On Sale: April 8, 2008
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"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play
A lot of professors give
talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked
to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters
most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but
mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the
world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish
tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was
asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it
as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with
terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving
Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about 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. It was about living.
In this book, Randy Pausch
has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that
made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible
form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to
for Randy Pausch
We were shy
about barging in on Randy Pausch's valuable time to ask him
a few questions about his expansion of his famous Last
Lecture into the book by the same name, but he was gracious
enough to take a moment to answer. (See Randy to the right
with his kids, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe.) As anyone who has
watched the lecture or read the book will understand, the
really crucial question is the last one, and we weren't
surprised to learn that the "secret" to winning giant
stuffed animals on the midway, like most anything else, is
apologize for asking a question you must get far more often
than you'd like, but how are you feeling?
Pausch: The tumors are not yet large enough
to affect my health, so all the problems are related to the
chemotherapy. I have neuropathy (numbness in fingers and
toes), and varying degrees of GI discomfort, mild nausea,
and fatigue. Occasionally I have an unusually bad reaction
to a chemo infusion (last week, I spiked a 103 fever), but
all of this is a small price to pay for walkin' around.
Amazon.com: Your lecture at Carnegie Mellon
has reached millions of people, but even with the short time
you apparently have, you wanted to write a book. What did
you want to say in a book that you weren't able to say in
Pausch: Well, the lecture
was written quickly--in under a week. And it was
time-limited. I had a great six-hour lecture I could give,
but I suspect it would have been less popular at that length
A book allows me to cover many, many more stories
from my life and the attendant lessons I hope my kids can
take from them. Also, much of my lecture at Carnegie Mellon
focused on the professional side of my life--my students,
colleagues and career. The book is a far more personal look
at my childhood dreams and all the lessons I've learned.
Putting words on paper, I've found, was a better way for me
to share all the yearnings I have regarding my wife,
children and other loved ones. I knew I couldn't have gone
into those subjects on stage without getting emotional.
Amazon.com: You talk about the
importance--and the possibility!--of following your
childhood dreams, and of keeping that childlike sense of
wonder. But are there things you didn't learn until you were
a grownup that helped you do that?
Pausch: That's a great question. I think
the most important thing I learned as I grew older was that
you can't get anywhere without help. That means people have
to want to help you, and that begs the question: What kind
of person do other people seem to want to help? That strikes
me as a pretty good operational answer to the existential
question: "What kind of person should you try to be?"
Amazon.com: One of the things that struck
me most about your talk was how many other people you
talked about. You made me want to meet them and work with
them--and believe me, I wouldn't make much of a computer
scientist. Do you think the people you've brought together
will be your legacy as well?
Like any teacher, my students are my biggest professional
legacy. I'd like to think that the people I've crossed paths
with have learned something from me, and I know I learned a
great deal from them, for which I am very grateful.
Certainly, I've dedicated a lot of my teaching to helping
young folks realize how they need to be able to work with
other people--especially other people who are very different
Amazon.com: And last,
the most important question: What's the secret for knocking
down those milk bottles on the midway?
Pausch: Two-part answer:
2) discretionary income / persistence
I was never good at the milk bottles. I'm more of a ring
toss and softball-in-milk-can guy, myself. More seriously,
though, most people try these games once, don't win
immediately, and then give up. I've won *lots* of midway
stuffed animals, but I don't ever recall winning one on the
very first try. Nor did I expect to. That's why I think
midway games are a great metaphor for life.
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Inside Edition - July 25, 2008
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All Things Considered - July 25, 2008
Oprah - June 10, 2008
Inside Edition - May 19, 2008
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Inside Edition - April 9, 2008
Good Morning America - April 9, 2008
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