Inspirational life lessons from Dr. Randy Pausch

By | October 28, 2016

What would you do if you learnt today that you have six months to live? Would you live the last few months to the fullest or would you spend your remaining days just waiting for the inevitable? Would you go into denial, turn bitter and angry at life, feel cheated when facing your mortality, or would you find the strength to start living in the present, ignoring the past and future, be appreciative of what you have, develop a sense of gratitude and celebrate life? Such difficult questions!

I have lost loved ones to cancer, heart disease and other forms of illness. One of our closest relatives—who was a great friend, a mentor and a coach to me—died very young. He fought till the very end, smiled till the very end, wanted to do good for the others till the very end, but lost the battle eventually. He was an amazing person, whose life was cut short by a disease he never saw coming. I was very angry at life for taking him away so young; it seemed so unfair. To me, it also proved that the “good die young.” However, when I found closure, I realized that it is futile to question the arbitrary nature of our existence; it is the way it is.

In life, sometimes, some of us, or our loved ones, may develop a terminal illness, suddenly, which may cut our time on this abode short. And, as stated by the Doors in Roadhouse Blues—”the future is uncertain, and the end is always near.” As a result, I have a few rules that I live by. First of all, I live in the present and enjoy every moment of it.  Next, I cherish my precious moments with my family and friends. In addition, I keep my life very simple, very little overhead. I always tell my family and friends that a simple life is very underrated. Finally, I am grateful for all that I have and all that I have achieved in life. When I look back, I realize how lucky I was. No complaints!

Now, if I were to ever face the possibility of sudden and untimely death, then, I will draw inspiration from the lecture delivered by Dr. Randy Pausch and not sulk, be bitter, depressed or morose, or try to be the object of pity. We cannot control the randomness of events in life; however, we can indeed control how we respond to such events. And my response to such an event will be very similar to that of Dr. Randy Pausch.

The Last Lecture

Dr. Randy Pausch

Dr. Randy Pausch. By Randy Pausch (moved from en.wikipedia.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Randolph Frederick “Randy” Pausch (23 October 1960—25 July 2008) was a professor of Computer Science at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. In 2006, Dr. Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had an operation to remove the malignant tumor, later that year. In August 2007, his cancer relapsed and his doctors gave him the terminal diagnosis that he should expect 3 to 6 months of good health. On 18 September 2007, Dr. Randy Pausch, delivered a very inspiring lecture titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams at the Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture became a hit on YouTube and as of today, 28 October 2016, has gather over 18 million views. In that lecture, Dr. Pausch talked about his learnings from life, and how one should go about achieving one’s childhood dreams.

Although Dr. Randy Pausch is no longer with us, he passed away on 25 July 2008, he and his lecture have been immortalized in the YouTube video.  This video has helped me learn some valuable life lessons from this very inspiring person. I hope you all learn something, too.


The Last Lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch (short version)


The Last Lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch (long version)


Key life lessons from the lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch:

I can’t control the cards I am dealt, just how I play my hands.

If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, then sorry to disappoint you. I don’t choose to be an object of pity.

As you grow older, you may even find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.

Anything is possible and we should never lose that spirit.

It is all about the fundamentals. You have got to get the fundamentals down; otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.

If you don’t achieve your childhood dreams, you can still gain a lot from trying for it… experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted.

Most of what we learn, we learn indirectly.

When you are doing a bad job and nobody points it out to you, that’s when they have given up on you.

The brick walls that are on our way are there for a reason; they are not there to keep us out, they are there to let us prove how much we want it. Brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.

It is pretty easy to be smart when you are parroting smart people.

Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. When you are pissed off at somebody and angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time.

It is very important to know when you are in a pissing match, and it is very important to get out of it as quickly as possible.

You obviously don’t know where the bar should be, and you only going to do them a disservice by putting it anywhere.

The best way to teach somebody something is to have them thinking they are learning something else.

It is such a shame that people perceive you as arrogant, because it is going to limit what you are going to accomplish in life.

Respect authority while questioning it.

Have a sense of fun and wonder that should never go away.

Parents taught me the importance of people vs. things.

Decide early on if you are a Tigger or an Eeyore.

Never lose the childlike wonder.

Help others!

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.

Loyalty is a two-way street.

Never give up!

You can’t get there alone.

Work and play well with others:

Live with integrity; tell the truth; be earnest

When you screw up, apologize sincerely. A good apology has three parts—I am sorry; It was my fault; How do I make it right? Most people skip the third part.

No one is pure evil; if you wait long enough they will show you their good side.

Brick walls let us show our dedication.

Don’t bail; the best gold is at the bottom of the barrels of crap.

If you do the right thing, good stuffs have a way of happening.

[When someone] tells you what you need to hear; the hard part is the listening to it. When people give you the feedback, cherish it and use it.

Show gratitude!

Don’t complain; just work harder.

Be good at something; it makes you valuable.

Find the best in everybody.

Be prepared: ‘luck’ is where preparation meets opportunity.

If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself; the dreams will come to you. If you live properly, the dreams will come to you.

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