The last lecture (after seven years)

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last lecture randy pausch

Sometimes it takes me a while to discover things. The late Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch gave the “Last Lecture” in 2007, after he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The lecture, an upbeat celebration Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” includes the life-advice that you might expect in self-improvement books and videos (and the video has been converted to a book, which still sells well on Amazon.com.

Pausch had a good life, though one which ended early. He pioneered virtual reality initiatives and achieved his life dreams/goals (including a couple after his diagnosis but before his death in 2008. (He outlived his expected remaining life span by about six months.)  The Pittsburgh Steelers invited him to a practice for a day (he dreamed of becoming an NFL player) and he received a bit part in the Star Trek movie (though he didn’t become Captain Kirk.)

A few things I retained from the video:

  • The “mind fake” concept — if you want people to learn something, make it fun. If you can set a project where the joy occurs from the effort, you may discover they go to the effort to discover the underlying concepts.
  • Success occurs when you pass (break) through “Brick walls”. This relates to the perseverance concept, and the fact that really important dreams/goals require effort, will, and determination to break through the barriers.
  • Sales/persuasive ability can get you anywhere — but you need to put others’ needs first. Pausch recalled how he decided to carry on in graduate school after his faculty advisor encouraged him with the advice that if he went out into the business world, he would succeed because of his sales ability, but wouldn’t it be much better to sell something worthwhile — the inspiration and education of young people.

In some respects, the advice here reflects the platitudes of virtually all self-help messages. Yet I enjoyed the theme, and am thankful of the lessons learned here (and my ability to support in a small way the fight to cure cancer) through The Ottawa Hospital’s Ride the Rideau on Sept. 6.

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