The Last Lecture

Book title: The Last Lecture
Author: Randy Pausch
Status: Finished

Many universities have adapted a "Last Lecture Series" in which professors are invited to give hypothetical final lectures. While Randy Pausch, a Computer Science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, came up on stage, it was not hypothetical - he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Further to his phenomenal last lecture "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams", Randy continued to impart to the world his wisdom through his book "The Last Lecture".

I heard about "The Last Lecture" months ago, got the book, but didn't pick it up and read until very recently, partly because I was in the middle of "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" (by Gregory Maguire), which is a VERY L-O-N-G story, and partly because I was expecting it to bear a close resemblance to Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie".

Don't get me wrong, "Tuesdays with Morrie" is one of my favorite books, but one reminiscent of Albom's work? That diminished my urge to read it right away.

I was proven wrong. Although "The Last Lecture" does resonate with "Tuesdays with Morrie" in some sense, e.g. both books are about a dying professor who gave lectures on living instead of dying, and both professors were determined to make each living moment count, "The Last Lecture" is not JUST ANOTHER dying professor talking about how to live. The two books are unique in their own way.

"The Last Lecture" is not a book about how great a person Randy was, nor his accomplishments and many talents, but how his creativity, intensity, perseverance and upbringing helped him to realize his childhood dreams while enabling the dreams of others. It is a summation of everything Randy had come to believe - "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

It is amazing how much inspirations, fascinating insights and living-life-to-the-fullest advice can be contained in less than 250 pages. If I must choose the single most important lesson I've taken away from this book, it has to be this:

"The brick walls are there for a reason. They're not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people."

Instead of using up my time complaining and whining, Randy taught me to spend it on finding a solution. If I can't find a way to get around the brick walls, it simply means I'm not working hard enough.