Monday, September 19, 2011

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I have seen links to Randy Pausch's last lecture on the internet, and recently noticed that he had also written a book expanding on the lecture he gave at Carnegie Mellon.  I was curious about the hype and drawn to his story of living with a terminal diagnosis, but I was worried it might be too sad to get through.  I got through it fine, but it didn't change my life.  I think Randy Pausch has some great insights and perspectives and he shared them in a really approachable way.  It reminded me of books like Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, or Life's Little Instruction Book.  All fine books, but not really my favorite thing to read.  This book is, of course, set apart with personal stories, and always with the understory that this man knows he only has a few months left to live.

When he was asked to give the lecture, he asked himself:  "What do I, alone, truly have to offer?"  I think that is a worthwhile reflection for all of us.  He also mentions a coach that taught him,  "You've got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work."  That made me think of teaching.  You have to teach them basic principles and values or the other stuff doesn't stick.

On building self-esteem he says, "You give them something they can't do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process."  I like that, and it resonates with several things I've read lately.  I think about that a lot raising my kids!

There was a section about his habit of leaning back in his char at dinner and how it drove his mom crazy.  I kind of get his point, but my boys have broken a few chairs in our house that way, so it was kind of annoying to read.  I sympathized with his mom more than him!

There's a section where he shares that he would send a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint's with every paper he asked another professor to review, along with a short note.  "Thank you for agreeing to do this...The enclosed Thin Mints are your reward.  But no fair eating them until you review the paper."  Clever.  He finished the section with, "I've found Thin Mints are a great conversational tool.  They're also a sweet reward for a job well done."  I think that is a good example of his "voice" in this book.  I found it annoying sometimes.  But he also mentions that he's aware of his "social" flaws.  A mentor once told him, "Randy, it's such a shame that people percieve you as arrogant, because it's going to limit what you're going to be able to accomplish in this life."  He does sometimes come off as arrogant, but then again, he did accomplish A LOT in his short life.

There are chapters where he says that, "brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough.  They're there to stop the other people."  There's another section titled, Earnest is Better Than Hip.  He explains "the head fake" and then refers to it a few times. Some of these sayings and sections seemed a little too cliche to me.  The seemed dumb.  I think to really do Randy Pausch justice, I need to watch the video of his lecture.  I think in a more concise format, it might move me more.

I was most touched by the chapters about his family that he concludes with.  It is such a tragedy to lose your father or husband, and to loose him at such a young age and so early on in your marriage is really heartbreaking.  He concludes his lecture by explaining that one of the main reasons he wanted to give it, and expand it into a book, is so his children can know him.  So he can pass on the wisdom he won't be around to give them.  I think that is beautiful, and I admire him for taking the time to write the book.


Lori said...

I had the same reaction as you to much of this book, Kammy. I thought some parts were kind of cheesy, and it just comes off a bit wrong when someone writes a book about themselves that tells all about how clever they are. That said, there were some good nuggets in there. I thought I would like the video of the lecture better, but I think I liked it less. :)

Kammy T said...

Thanks Lori, I'm glad I'm not alone. Maybe I won't watch the lecture now....

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Let me just say that I, too, saw the video and thought it was OK, but wasn't overly impressed. But I do like some of the one-liner "lectures." Definitely some wisdom. Great book review, as always, Kammy. You are our "go-to" resource for books.

damini said...

Frankly i think that this book is not about saying how clever he has been. It is about telling how unpredictable life can be and how he has therefore no regrets about not having lived the way he wanted. Did u read his section about the man in the convertible? or the phrase St.Randy of Pittsburgh? Had he thought of himself as clever he would not have had the courage to write that...I find it hard to criticise or find anything boring in the kind of enthralled!! hope I shall come out of the spell somehow but surely I will always hold on to his many well known taglines while living life.

damini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.