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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

I first heard of this on 60 minutes a couple of years ago and had to have the book. Since then, I’ve given this book as gifts and recommended it to many. If you think you choked up during the video, then get a big old box of tissues for the book. He goes into more of his upbringing and teaching career in the book, but the video is a great tribute to the folks that helped him to achieve his dreams. In the book, he talks about his thoughts when he was diagnosed with 3-6 months to live. His biggest sadness was that he was not going to be there to teach his kids the life lessons that he was so privileged to have with his parents. That was probably his biggest worry. So, the book and his Last Lecture were his legacy for his children, the best he could do, to leave them with the things that he wanted for them to learn and live. Amazing, isn’t it?

When reading the book and listening to the clip, I thought that “this is one of the good guys we can all learn from.” As a person, as a teacher, a role model on many fronts. Randy Pausch attributed much of his success to the teachings and support of his parents. He carried that gift of opportunity through community with his students. I loved his dream to enable others to fulfill their dreams. Isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do? In addition to that, I feel teachers must help others to determine their dreams through exposure to know what to dream and then through the building of confidence and perserverance to achieve whatever it is they want. Randy Pausch did that. He inherently may have had that talent, but I would like to think that logically his talent to enable others came from his experiences presented to him by others. His community was good to him, and he reflected constantly to evaluate when to recognize the opportunities from this community.

The head fake – love it!! Millions of kids having fun learning something hard was so exciting to him. His courses were about learning and presenting an environment of discovery and few boundaries. His lesson from Andy Van Dam about what to do when his students just blew him away was fantastic. Don’t define the bar, and let them believe they can always do better is fantastic. So often we want them to meet the standard. How wonderful to set the course up for them to blow the standard away.

“Brick walls are there to let us show our dedication. They separate us from those people who don’t want to really achieve their childhood dreams.” In his anecdotes, he always seemed to never meet a challenge that he wasn’t going to overcome. This energy and determination must have influenced his approach with students. Their accomplishments must have been influenced by that can do attitude. It must have been contagious. I found his perspective in the comment “If you do anything pioneering, will get arrows in the back but at the end of the day, it was a lot of fun.”

A lesson at the heart of his courses was in cooperative education. I liked his pace to change projects frequently while causing people to work with different classmates each time. Most importantly was the self-reflection aspect through peer review. What a great experience that will carry over into their professional and personal lives. I agree with his statement “your critics are the ones who love you, who still care.” He says something along the lines of when you’re screwing up, and no one is commenting, that is a very bad place to be.” Without knowing how to reflect on how you are received by others, or being blind and denying criticism, you will miss out on opportunities and not grow. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but in the long run, very valuable. For those that have those critics, w each are fortunate to have a mentor that will take that time to tell us when we need to rethink and do differently.

Some other points I really liked :

“Wait long enough, and someone will always impress you.”

“Some brick walls are made of flesh.”

Beware of how you say things, or your message may not be sent the way you intend.


  1. Excellent!

    When I first saw this lecture I sent it to all my kids (all of whom are older than you). We had our family gathering two weeks later. ALL had watched it, and we talked about it at length. My son Charlie took up the software program Dr. Pausch used and redid his entire work environment.

    And we all reached for those tissues as we discussed the lessons learned!

  2. I, too, really liked this video. I forgot the "brick wall seperates us from those who don't want to achieve their childhood dreams" and sometimes the "some brick walls are made of flesh." I must remember those quotes. So true.

    In church this morning, I keep replaying the quote "give people time to impress you because they will." I definetly want to remember that when dealing with difficult adults and children. I have several students in mind right now that I just need to look at with his fresh perspective.

    The "head fake" - what a great tool and one I hope to use as well.

    One of my favorite parts of the video was when he felt like Moses - seeing the promise but not being able to enter it. He was not bitter about it. He was excited that at he knew it was happening and he had a part in it.

    Great blog! I enjoyed it.

  3. What a wonderful motivational speaker. A gem of a legacy to pass on to ones children. I am sure his children will hold him dear to their hearts and relate to one of his motivational sayings on a daily basis. What a comforting feeling.