this surprised smile on her face. After the audience sang her happy birthday I had not idea what to do, but as I urged her onto the stage, a natural impulse overtook me and I hugged and kissed her. The crowd kept applauding. As we held each other, Jai whispered in my ears,” Please don’t die” It sounds like a
Hollywood dialogue. But that’s what she said and I just hugged her more tightly.
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
The Black Swan Patanjali's Yoga Sutra