Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (Part 1)

From time to time I’ll be posting book summaries and reviews.  These may or may not relate specifically to leadership, but is some form of knowledge worth putting into practice that (I hope) can enrich interactions.

During my trip to Jamaica this month, I had the pleasure of reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow.  Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and gave a “last lecture” (click here to watch) several months before he died of pancreatic cancer.  The book is an expanded version of his lecture, putting into print what he wanted to share with his kids, and the rest of us are fortunate enough to share in it.

The book is divided into six parts. Section 1 and 2 (Chapters 1-11) describes Pausch’s last lecture on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” as seen in the recorded video. He describes the seven childhood dreams he had, how he attained (most of) them, and what he learned in the process.

In Section 3 (Chapters 12-22), Pausch shares some of his life stories as it relates to his family: parents, sister, niece & nephew, wife, and children.  These stories are not included in his Carnegie Mellon lecture and provides insight into his values and relationships.  It makes you reflect on your own values and important relationships, and how the two influence each other.

I felt most connected with Section 4 (Chapters 23-27) titled “Enabling the Dreams of Others” and Section 5 (Chapters 28-58) called “It’s About How to Live Your Life.” Section 4 focuses on Pausch’s teaching and Section 5  focuses on specific advice on how to live a good life. Please see Part 2 of this blog for a full summary.

Pausch’s final chapters 59-61 (Section 6), concludes the book and can also be seen in the final minutes of the video.

The book is an interesting read, with concrete examples from Pausch’s life.  He succinctly summarizes the “moral” or “lesson learned” in each anecdote.  The use of storytelling allows readers to connect to Pausch through short stories that warms the heart and helps readers recall their own similar experiences.  Simple takeaways are given that can readily be put into practice and shared with others.  I’ve already elected to put a few into practice myself, such as handwritten thank you cards and some of his teaching methods.  Not to mention, I’ve been talking about the book non-stop to loved ones.  Possible stocking stuffer for Christmas? I think so.

I’d like to dedicate this entry to Christine Chu 05/25/79 – 01/03/13.

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3 Responses to Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (Part 1)

  1. Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m looking to start my own blog soon
    but I’m having a tough time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  2. Jess J. says:

    Funnily enough I love this book, specifically his theory that if you wait long enough people will always surprise you. So true.

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