Review: The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow)

Author: Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow

Published: 2008

Language: English

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir

Rating: 4.5/5

January 3, 2016: I cried when he spoke about his wife and children, and I can’t recall the last time I did that. He couldn’t have been more frank and honest. Things he said still resonate in my mind and I am happy I read this now and not two years ago. I am satisfied that I own this book, too. I am at a point where I am deciding what to do with my life and I couldn’t have met Randy Pausch at a better time.

That’s the note I had written on a page at the end of the book and I was surprised to find it there because the effect of the book on me hadn’t changed. Maybe it will, if I keep re-reading it, who knows.

I used to cry while watching movies, reading books and listening to songs. Once I figured out why I do it, I stopped altogether. I used to cry because it seemed like protocol to display emotions while experiencing someone else’s documentation of it, but I never truly felt it; I’d cry because it was protocol. This book makes me tear up and it’s beyond my control. It scares me when I get to the end of the book because Randy Pausch is no more all over again.

Like the note says, if I had read The Last Lecture two years prior to 2016, it would have been a completely different perspective. There were too many people around me that were reading the book in the year 2014; they discussed it and suggested it to people, one of them being me.

I was intrigued, but I was worried like I usually am about not enjoying a book that is enjoyed by readers worldwide. If it’s currently famous, I take some steps back and save reading that book for later. And there I was, two years later, with Randy Pausch waving to me from a shelf at a book fair. I took him home.

I gave The Last Lecture a 4.5 star rating. Why? What’s so awesome about it? Seriously?

To those questions, I say, “Read it to find something you think is awesome. Read it to relate to it on your terms. You can’t not relate to his words and experiences.”

There is a bit in the title of the book that I love: lessons in living. Pausch didn’t call them ‘life lessons’ nor did he make it sound Aesop’s Fables 2.0; a man dying of pancreatic cancer wrote lessons in living, what’s not to love about that? Gained any perspective yet? We’re still on the cover of the book.

The best part about his lessons is that you can select the ones you want to learn from or incorporate into your life, or just read; Pausch didn’t make any rules. He just wanted to leave behind bits of himself for his children to find and keep. Childhood dreams are what he thought made him unique, or rather his pursuit of them.

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

I have probably underlined half the book as I read it because there was so much that made sense to me. Pausch’s writing is like a voice speaking to you; it’s far from a silent text. The above quote is my absolute favourite. You need challenges and failures to help you understand how much you’re willing to get up and go after something. You have to want things enough to appreciate it when you finally get them.

I recommend this book to those who love reading as well as beginners. There is something for everyone, though his intention was initially to leave his experiences behind for his children, who were too young to remember anything when he passed.

“Not everything needs to be fixed.”

Pausch is clear about what he believes in and what he wants to work towards. Simplicity is key in his approach, with a few necessary quirky moves.

After I read this book, I came back a week later to re-read it because there was so much that I was suddenly aware of on a daily basis. That usually happens when you read a book, watch a movie or listen to a song too intently; you seem to notice things in a new light and sometimes, you even have a soundtrack to your epiphanies. It’s quite exciting, but it wears off once reality kicks in. This wasn’t the case once I read The Last Lecture.

Here’s what I added to my repertoire:

  1. I will have failures and successes, but I need to focus on the experience of it all.
  2. I can either work on things or make them work for me; take it as it comes or stand armed.
  3. I set goals in order to able to achieve them, instead of shooting in the dark or shooting too much and running out of arrows aiming at the wrong target.
  4. I have finite time and energy, so I shall spend it wisely.
  5. Gratitude, honesty and hard work are as close to magic as I’ll ever get.

I know how to help myself now and it’s powerful. Pausch doesn’t stop there. He talks about moving from your dreams to helping someone else fulfill their dreams. As he lost his energy, he still looked for ways to give as much as he could or apologise when he had nothing left to give.

“My life will be lost to pancreatic cancer.”

Once you know exactly how much time and energy you have left, you begin to value it. Why not start today instead? Do the best you can, nothing more and nothing less.

I pass this suggestion to you, Dreamers. Read The Last Lecture on your terms. And then pass it on if you found any truth in it. I did.


A Year of Non-Fiction (2016-17) Book Reviews

DreamingAtMyDesk View All →

Reader. Learner. Dreamer.
I am all about the little things in life!

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