The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow

November 28, 2009
By cheekack BRONZE, Singapore City, Other
cheekack BRONZE, Singapore City, Other
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

I accidentally stumbled upon Randy Pausch's infamous lecture titled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" on YouTube. "The Last Lecture" is an academic tradition at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for professors. Hypothetically-speaking, if you were to give the last lecture of your career to your students, what would you say?

Alas, Randy Pausch got to do it for real. A few weeks prior to the lecture, Pausch, who had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2006, was told he only had 3 to 6 months of good health.

Pausch's snarky, upbeat and personal delivery of his lecture was impressive. He almost felt like a grandfather relaying his wisdom to the younger generation (given my age). As such, I had exceedingly high expectations of the book. Perhaps, a little too high.

128 of 206 pages of the book were covered in the lecture. That is, the first 3 chunks of the book literally extracted from the video. My high hopes for the book were dashed with such an anticlimactic start to the book. Even in the next 3 parts of the book, anecdotes from the lecture were tactically peppered throughout.

On the bright side, Pausch did write beyond the scope of the book occasionally. There were 2 new life tips I found particularly valuable:

1)"Give yourself permission to dream big."

I'm a go-getter by nature but frequently, I get down on my self for being selfish.

Pausch argued, "When you use money to fight poverty, 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."

2) "The lost art of 'thank you' notes." I did wish Pausch had an elaborative explanation for this but he succintly said that giving "thank you" notes "is just the nice thing to do." This reminded me of something he said in the lecture on YouTube, "When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening all by itself."

There is a huge overlap between the video and the book. These are 2 other life tips from both sources which I found memorable:

3) Earnest is better than hip.

Pausch says, "Earnest is long-term. Hip is short-term.

There is a lot of truth to this statement. The humble and committed guy in the corner of the gym you see every day probably has a body to die for. The other guy in designer shorts and shades wouldn't even last a week.

4) Loyalty is a 2-way street. I believe that life is a full circle.

I wouldn't want to list every life tip that Pausch gave because some of you might want to read the book. In any case, I enjoyed Pausch's incisive style of writing. He doesn't harp on his philsophies and beliefs. He makes a statement or two about them but he illustrates them through his life experiences as a Computer Science professor, as a son, as a husband and as a father of 3 adorable children.

His analogies makes his life philosophies realistic. It encourages me to apply them in my own life. It's unlike most sentimental fluff you read in self-help books all too often nowadays.

Would I recommend anybody to spend $18.36 on this book? Absolutely not. You can access the lecture on YouTube for free! Furthermore, through the printed word, I did feel like I lost Pausch's charisma and wit. In fact there were many times when Pausch came across as rather aloof to me.

In an interview with, Pausch mentioned that "It's only the first 3 copies [of the book] that I care about."

I guess his aloofness made sense then. The book wasn't for me, it was solely for his 3 children and chances are, it isn't for you either.

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