You really must have been living under a rock in case you haven’t heard of late Randy Pausch’s eponymous last lecture. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a pioneer in the field of virtual reality. He was also a co-founder of the Alice project (not related to that zombie movie). Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told he had barely a few months to live. The now-famous last lecture that he gave at CMU along the lines of “What would you have to say if you knew this was the last lecture that you’re going to give” is a video worth watching. (He lived for a few months after that but succumbed to his disease on.) Drop what you’re doing now and do that once – even if you have seen this earlier. And especially if you haven’t seen this ever.
What I’m referring to today is the book of the same name, and not the talk that he gave. You could call this a sort of a review, but this is one review that I’m not going to give a rating to since I don’t feel it is right to ‘rate’ the last published work of a dying (now dead) man.
The book The Last Lecture was penned by Jeffrey Zaslow, a friend of Randy Pausch, from cellphone conversations that he had in the weeks leading up to his demise. The book starts off with transcript of the talk that he gave (video embedded above). The later parts of the book are devoted to reminiscences from Randy Pausch’s past – experiences that he recounts that made him who he his today. His philosophy in life, and how he tried to impart it to his students and colleagues around him. Considering that the book was written down by someone else from telephonic conversations, you’ll find that most of the ‘chapters’ are as long as the words needed to recount the experience – ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages. There isn’t any structure as such individually but the experiences overall paint a picture of what this guy stood for. You also come across Pausch as a realist who knows he has precious few weeks left and how he tries to ensure that his family – his wife and three kids – have a smooth transition once he is dead.
Reading the book makes you too think of how valuable our lives and those of the ones dearest to us are. And what would our legacy be if we too were to die one day or be given a terminal diagnosis. “Would I be able to cope in the same ‘live the moment’ way that this guy did?” is what you’ll find asking yourself quite often. The anecdotes that Pausch recounts contain words of advice that would do good to many who follow them.
Do buy a copy of this book. It’s one of those titles that you can always go back to and read when you’re feeling down and out, and it still never gets old. In case you didn’t have time to watch the video (the first one), at least do read a transcript of that lecture.