The Last Lecture

Pick your secret valentine, the Delray Beach Public Library told me as I made my way back from the fiction section where I had just picked out some Octavia Butler gems.

I stopped, thought about my difficulty making decisions but quickly realized that my eyes were fixed on a small book in pink wrapping paper with a heart glued to the material. The center of the heart had three words— biography, inspirational, philosophy; three things I’m down for.

Later that Friday evening, I unwrapped the book excitedly in my room and let my fingers run across the title, The Last Lecture. I had heard of Randy Pausch and this amazing lecture from a dying man back in college, but I never pursued the book. Perhaps, the Universe feels I needed to read the powerful work now more than I did back at Syracuse University.

What do I think 

Well, I have just finished wiping tears from my eyes as I finished the 206 page body of work. It’s incredible. Although Randy was a left-brain and I happen to be a right-brain, I found The Last Lecture moving, inspiring, and philosophical in that it encouraged me to think deeply about the meaning of life, death, love, family, and all the shit I hoard in my life.

Lessons that stuck most 

I read over 120 pages of the book in one sitting and probably could have finished it all if I hadn’t made plans to take myself to see an awful box office success.

Okay, back on topic. Here are the lessons that struck me most from The Last Lecture:

  • Brick Walls 
    • Nothing is impossible. Treat the things you want as a brick wall, you might not be able to jump it today, but work yourself up to make that leap.
  • Don’t think about it too much 
    • What other people think about you is none of your business, live your life.
  • Be honest 
    • Lies always come back to bite you whether you know it or not, so stay honest.
  • Communicate 
    • Talk directly about your needs and be willing to listen.
  • Materials don’t mean much 
    • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So what if your car has a dent or two, does it do what it is meant to do — then why spend money on vanity. Clothes come in and out of style, don’t waste so much money on a wardrobe.
  • ‘No’ isn’t an answer unless we’re talking about consent 
    • When you want something don’t take the first or second no, keep pursuing it — it’s like the brick walls.
  • You can lead a positive life 
    • You can be a left-brain like Randy and remain a positive human. An even more important point, you can be diagnosed with terminal cancer with months to live and still live life positively. Be a Tigger not an Eeyore. 
  • Watch how you spend your time 
    • Plan your day and watch how you spend your time. You can accomplish so much in this life, all your childhood dreams, if you spend your time strategically. Maybe cross a Netflix series off your list and work on pursuing one of your dreams.
  • Fundamentals matter 
    • I got a C in calculus in college despite how hard I worked because I never learned the fundamentals of math — don’t be like me. In whatever field you find yourself, learn the fundamentals otherwise you’ll always be playing catch-up.
  • Let your children dream, question, and write on the wall 
    • Don’t stifle your children. Encourage your kids to dream and when they want to do something get inquisitive with them.
  • Take care of your needs first 
    • You cannot do what you are purposed to do if you allow others and the things you encounter in life to drain your battery. Charge up then worry about everything else.

Although the above are what struck me most, all 206 pages offered insight. Randy wrote The Last Lecture after delivering his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon. The book and lecture encourage us to live out our childhood dreams and leave a tangible piece of himself behind for his three young children. It’s clear that Randy is in love with Dylan, Logan, Chloe and his beautiful wife Jai. It brings him great grief knowing that he won’t be around to live out the life he and Jai dreamed — that tragic realization and Randy’s openness about crying in the shower or how he and Jai cling to each other in tears is heartbreaking.

Despite all of that, I leave the book knowing that Jai, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe will survive (and have, since the book was published in 2008) without Randy in the present form but will carry pieces of him as they journey.

The Last Lecture begs you, the reader, to answer the following questions:

  • What is important to you? Are you working toward achieving it?
  • Are you living a logical and positive existence?
  • How are you doing on accomplishing your childhood dreams?
  • If you had to give a last lecture (no matter what field you’re in), what would you leave behind?


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