While looking for a book to review Thanksgiving weekend, I remembered a friend that shared that she reads The Last Lecture annually. This book is a compilation of the late Randy Pausch’s ideas for reaching one’s childhood dreams. He shares important lessons that he had lived and learned, leaving a legacy for his young family that will grow up without their dad. The book is an excellent reminder of what is important and what we need to be thankful for – family, dreams and caring for others!
Many will remember seeing Randy Pausch doing push ups on the Oprah show, talking about his Last Lecture and showing his strength while dealing with the fight of his life. This young professor had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which despite aggressive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation had metastasized to his liver leaving him with a prognosis of only 3 to 6 months of quality time with his family.
Many would wallow in despair but Pausch took the time to put his affairs in order and look after his family including a move to another state so that his wife would have support of her family once he passed away. He wrote letters and recorded videos for his 3 children who were all younger than 6 years old. He took the opportunity to give a Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon where he had been a student and most recently a professor of computer sciences.
This lecture not only shared his wisdom with a crowd of colleagues and students but left snippets of his wisdom for his family to witness as they grew up. He shared how he had won the lottery in being born to parents who had high expectations and supported his dreams – even letting him paint all over his bedroom walls! He talked about his football coach and the importance of learning the fundamentals “because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work” while sports teach important skills such as “teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of handwork , an ability to deal with adversity.”
Pausch referred to difficulties as brick walls “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.” He spoke of preparation, hard work and keeping momentum to move forward; of learning from failures and the importance of teamwork. He shared his own experience of reaching his dreams of flying in a zero gravity plane and becoming a Disney Imagineer.
This professor (or as his mother had said, a doctor but not the kind who helps people) imparted wisdom about showing gratitude (handwritten thank you notes), heartfelt apologies (referring to “a good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound”) and having a person to give honest feedback (a Dutch Uncle). He reported that he thinks a “parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams” while taking time to recharge your own batteries and look after yourself.
Randy Pausch shared his advice and his time when he had very little time remaining. He fought valiantly against a destructive disease and left a proud legacy for his family. He passed away in 2008 leaving his wife and 3 children to remember him and thousands of fans who had read his book and saw him on television. This was the perfect book to read Thanksgiving weekend and is a reminder of what is important and what we are thankful for!
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. Its about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”