Dipesh Majumdar

Blog and Paintings

23 Lessons we can learn from THE LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch

cover picture of the book - the last lecture by randy pauschFirst let me start with the review of this book.

 Though I have seen both the video as well as read this book, I have found this book more profound in imparting serious and in-depth lessons of life that are pragmatic and real – easy to connect to. Normal day to day lives – trivial incidents – bigger schemes of things – everything put together and encapsulated in this book that can act as a guide in this journey called life. Valuable lessons are not only laid out – but carved out with interesting stories from the author’s real experience and which is highly educative.

For the first time I really wanted a book not to finish... as I kept finishing page after page and the number of pages left with dwindled... I had this feeling that Randy was talking to me and after all the pages get over he will die. So as I absorbed every page, feeling blessed and happy, I also felt sad at coming closer, page by page, towards the end.

Rest in Peace Randy Pausch. For you have created a wonderful masterpiece before leaving the mortal world. Something that will stay for eons... etched hard in the hearts of those who have read this wonderful book and those that are yet to born and yet to read - the last lecture, with heavy hearts and moist eyes. Each page is gem, full of your lively spirit - through your sad demise you have actually taught millions how to live their lives.

One of the few books that you will come across in which the heart has been poured upside down. No inhibition, no fear...The author gave whatever he had acquired in his life. It is not a legacy left for his three children... but for mankind!

Buy a copy, read, reread, underline those sentences that touch you ( you might end up underlining all sentences ;-)), make notes, contemplate, get disappointed, elated and relive the life of Randy Pauch. One thing is for sure - The last lecture is going to last a long long time... Take my words!

 Now, after reading the book, I have found some nuggets of wisdom, which can be made really interesting if portrayed through sketches, photographs and some experiences from my own life. So here goes the 23 life changing lessons that you can learn from this book: 

1. The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.

the brick walls are there for a reason

You have to scale the brick walls. And sometimes dig a hole so that you can go through...

They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.


2. No coddling zone - Children are coddled way too much these days. Remember the adage – save the stick and spoil the child! Well I won’t patronize beating, but an optimum level of strict parenting with some coddling can do a world of good to develop your kids. Shown below is the NO CODDLING ZONE theory that Graham formulates

 no coddling zone

3. Pandora’s box – In the bottom of the box, lies HOPE. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

4. HEAD FAKE LEARNING - This is something I can illustrate with something I love – playing table tennis. While I enjoy the game and have a lot of fun, I am actually developing a better hand-eye coordination, increasing my lung power, keeping myself fit and healthy and learning how to fight it out….hard…to defeat the opposition. This in turn will help me live a healthy life and tackle with other difficult situations in life.

Head fake learning is a concept which means while you believe you do something for some purpose but you actually end up learning other skills and capabilities.

5. Automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B – Well, I believe that the windshields and the glasses should be spic and span so that they don’t block your views. Rest of the body doesn't really matter. I would rather finish one more painting than waste that time in washing my car. Also scratches and dents should not rob off my night’s sleep.

I remember one incident when I had just purchased my car. Once when I was parking, I accidentally brushed the side of the front bumper with the adjacent pillar. The scratches yelled out loud and I was desperate to obliterate them. I showed this to my wife and expected her to become sad… but to my dismay she was rather cool. When I suggested – we should take it to some shop for removing the scratches, she shrugged off with a sarcastic smile and replied, “ Don’t do that now…. Wait till we have more scratches… and then we can take it to the shop.”

The bottom line is - don’t be overly attached to material objects… remember Randy Pausch’s take on this: PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

 6. Dutch Uncle – A Dutch uncle gives you honest feedback. Andy Van Dam was Randy’s Dutch uncle. Find out who is your Dutch uncle – listen to the shortcomings with the right attitude and take steps to overcome them.

dutch uncle

7. Let’s saddle up and ride. – A hard situation in life can be dealt in different ways – you can make things worse or you can make them better. Rather than harping on the same negative and fearful consequences, it is better to go ahead in life with a positive attitude and a cheerful countenance. Randy Pausch would say - Let's saddle up and ride.

