Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Last Lecture

I just finished reading a remarkable book, The Last Lecture, authored by Randy Pausch who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and has only 3-6 months left to live. He had become famous for video-taping a lecture he gave at Carnegie-Mellon University where he is a professor about "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". The lecture wasn't about dying but the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have. . . and you may find one day that you have less than you think). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe.

I was compelled to read this book with the recent loss of my wife of 40 years who died suddenly without the opportunity to either say goodbye or to express the importance of what she meant to me, or more importantly, what we meant to each other. Not surprisingly, I identified with Randy's wife, Jai, who will have to carry on after Randy passes away.

Randy, who had time to prepare his final farewell, was able to express the important lessons of life that he learned and wanted to impart these lessons to his three young children and to Jai. He had many words of wisdom on how to live a better life and to consider others over oneself.

I told my full-time RV friend and email pen-pal, Dawn, about this book and she wanted a summation of what advice or lessons learned that Randy imparted.

So Dawn, here's a quick rundown of some of Randy's words of wisdom. Randy said it best "This section maybe called 'It's about how to live your life', but it's really about how I've tried to live mine. I guess it's my way of saying: Here's what worked for me."

* Give yourself permission to dream big. Fuel your kids' dreams too.

* Earnest is better than hip. Hip is short term, earnest is long term. I'll take an earnest person over a hip person every time. Earnestness is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with the surface.

* Raising the white flag or knowing when to compromise. Life is too short. With the passage of time, and the deadlines life imposes, surrendering became the right thing to do.

*Don't complain, just work harder. Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I've always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out.

* Don't obsess over what people think. I've found that a substantial fraction of many people's days is spent worrying about what others think of them. If nobody ever worried about what was in other people's heads, we'd all be . . . more effective in our lives and on our jobs.

* Look for the best in everybody. When you're frustrated with people, when they've made you angry, it may be because you haven't given them enough time. In the end, people will show you their good side. Almost everybody has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.

*Watch what they do, not what they say. A female colleague told me: "It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out. When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do."

* Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.

* The lost art of thank you notes. Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. I think that a thank-you notes are best done the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.

* Loyalty is a two-way street . . . and work harder. All my adult life I've felt drawn to ask long-married couples how they were able to stay together. All of them said the same thing: "We worked hard at it."

* Show gratitude. Go out and do for others what somebody did for you.

* Always be prepared. When you go into the wilderness, the only thing you can count on is what you take with you.

* Tell the truth. If I could only give three words of advice, they would be "tell the truth." If I got three more words to add: "All the time." My parents taught me that "you're only as good as your word," and there is no better way to say it.

These are just some of life lessons that Randy imparted in his book. I highly recommend reading the book in it's entirety since there are many more insightful messages.

1 comment:

dAwN said...

thanks geno...wonderful words of wisdom...i guess i should buy the book....