Last Lecture (Pausch)

The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch, 2007
Hyperion Books
224 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781401323257

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

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"—wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come. (From the publisher.)

Co-author Mr. Zaslow recalled sitting in the audience for the original lecture, laughing and crying along with 400 of Dr. Pausch's friends, colleagues and students

It was the first time Mr. Zaslow had laid eyes on him. As a journalist who writes a column on life transitions, he had heard about the coming lecture and phoned Dr. Pausch the night before. He was so impressed by their talk that he decided to attend, even though his editors had refused to pay for a flight and had told him to do the interview by telephone. "Once I was there, I knew I'd seen something remarkable," Mr. Zaslow said.

After the lecture, the two men met for the first time and Dr. Pausch said he would spend his remaining months with his wife and children.

Later, the men were reportedly paid more than $6-million (U.S.) by Disney-owned publisher Hyperion for their book. At first, Dr. Pausch had been reluctant to take on the project, saying it would take too much time away from his children. As a compromise, Mr. Zaslow interviewed him for one hour every 53 days. That hour was the time Dr. Pausch set aside to ride a bike to keep his strength up.

Mr. Zaslow said he was not surprised that his friend's message, in all its incarnations, struck such a chord. "It's because we're all dying. His fate is our fate and it's just sped up," he said. "So, watching how he approached even his death as an adventure, it just resonates with people. He had a way of turning his own life into lessons. (Fom the Last Lecture website.)

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