8. Not expressing your own accomplishments is a good quality – But how many of us are good at it? We are dying to blow our own trumpet all the time. I have seen very few people who are stoic when it comes to expressing their own accomplishments. In fact you don’t need to blow your own trumpet – because ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS. Great stalwarts like Mukesh Ambani, Narayana Murthy, Sachin Tendulkar – are all very soft-spoken and introvert.  

9. Luck is indeed where preparation meets opportunity. 

luck is where preparation meets opportunity

10. Money was never an issue in our house mostly because my parents never saw a need to spend much. 

11. Develop a good filing system – Randy says that... and I have been doing that. I have this telephone directory with the letters – A,B,C,D……X,Y,Z. Now I have filed all certificates, receipts, documents and items that you can think of – in this directory. The below image is from website:

12. Time is all you have. Don't waste.

13. If nobody ever worried about what is in other people’s heads we’d all be 33 percent more effective in our lives and on our jobs. This can be illustrated from this example: When I partner with another  dominating player in TT doubles match, I see my own performance dipping. This is because whenever I hit a shot, I always think about my partner's reaction. And if I miss, my partner cries out in anguish… things become even worse. My performance dips even further. That’s why members of a good team always encourage each other and never apply undue pressure.

14. Treat the disease, not the symptom. If you have a head-ache and that's because of a bad stomach... it's better to treat the stomach and not the head. Hear stomach is the problem and headache is a mere symptom. When the root cause is eradicated, the head ache will cease to exist!

15. If you wait long enough people will surprise and impress you.


16. I love the movie rocky. I even love the theme music. What I like most about the original rocky movie is that rocky didn’t care about if he won the fight that ends the film. He just didn’t want to get knocked out. That was his goal - Randy Pausch

17. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

18. Get people's attention

19. I find the best short cut is the long way which is basically 2 words: WORK HARD


20. Show gratitude.

show gratitude


21. The eaten by wolves factor - Prepare for the worst case scenario.  


22. When we are connected to others we become better people. 

23. Mankind's greatest timewaster - TV



Listing below 40 words from this book to brush up your vocabulary. Listing the sentences (in italics) as well that contain the words. The meanings are within brackets are underlined. I believe that words are given new lives in the thoughts of authors and the meaning that arise from the sentences have a greater impact on the reader.

1. Mull…audience can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would… ( mull -> noun/transitive verb. A period of deep thought)

2. Leery- But she was leery about this whole last lecture idea. (Leery – adj. suspicious)

3. Grappling The lecture, she argued, would be an unnecessary diversion from the overwhelming issues we were grappling with in our lives. (grapple – verb. Struggle to deal with something)

4. Viscerally - …she was often viscerally moved by our commitment to getting our final time together right. (visceral - emotional (in this case); also means instinctual; antonym is reasoned)

5. ReticenceGiven Jai’s reticence…. (reticent – adj. unwilling to communicate very much; synonyms – taciturn; unforthcoming; cagey; reserved)

6. Fortitude - …I still had the fortitude to perform? (fortitude – noun. Determination – strength or endurance in a difficult or painful situation)

7. Vanity it’s about dignity and self-esteem which isn’t the same as vanity. (vanity – noun. Excessive pride, especially in personal appearance; futility – the state of being futile or empty of significance)

8. GravitasIf I can get an audience to laugh and clap at the right time, may be that would add gravitas to what I’m telling the kids. (gravitas – noun. Seriousness of behavior)

9. Avenue - …perhaps this lecture could be an avenue for that (avenue – noun. 1. Wide street. 2. A course of action to be taken in order to approach, attain or gain access to somebody or something)

10. SagaMy medical saga was what it was ( saga – noun. Series of events)

11. Quirky, decidedly - …from incredibly meaningful to decidedly quirky… (quirk – noun. 1. Odd event – a strange and unexpected turn of events. 2. Odd mannerism) note: decided means obvious.

