Pros: Meaning. Relevance. Heartbreaking and Uplifting.
It's been awhile since anyone or anything (or any product) has moved me enough to want to write about it and share it with all of you. But here it is and if there's only one book that your purchase this year, then let it be this one - The Last Lecture.
I hate to sound cliched...but it will change the way you look at your life.
The Premise of the Book
At Carnegie Mellon, professors are asked to consider their demise and to think about what matters most to them. They are then asked to put together an hour long lecture which would summarize the wisdom which they would want passed on to the world like their own legacy.
When Randy Pausch was asked to be on the agenda to give this same lecture, he had already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, so this wasnt a pretend type of exercise for him.
In September 2007, he gave his last lecture, entitled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams".
Randy had so much material and was editing himself up until the last minute. This led (co-author) Jeffrey Zaslow to convince him to publish a book. He felt that Randy owed it to the world to finish what he wanted to say without the time limits and constraints.
You'll find some of the book to cover what he had talked about in his video taped lecture (assuming you've seen it) and some of it is information that will be new to you.
The Back Story
Randy Pausch is a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. Approximately six months ago, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was told that he had about 3-6 months of good health left. Thats a pretty devastating blow to deal to a man who is otherwise, full of life, with a beautiful spouse and three gorgeous children.
Now, for those of you who don't know much about pancreatic cancer, let me tell you...it's a scary thing - practically a death sentence. You see, by the time they find it (most likely), it's too far gone. The cancer spreads like wildfire to your other organs and available treatments are limited.
Pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive of the cancers
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer mortality (behind lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer).
Pancreatic cancer is the least funded of the major cancers
250 people in North America and Europe will die today from pancreatic cancer. (90,000 deaths per year).
(Information from http://www.pancreatica.org/)
To learn more about cancer of the pancreas, I suggest you start here:
The Format of the Book
Its not a very big book (200 and some pages) you can get through it quickly if you so desire. If youre wondering which version I recommend go with the hardback instead of the audio. Randy doesnt voice the audio version so I feel like something is lost in translation.
My Unrehearsed Thoughts On The Book
Before I read his book, I accidentally stumbled upon his video on YouTube.
I teared up.
I sobbed like a baby.
I found a shred of dignity in myself one that had been missing for awhile.
The last 18-24 months for me has been downright hard. Other words come to mind disappointing, bad, wrong, destructive, perplexing, confusing, unfair. The past four months in particular well I think theyve been the worst ever for me and coming from a chick who is usually very optimistic and hopeful, you know it had to be kinda not good.
I identify with Randy on many levels. My pancreas, although not cancer-ridden, has been the source of major, life-altering changes for me and my family and although initially, I think I dealt with things in the most positive/upbeat way, things finally wore me down around the holiday time.
When he released his book, I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to purchase it. How in the world could the book possibly surpass the video?
The answer is it doesnt. It supplements it kind of like a nice Vitamin B12 shot :).
The biggest draw to this book for me is that I get Randy. No no hero worship here. Maybe someone of you who understand that even the most ordinary moments in life end up being some of the most extraordinary moments, then you probably understand what I mean. And that's really the heart and soul of me as a person. And so when I see someone like Randy, handling the crap he has to deal with, it gives me a certain level of hope I haven't had in about 18 months. And as a chick who is known for her hope and optimism, you know this is a big deal.
For those of you Ive just confused - forget the death sentence and all of the sad things that go with it. He's just a person who dreams, challenges, and constantly wants to balance with living in the moment - with planning for the future. Thats my DNA and to come across someone who is a lot like this is like finding out that yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
So I like the book - will you? Here's what I can tell you...
Randy doesn't get morose or feel sorry for himself. If you can imagine, his book, for someone who is dying, is pretty uplifting. It's what I would call reflective and introspective. Who couldn't use some introspection in their life?!
I love people who can tell a good story. It's even better when that story is really disguised as a parable and that's what I found to be true about most of Randy's book. Since I struggle with the religion factor, the fact that he can communicate ideas, emotions, beliefs, lessons learned without bringing the god, jesus, and the rest of the bible into it - well - that's a good thing for me.
His father and mother, who were both extremely strong influences in his life, let him make an *ss of himself at times, just so that he'd learn a lesson. Lots of examples come to mind but I don't want to spoil any surprises for you.
Randy's humor when recalling his own childhood or his high school and college years is similar to my own. He pokes fun at himself knowing that in "the moment" he took himself way too seriously.
I love his anecdotes. I love that he admits that the secret to winning at carnival games is long arms, leaning, and lots of disposable income.
I love that people mistake his intenseness for arrogance. If I had a nickle for every time....ANYWAY...
Yes, I do think you'll enjoy the book, especially if you like having the ability to parallel life lessons across the time and space divide.
The video of Randy's lecture can be found here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo
I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY encourage you to go somewhere quiet, put on some headphones, and watch it. No multi-tasking...no stopping and starting. Believe me - you'll understand why when it's over.