Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (Part 2)

In my last post I mentioned that Sections 4 and 5 of “The Last Lecture” resonated with me. My desire to become a college professor was reinforced when reading about Pausch’s teaching experience.  And although Section 5 is about life in general, I do believe that Pausch’s “tips” can help me (and other readers) to exercise leadership.

The Brick Walls metaphor: According to Pausch, we encounter brick walls along our journey to achieve our dreams. “They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” In other words, if we stop at the brick wall (and give up), then we didn’t really want it.  Something to consider the next time you are debating plowing forward or giving up.

Here are the key takeaways from Section 4:

  1. Time management tips which include: managing time explicitly like money, have a plan with clear steps, prioritize, have a good filing system, delegate, be smart about the phone, and take a time out. [Click here to watch Pausch’s lecture on time management]
  2. An alternative metaphor on higher education is that professors are like personal trainers for students; by being demanding they are helping students exercise the brain like a muscle. It is important to develop a feedback loop and to remember that giving feedback means the person cares enough about you to tell you the truth.
  3. Helping others to achieve their childhood dreams can be more rewarding than solely focusing on achieving your own.
  4. Enabling others can be done on a one on one basis, or hopefully, on a larger scale and helping the many.  For Pausch, his software teaching tool, Alice, is just that.

Here are some of the highlights of Section 5 that I wanted to share, Pausch’s nuggets:

  • Ch 28: Dream big and help others to dream big too. 
  • Ch 29: Being earnest is longer lasting than being hip.
  • Ch 32: Complaining is a waste of time, working harder is a better strategy.
  • Ch 35: Tips to improve working in groups – meet people properly, find commonalities,  meet under optimal conditions, let everyone talk, get rid of the ego, praise others, phrase alternatives as questions (instead of rejections).
  • Ch 36: From Jon Snoddy to Randy Pausch: “If you wait long enough, people will surprise and impress you.”
  • Ch 37: On authenticity: Ignore what people say, and pay attention to what they do.
  • Ch 39: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” Attempt the hard stuff, even if it means failing because you learn a lot more from the experience.
  • Ch 41: Handwritten thank you notes are still nice 🙂
  • Ch 44: Show gratitude to those who helped you, and if you can’t, pay it forward.
  • Ch 45: A proper apology has three parts: 1) “What I did was wrong,” 2) “I feel badly that I hurt you,” 3) “How do I make this better?”
  • Ch 52: Be a communitarian: contributing to the common good is a responsibility.
  • Ch 55: Don’t be afraid to ask for something. It may lead to your dreams.

A heart-felt book that includes some lessons we already know and some we don’t.  Regardless, it is one man’s insight shared in a funny and authentic way that I will refer back to during my own journey to achieving my childhood dreams of becoming a teacher.

Pausch, R. & Zaslow, J. (2008). The last lecture. New York: Hyperion.

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2 Responses to Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (Part 2)

  1. Jess J. says:

    I’m utterly obsessed with this book. Such a gem. I try to remember to let people surprise me when I feel like giving up on them, especially as a teacher.

  2. Pingback: Women’s Leadership and Mentoring | A Practitioner's Ph.D.

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