12. Epiphany – I felt my lecture might help others….… and fueled by this epiphany… – (epiphany – noun. Sudden realization)

13. Gallows humor - humour that makes unpleasant things, such as death, seem funny

14. Brag - ….and I bragged that I didn’t need to go to the dentist anymore. (brag – intransitive verb. to talk with excessive pride about an achievement or possession. Another example - The police arrested him after he bragged about the bank robbery to his friends)

15. Exasperating (synonym - infuriating, maddening) – ( exasperate – verb. to make somebody very angry or frustrated, often by repeatedly doing something annoying. Another example - Guests were exasperated by their hosts' constant bickering) note: bicker – intransitive verb. to argue in a bad-tempered way about something unimportant)

16. Props - I roused myself off the couch and started gathering my props (crutches) for the walk across campus to the lecture hall.

17. Putteringeven with the talk only minutes away, I continued puttering at the podium, deleting some slides, rearranging others. ( putter – intransitive verb. to do trivial or unimportant tasks in a random, leisurely way)

18. Tweed - …professorial tweed jacket…. (tweed – noun. Woolen cloth)

19. Garb - ….childhood dream garb I could find in my closet. (garb – noun. a particular type of clothing, especially the uniform or typical outfit worn by members of a profession. Another example – military garb.)

20. Cognitive dissonance( cognitive - relating to the process of acquiring knowledge by the use of reasoning, intuition, or perception) (dissonance – noun. 1. Unpleasant noise. 2. Inconsistency)

21. MedicMy dad was a world war –II medic who…. ( medic – noun. 1. an enlisted person or non commissioned officer in a military medical corps. 2. Doctor)

22. A leg up - I do really see myself as a guy who had this incredible leg up in life because I had a mother and a father who got so many thing right.( A LEG UP – IDIOMS. 1. The act or an instance of assisting; a boost.2. A position of advantage; an edge: ANOTHER EXAMPLE- We have a leg up on the competition.)

23. Cockiness - ….to keep my cockiness in check. (cocky – adjective - arrogantly confident and sure of yourself)

24. Precocious - ……alert but not terribly precocious. (precocious – adj. mentally advanced for age)

25. Off the beaten pathThey were always finding project off the beaten path, then throwing themselves into them. ( off the beaten path - not known or popular with many people EXAMPLE -  She enjoyed going to foreign-language movies that were a little bit off the beaten path.)

26. Escapade, relentmy mother wasn't so high on the whole escapade, but she relented pretty quickly when she saw how excited I was. ( escapade –noun. something exciting or adventurous that somebody does or is involved in, especially something showing recklessness or disregard for authority) ( relent – intransitive verb. to become more sympathetic or amenable and do something previously ruled out or allow something previously forbidden). Note – amenable means willing to cooperate.

27. WimpyI was naturally wimpy, and the smallest kid by far. (wimp – noun. an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody regarded as weak, timid, unassertive, or ineffectual)

28. Put offdoctors didn't seem to be put off  (SEEM TO HAVE GOT CONFUSED) by me ( 1. Postpone. 2. to confuse; disconcert)

29. Impassioned I was impassioned about so many things… ( impassioned – transitive verb. to arouse strong feelings in somebody (usually passive). Another example – A crowd that was impassioned by his oratory.

30. Contrarian, spoutI was way too brash, and I was an inflexible contrarian, always spouting opinions. (contrarian- a habitual opponent of accepted policies, opinions, or practices, example - a thoroughgoing contrarian, accepting nothing anyone says) (spout – intransitive verb. 1. discharge jet of something 2. Talk at great length about something )

31. JerkRandy you are being a jerk. (noun. an offensive term for somebody who is regarded as behaving foolishly)

32. Whine - intransitive verb. complain peevishly - to complain in an unreasonable, repeated, or irritating way

33. Peevish – adj. bad-tempered, irritable, or tending to complain

34. ImpishnessFrom the moment I met her the day of my visit, I just found myself staring at her. She’s a beauty, of course and she had this gorgeous long hair then, and this smile that said a lot about both her warmth and her impishness. ( impish – adj. mischievous)

35. StaccatoI was gasping out fear in staccato (staccato – adj. played as rapid short detached notes)

36. PrognosisAt the same time, given my prognosis, Jai says she’s learning to let some of the little stuff slide. (prognosis – noun. a medical opinion as to the likely course and outcome of a disease; a forecasting of the probable course and outcome of a disease, especially of the chances of recovery. )

37. Quartile – noun. each of four equal groups into which a statistical sample may be divided

38. Smack - ….smacking the truth into my head. (smack- transitive and intransitive verb to hit somebody with a quick stinging and usually noisy blow with the palm of the hand)

39. PeevI was completely peeved (annoyed, irritated) at the camp directors

40. Quadriplegic – noun. Inability to move all four limbs or body

 Quite a fabulous journey it was...i.e, reading the book THE LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch. I have underlined many sentences with my gel pen. So I have picked those sentences - which moved me / touched my soul: 

1. How could I turn this academic talk into something that would resonate with our kids a decade or more up the road?

2. Her casual remark was a reminder about the accidental elements that play into both our arrival into life… and our departure into death.

