The Last Lecture|Randy Pausch


We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." --Randy Pausch

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?

When Randy 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 come.


  • ISBN-13: 9781401323257
  • ISBN-10: 1401323251
  • Publisher: Hachette Books
  • Publish Date: April 2008
  • Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
  • Page Count: 224
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP

A professor's stirring 'last lecture'

When Randy Pausch learned he was dying of pancreatic cancer, he found himself in quite a dilemma: at the top of his professional game, with a beautiful wife and three young children, how should he check out of life? A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Pausch is the co-founder of the university's prestigious Entertainment Technology Center and has worked with such companies as Google, Electronic Arts and Walt Disney Imagineering. "I love thinking I might find a way to beat this late-stage cancer," he writes in The Last Lecture. "Because even if I don't, it's a better mindset to help me get through each day."

Using the forum of his university's "Last Lecture" series, the terminally ill Pausch decided to distill his life lessons into a talk for students, friends and colleagues about how to achieve your childhood dreams. When Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column about the lecture, and a video of the speech was posted on the Internet, the reaction was overwhelming. To adapt the lecture into a book, Pausch dictated his thoughts to Zaslow while on his daily bike rides—determined to maintain his fitness and minimize his time away from his family during the final months of his life. (Paush has already outlived his doctors' prediction that he had only six healthy months to live.)

The Last Lecture touches on Pausch's upbringing by parents who encouraged creativity and curiosity, as well as the support he received from important professors and mentors. The book gathers momentum with short sections about teamwork and cooperation, dreaming big, not obsessing over what people think, the power of apology and the little touches that mean so much (Pausch handed out Thin Mints with every request to review research papers).

Ultimately, this insightful nerd-optimist-dreamer abandons the idea of a "bucket list," reflecting instead his father's lifelong dedication to sharing intellectual and emotional wealth with others. "Time is all you have," Pausch writes, "And you may find one day that you have less than you think."