The Last Lecture : Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

We cannot change the cards we are dealt,
just how we play the hand.
” ~ Randy Pausch


Carnegie Mellon developed a series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and then give a hypothetical “final talk” on the wisdom they would want to impart on the world if it were their last chance. For computer science professor Randy Pausch, those questions became all too real when he was invited to give his “last lecture”. A month prior to giving his speech, Pausch received a prognosis that the pancreatic cancer, which he had been diagnosed with a year earlier, was terminal. He had 3-6 months to live.

Achieving Your Childhood Dreamswas delivered on September 18, 2007 to over 450 Carnegie Mellon students, staff members, and friends of Pausch.  Through tales of his childhood, he talked about lessons learned throughout his life and gave advice to those in attendance on how to achieve their own career + personal goals. The Last Lecture explains the speech in more depth as well as the events leading up to it through many wonderful stories of Pausch’s life that are relatable, funny and ultimately melancholy. But its the small bits of Randy’s quirky personality + simple wisdom mixed throughout the pages that make this book something truly special.

The book focuses on 3 main topics: Randy’s childhood dreams, enabling the dreams of others and important lessons learned along the way. He talks about the importance, as a parent, of letting your child express themselves and that “inspiration and permission to dream are huge“. He encourages people to chase their dreams and to be driven but emphasizes that nothing should be handed to us and that hard work is the only way to really achieve your goal.

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

Randy repeatedly stresses the importance of fun and that we should live life to its fullest because we never know when it might be taken. His positive mindset + no-time-to-waste attitude is evident throughout the book and is inspiring to say the least.

Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.

A simple question that Randy often asked others: Are you a Tigger or an Eyore? Are you positive or negative? It’s pretty obvious where Randy stood. The love for life Randy displayed is how we should all choose to live our day to day lives. Instead of focusing on who has done us wrong + what we don’t have, focus on all the good stuff and work hard to get what you want. It really is just that simple.

This small, whimsical book is such a lovely treasure that beautifully focuses on the power of positivity and the love of a man for his family, career and life. There is a bit of cancer talk but its crucial to show the time-frame of how quickly this story came to an end. Randy chose to live out his remaining days as only he knew how: having fun + being positive. Leaving behind the love of his life and 3 children, his last words were not just meant for the viewers + readers of the lecture but as future guidance for his children since he wouldn’t be there to instill his wisdom himself.

As unfair as it all is, what an incredible gift.

If you had asked little me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a writer first, followed by an archaeologist (thank you Jurassic Park) and then a rock star.

I think she’d be pretty proud of where I’m at…

…and would definitely tell me to keep going.

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