Book Review

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch wrote this book based on the last lecture he delivered in Carnegie Melon University. I don’t want to identify him with his profession but with the life he lived. There are many others who had lived a life like him but he left a book for us to learn a lot from how he lived. The author talks about head fakes in the book. He said that last lecture was a head fake and the book was actually meant for his children. His children might have already been brought up that way. And I am sure they don’t need a book to know it all. The head fake for me was he was being a mentor and personal coach for a lot of people even after his death. The book was not a self-help book where there are pointers on how to live life. It was about how he lived a beautiful life and why it is possible for others too. I felt so connected to it that I had goose bumps while reading a few sentences. I wish I knew a person like him in real life.
Even if some of the lessons mentioned in the book are clichés, they are useful ones written in an interesting way.


Randy Pausch said that he won the parent lottery. Their family hardly went for movies or dinner. Instead, he was asked to watch TV or better pick a book from library. I could instantly relate to it and till this day I don’t understand the happiness of going out for movies or dinner.

Offering advice:

Once a friend was giving me feedback on the mistakes I made but I was not paying proper attention. He said that when I read the same from a book, I come back and tell him that whatever he said was true. Randy has mentioned the same.

If you offer wisdom from third party it seems less arrogant

Being in a powerful position:

Most of us crave for an upper hand. Once we get that we forget from we came and exploit the present situation to our needs which is against ethics.
Randy says

If you had strength in any position you have to play fair

Parents and kids:

Kids need to know that their parents love them. Parents need not be alive for that. He had done whatever he could for his kids to feel his love after he was gone.
His parents allowed him to paint his room with symbols which were close to him.Allow your children to unleash their creativity. Children have their own dreams. It is okay to let your children stay awake past their bed times.
Rules he had with his nephew and niece:
  • No whining
  • Don’t tell mom

Learning a sport:


He says that

We should send our kids to learn some sport – because it teaches perseverance, team work, sportsmanship, value of hard-work, ability to deal with adversity.

My parents used to say the same. They sent me for summer camps not out of the expectations that I will be learning a new skill there. They just wanted me to learn how to mingle with people and work with them.


  • Balance in life between aspiration and pragmatism.
  • Money spent on going to moon helps in making scientists dream big. You are inspiring even poor people to dream big.
  • If you want something bad enough, never give up on it
  • Brick walls are there for a reason: they show us how badly we want something


Many times when we apologize, it will make us look like an emotional slave or it might even turn out that we are asking for an apology in return. According to him,
Proper apologies have 3 parts:
1.      What I did was wrong
2.    I feel badly that I hurt you
3.    How do I make this better

Self-esteem : 

These days parents are so protective of their children. He has a very important advice for such parents. He says

Self esteem can’t be given, it is something you have to build.Give them something they can’t do, they work hard for it and earn it. 

Tough love:

A Dutch uncle is a person who gives you honest feedback. Every one should have such a person in their life.At times, my mentor is hard on me. He initially told me that tough love will make go a long way in life. I sometimes feel bad when he is too harsh with me even though I know it is for my good. Randy says

If someone is not being hard on you, it means they have given up on you

So next time someone is harsh with you, remember that it is out of love.

Team work:

A few nuggets:
  • Have something to bring to the table. It will make you more welcome.
  • Fancy stuff is not going to work without the fundamentals
  • Meet people properly
  • Make sure that you can pronounce their names
  • Find things in common. If there is nothing, weather is an all time common topic.
  • Have optimal meeting conditions
  • Let everyone talk. Don’t cut off people. Don’t talk faster or longer
  • Praise each other
  • Phrase alternatives as questions and not statements
  • Sit with groups and not friends in the classroom.
  • How closely people are standing tells how close they are
  • Team work is very important for the success of the project
  • Rate each other through constructive feedback
  • Optimism is thinking you are at 25 when you are in the bottom quartile

People relations:

People are more important than things.

You can tell a lot about the person just by this statement.

 When we are connected to others we become better people.

Human beings are social beings. Connections only make us better.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask

I found this statement highly useful. I have used it in multiple situations and learnt that how we look at situations changes a lot just by asking instead of assuming.

When you can’t pay back, pay it forward.

I don’t know a way to pay the people who induced wisdom in me. I pay forward by sharing that wisdom with others.


  • You don’t repair things if they still do what they are supposed to do
  • Automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B.
  • You buy new clothes when your old clothes wear out.

Time and Productivity:

  • Time is more valuable than money
  • Time is all what you have. And you may find one day that you have less than what you think
  • File everything in alphabetical order
  • Delegate tasks
  • Keep phone calls short


A professor’s job is teach students how to see their minds growing like how they can notice their muscles growing.

Success and failure

  • Luck is indeed when preparation meets opportunity
  • It’s how hard you get hit and keep moving forward
  • Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we wanted
  • First penguin is the one who knows how to fail galoriously
  • Failures know how to not fail again.Successful people don’t know the pitfalls.

A few more interesting lessons:

  • Treat the disease and not the symptoms. 
  • Stop thinking about what others think of you.It makes you 33% more effective.
  • When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, just look at their actions and not on what they say.
  • Find unique ways to get things done
  • Always carry sufficient amount of money
  • Be over prepared
  • Be an optimist but think of worst case scenario too
  • Your patience will be both appreciated and rewarded
  • You can’t get away with lies
  • Institutions should and can have a heart
  • If you find your footing in two worlds you can have best of both
  • Rights and responsibities go hand in hand
In short, it is a book to be read over and again, till we internalize the lessons. It is a great feeling to live to the fullest. It proves again that it is not always the length of the life but quality of life which matters.
Happy Reading!


Recommended Articles

1 Comment

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: