What if you found out you were going to die… shortly? What would you do? How would you live your remaining days? Would you crawl under a hole and wait? Would you bungee jump or sail around the world? It’s a deep and introspective question.

Two years ago today, July 25, 2008, at the age of 47, a man that captivated the hearts of millions of people around the world (and mine), lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor and alumnus, husband, and father to three beautiful children.  What is an academic tradition, to give students a “last lecture,”  the notion that: if you knew you were going to die, what would you tell your students… actually became his own last lecture. He called it “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and he delivered this inspirational speech at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007 to an immensely captive audience, including Randy’s family, friends, students, and colleagues. When he gave the lecture, he had just been given 3-6 months to live.


And why I would like to honor his life today, on the anniversary of his death, is because Randy Pausch was certainly not sitting on any fences when it came to how he was going to live the remainder of his days. He maximized every waking minute, and made every one count. I don’t want to give too much away. I urge you to watch his lecture, as I did in its entirety almost three years ago, and then I would love your feedback and thoughts below.  Randy said that he gave the lecture for only three people in this world (the answer is in the video).

To sum up the highlights and lessons we can learn from Randy Pausch:

  • It is an easy time to dream when we are young (and happy) and we should never lose that spirit.
  • Experience is what you get if you don’t get what you wanted.
  • When people drive you hard, they care about you.  They want you to be better.  When you are doing a bad job and no one points it out to you, that is when they have given up on you.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.
  • Good parents are instrumental for us to achieve our childhood dreams.
  • The importance of people versus things (people come first, always)!
  • Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun.  Choose to have fun today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
  • Work and play well with others: (1) tell the truth, (2) apologize (properly), (3) wait, and people will show their good sides.
  • Tell the truth – integrity.
  • A good apology has three parts.  (a) I am sorry, (b) it was my fault, (c) how do I make it right.  Most people neglect the third part and fail to demonstrate sincerity.
  • Be patience.  No one is pure evil.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don’t complain, just work harder.
  • If you lead your life the right way, if you live properly, the dreams will come to you.

the last lecture

In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” And while Randy may be gone, and not here to keep encouraging us to live a better life, his video will never stop inspiring millions of people around the world to keep chasing their dreams, no matter what hand they are dealt, or how much time they have left. The lessons he gave the world are invaluable. He truly taught us how to live our lives.

Today, to honor his life, I encourage you to watch his video (even if you already have). I have attached a few versions depending on how much time you have.

The Last Lecture

Summary on Oprah

Summary on Diane Sawyer

Last Lecture

His legacy will never die.

Rest in Peace, Randy Pausch.

Please share your thoughts on the video with our readers, and tell us… if you found out you had 3-6 months to live, how would you live out those remaining days?