The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
Photo credit: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/news/
Written in 2008, The Last Lecture is now a bit well-aged, but believe me, it is still highly relevant and chocked full of brilliant, principle-centered messages for your life today. Additionally, it is a fun, easy and quick read. I highly recommend it.
You may remember Dr. Randy Pausch. He was a professor of consumer science at Carnegie Mellon University who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was featured in many news programs after his courageous video-taped "last lecture" went viral on YouTube. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, Pausch asked Wall Street Journal Columnist, Jeffrey Zaslow, to help him write the book while he (Pausch) got his life in order. Pausch passed away June 25, 2008; the book was published January 1, 2008.
My favorite lesson from The Last Lecture starts with this quote,
"When you're screwing up
and nobody says anything
to you anymore, that means
they've given up on you (p. 37)."
I read this quote to my 300-level students every spring term. The related story is about Randy's love for football and how his coach used to make his team practice over and over and over again; until they got it right. His head coach used to ride him hard and was very demanding. After a particularly tough practice, the assistant coach pulls Pausch aside and makes the above statement.
According to Pausch, his football coach lived in a "no-coddle" zone. Pausch goes on to say, you can't "give" kids self-esteem, they have to earn it. The only way to do this is give them something they can't do and then, work hard until they can. I agree.
Life is hard and success does not come easy. You have to work for it and, when you acheive your goals, there's value in the hard work. Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza said, "All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare." This is the stuff of character and it is a truth successful people know. Working hard at something worthwhile feels good to your core.
Now, don't get me wrong, there is also great value in compassion and encouragement, however... If one is unwilling to work hard for their success, they will not understand its value. When this happens, a person can become lazy, complacent and maybe even feel a bit entitled.
If it sounds a lot like "tough love," you'd be right. This is just one of the valueable lessons given in the pages of Pausch's memorable and inspiring "last lecture." Thank you Randy. You were an inspiration to many of us who carry the torch of teaching the next generation.