The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

★★★★ (4/5)

Reminiscent of Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air”, but I could relate with Pausch’s sentiments and sagacity of words more. I felt a particular sort of fragility between the lines, which was in contrast to Kalanithi’s somewhat clinical book – not that any comparison is merited. Perhaps it is because Randy Pausch was a professor at heart and this memoir is replete with analogies and philosophies of life.

Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

Sage Advice

  • We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.
  • When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a bad place to be.
  • The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
  • Luck is indeed where preparation meets opportunity. – Seneca
  • Somehow, with the passage of time, and the deadlines that life imposes, surrendering became the right thing to do.
  • “It took a long time, but I’ve finally figured it out. When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do.”
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • “Go out and do for others what somebody did for you.”
  • A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.

Nuggets to Ponder Upon

  • Whatever my accomplishments, all of the things I loved were rooted in the dreams and goals I had as a child…and in the ways I had managed to fulfill almost all of them. My uniqueness, I realized, came in the specifics of all the dreams—from incredibly meaningful to decidedly quirky—that defined my forty-six years of life.
  • We didn’t buy much. But we thought about everything. That’s because my dad had this infectious inquisitiveness about current events, history, our lives.
  • Brooks Law “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
  • I watched Dr. Wolff use semantics to phrase whatever he could in a positive light. When we asked, “How long before I die?” he answered, “You probably have three to six months of good health.” That reminded me of my time at Disney. Ask Disney World workers: “What time does the park close?” They’re supposed to answer: “The park is open until 8 p.m.”
  • One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose.
  • I reveled in being Uncle Randy, the guy who showed up in their lives every month or so to help them look at their world from strange new angles.
  • In the end, educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective.
  • It makes no sense to talk about rights without also talking about responsibilities.
  • Depending on a child’s age and sense of self, an offhand comment from Mom or Dad can feel like a shove from a bulldozer.
  • Patients get to focus on themselves. They’re the objects of adulation and sympathy. Caregivers do the heavy lifting, with little time to deal with their own pain and grief.


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