I’m not sure how to define The Last Lecture, except to say that it’s a cross between a nonfiction novel, a memoir, and a self-help book. The author, Randy Pausch, wrote it fully knowing that his days were limited—don’t we all know this in some way?—and he wanted something that his kids could read one day and get to know him. It’s this last bit, the fact that his kids wouldn’t remember him, that broke me up inside. They would grow up, probably calling someone else Dad, and only ever know their first Dad as a shadowy figure from the beginning of their lives. Who, then, can blame Randy for wanting them to have a little something of him one day?
At the beginning of the book, we find out pretty immediately that Randy’s dying, so it’s no surprise. In fact, he doesn’t dwell on this; he dwells, instead, on the life he lived, the dreams he realized, and the lessons he learned. In his last lecture at the Carnegie Mellon, he talked about realizing your childhood dreams. What’s more encouraging and hopeful than that? He wanted to teach his kids to dream, but meanwhile gave them the advice to achieve those dreams because—let’s face it—dreams don’t just happen magically. Probably the best quote in the book and the last piece of advice he gives in the last chapter is this:
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s 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.”
In other words: live well.
So the book was inspiring, no doubt, but more so were his little pieces of advice; real world stuff to apply in your own life:
- Don’t try to give your kids self-esteem through coddling; allow them to build it.
- Spend your time on the right things.
- Show gratitude.
- Work hard: no job is beneath you.
- Be prepared by considering the worst-case scenario.
- Know how to apologize.
- Take responsibility—you know, action and CONSEQUENCES.
- Never give up.
- Always dream.