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a lecture on life



Randy Pausch wanted his kids to remember him. At 46, Pausch had 3 young kids, ten tumors in his liver and only a few months left to live.

“There are so many things I want to tell my children, and right now, they’re too young to understand. … I want the kids to know who I am, what I’ve always believed in, and all the ways in which I’ve come to love them. … I wish the kids could understand how desperately I don’t want to leave them.”

In an effort to preserve himself for his children, Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, decided to deliver a lecture. His topic: “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

Unlike so many who forget their dreams, or think them impossible, Pausch achieved almost every one of them. (And you can’t help but think, if he had more time, his list would have been full of check-marks).

Pausch wanted to become a Disney Imagineer. He did it. He wanted to be in zero gravity. He did it. He wanted to author an article in the World Book encyclopedia. He did it. He wanted to become Captain Kirk. While this he couldn’t achieve, but he did get to meet the man. And he wanted to play in the NFL. Well…we can’t win them all.

This book inspires you to reevaluate your own life and poke around that old toy box to find your own list of childhood dreams.

Pausch’s book is inspiring because of the impressive life he led, not because of what he did after he was diagnosed with cancer. With only a few months to live, he didn’t have to dig up his list of to-dos. It was his list of already-dones. He reminds us that we should always be living our life like we only have months to live.

I can’t help but think if he weren’t dying of cancer, I wouldn’t like him. He comes across condescending and contradictory at times. But I can’t fault him for this, since he had a very limited time to write this book. I’m sure he didn’t have time to mince words.

His messages are clear and simple, and a little bit obvious:

Stop complaining.

“Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.”

Look for the best in everybody.

“Almost everybody has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.”

Say thank you.

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. And despite my love of efficiency, I think that thank-you notes are best done the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.”

Tell the truth.

“Honesty is not only morally right, it’s also efficient. In a culture where everyone tells the truth, you can save a lot of time double-checking.”

Be prepared.
No job is beneath you.
Just ask.
Know who you are.
Never give up.

Pausch delivered his last lecture on September 18, 2007.

“’Lucky’ is a strange word to use to describe my situation, but a part of me does feel fortunate that I didn’t get hit by the proverbial bus. Cancer has given me the time to have these vital conversations … that wouldn’t be possible if my fate were a heart attack or a car accident.”


Randy died July 25th, 2008. He was 47.
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“a lecture on life”