The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture Book Review

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

Randy Pausch

My most recent read was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Randy Pausch was a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). CMU started a “Last Lecture Series,” where professors could offer reflections based on their personal or professional journeys. Randy gave one of the most compelling and inspiring lectures, which sadly did turn out to be his last lecture as he was dealing with pancreatic cancer at the time, in 2007. You can find the video of The Last Lecture by clicking here or visiting Below I will outline the four main inspirational and actionable advice that Randy talks about. In the book he is explaining in detail the talk he gave along with his thoughts before, in-preparation and after the lecture. There are over fifteen pieces of advice he gives from his personal experiences and it is inspiring that it will make you not want to take any moment for granted and get going on your childhood or current dreams.

Inspiring Advice #1 – If There is a Will There is a Way

Randy notes it is important to have specific dreams. When in grade school most of his classmates wanted to be astronauts and work for NASA – Randy, knew as a child that he didn’t really want the astronaut gig, he just wanted the floating. Decades later his dream became a possibility when he learned that NASA had a program in which college students could propose projects to be done on the plane. The plane was an experience to feel weightless as astronauts do in space. Randy and his students proposed a virtual reality pitch and they were picked. They were invited to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to ride on the plane which does parabolic arcs to experience the feeling of zero gravity. Later in the process, he was notified that faculty advisors could not fly with students. He was heartbroken but not deterred. He found a way around this “brick wall.” He carefully read all the literature to look for any loopholes and he did! He then decided to call the official at NASA and ask for their fax number. He mailed them his resignation as a faculty member and his application as a journalist. It wasn’t easy getting the fax number, but he promised that he’d get information about their experiment onto news websites and film of their virtual reality efforts to mainstream journalists. The BONUS lesson for us here is: “Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome.” He ends this story with, “It just proves that if you can find an opening, you can probably find a way to float through it.

Inspiring Advice #2Ask yourself? Are you spending your time on the right things?

In the book he talks about time management and offers some advice on how he feels he has been able to pack a whole lot of life into the shortened lifespan he has been sentenced. He points out to think about how we are spending our time. Are they efficient and yielding the most return of investment? He held on to a newspaper clipping of a pregnant woman who lodged a protest against a construction company. She was worried there would be harm to her unborn child by the sound of jackhammers. In the photo, the woman is smoking a cigarette. Randy mentions that if the women cared of her unborn child, her time could have been better spent not smoking to protect her child instead of protesting the construction company. This made me think about how some things are not worth our time. It’s important to manage time wisely towards goals and experiences that are aligned with our dreams.

Inspiring Advice #3 – Don’t complain, just work harder!

How many times have you been caught in a cycle of complaining instead of taking action? That is one of the ways to put yourself farther behind your goals, farther than anything else. In the the book he talks about two non-complainers he was inspired by. The first one was his landlord during graduate school, Sandy Blatt. Sandy was a phenomenal athlete but as a young man a truck backed into him as he was unloading boxes into the cellar of a building. He spent his life as a quadriplegic. Randy was wowed by his attitude. He worked hard, became a licensed marriage counselor, and got married and adopted children. The second, non-complainer he was inspired by was Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball. He endured racism, hate, and unfathomable treatment. Still, he rose high by working even harder and became one of the best.

Inspiring Advice #4 – The Head Fake

A head fake is used in football. It is when a player moves their head to indicate a specific direction they will move but does so to confuse the player and will move towards a different direction. He uses this term in reference to his experiences in his life when he played football as kid. He also applies it to all the life lessons, he learned without knowing. He got more out of pursuing the dream of making it to the NFL and not making it, than many of the one he did accomplish. He learned fundamentals and hard work are critical to achieving goals. “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” Coach Graham, his football coach, use to be very hard on Randy and he remembers the assistant coach asking him, “Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he?” He could barely muster a, “yeah.” The assistant coach said, “That’s a good thing, when you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.” That lesson has stuck with him ever since. He mentions that most of what we learn we learn indirectly – head fake. They are everywhere and important and one should keep an eye out for them. This was one of many head fakes

Overall. This book is part of my top three books that I recommend. I read it when I was a junior in college and recently read it again to help share this book review with you. I hope you enjoy and learn from it as much as I did. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read this book. If so, what are your thoughts on it? Thank you for reading!!

“We can’t change the cards we are dealt with, just how we play the hand.”

Randy Pausch

Published by AlejandraSalgado

Hello! My name is Alejandra Salgado and I previously interned at CNBC, a worldwide leader in business news. I have experience in the maritime industry relating to import and export tracking and pricing, vessel management and ocean freight shipping. I began to develop my journalism skills about two years ago. I enjoy storytelling and that is the purpose of my blog. To be able to tell stories whether that is through writing, video making, or audio interview. Follow my blog to feed your curiosity and to learn how to improve different areas of your life through the lens of storytelling. Follow me on Instagram @alejandra.salgado.rtv.

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