3. I roused myself off the couch and started gathering my props (crutches) for the walk across campus to the lecture hall.

4. If you can dream it you can do it.

5. Money was never an issue in our house mostly because my parents never saw a need to spend much.

6. I do really see myself as a guy who had this incredible leg up in life because I had a mother and a father who got so many things right.

7. Part of that is because if you dispense your own wisdom, others often dismiss it; if you offer wisdom from a third party, it seems less arrogant and more acceptable.

8. Anybody out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let them do it. It will be OK. Don’t worry about the resale value on the house.

9. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. (pg.33)

10. The lesson has stuck with me my whole life. When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a bad place to be. You may not want to hear it, but your critics are often the ones telling you better. (pg. 37)

11. It saddens me that many kids today are so coddled.

12. I haven’t seen coach Graham since I was a teen, but he just keeps showing up in my head, forcing me to work harder whenever I feel like quitting, forcing me to be better. He gave me a feedback loop for life.

13. He was the distilled essence of the dynamic manager, a guy who knew how to delegate, had the passion to inspire, and looked good in what he wore to work. He never professed to have skills greater than his subordinates.

14. I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.

15. Now here’s a lesson for managers and administrators. Both deans said the same thing: They didn’t know if this sabbatical was a good idea. But think about how differently they said it!

16. There is an old expression, ‘A dutch uncle’, which refers to a person who gives you honest feedback.

17. People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing.

18. If my kids mess up their cars, I hope Chris and Laura will think of me and smile.

19. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.

20. The brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.

21. ‘Be supportive,’ my mom said. If you love her support her. (pg. 78)

22. We smiled weakly and thanked him. It was only dusk on our first day of marriage, but we have made it so far.

23. The dents would be OK. My parents had raised me to recognize that automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B. They are utilitarian devices, not expressions of social status……….If your trashcan or wheelbarrow has a dent in it, you don’t buy a new one. Pg.86. [ diagram – dent/ no dent … makes no difference]

24. No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better. Pg.88

25. In the fifty years my parents were married, in the thousands of conversations my dad had with me, it had just never come up. And so there I was, weeks after his death, getting another lesson from him about the meaning of sacrifice – and about the power of humility.

26. Live in the moment

27. The truth can set you free

28. Time must be explicitly managed like money.

29. I am a big believer of TO-DO LISTS. It helps us break life into small steps.

30. Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?

31. Develop a good filing system.

32. Time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than what you think.

33. I understand the arguments about how the billions of dollars spent to put men on the moon could have been used to fight poverty and hunger on earth. But, look, I’m a scientist who sees inspiration as the ultimate tool for doing good. (Satyajeet Ray’s movie)

34. Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kid’s dreams too. Once in a while that might even mean letting them stay awake past their bedtimes.

35. I am not at all interested in fashion, which is why I rarely buy new clothes.

36. You buy new clothes when your old clothes wear out. Anyone who saw what I wore in my last lecture knows this is advice I live by.

37. Somehow with the passage of time and the deadline that life imposes, surrendering became the perfect thing to do.

38. I have always believed that if you took one tenth of the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d would be surprised by how well things would work out.

39.  Being able to work well in a group is a vital and necessary skill in both the work world and in families.

40. Sometimes all you have to do is ask

41. I mean I don’t know how not to have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there is no other way to play it.

42.  Krishnamurthy was once asked what is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. He answered, “Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.”

43. So my dreams for my kids are very exact: I want them to find their own path to fulfillment.

44. So today’s talk was about achieving childhood dreams – but did you figure out the head fake? It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life, the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. 

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