My Last Lecture?

About six months ago I picked up a book at Costco that looked like a good read, The Last Lecture. It was written by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. CMU had a tradition of having professors share what they believed was most important in life – what they would share if they could only offer one “last lecture.” By the time Randy was scheduled to give his “last lecture” they had renamed the series to Journeys and were unaware that it would indeed be his last lecture.

I’m now in Colorado enjoying some vacation time that God sovereignly planned months ago when He knew that this past week I would end up in the hospital to have a stent placed in my heart. I’ve shared some personal reflections on facing my own mortality, and as I was packing for our trip out here saw The Last Lecture sitting on my desk, and grabbed it to read.

Tonight I joined nearly ten million others who have watched the video (below) of his presentation and it was really good. You can watch it here on YouTube yourself (76 minutes long) as well as another talk he did later on time management. Both are worth the investment of time. As a newsweek writer Nancy Gibbs wrote when they reported on his death, millions have been “charmed by his easy manner and insight, [and] in awe of his complete lack of self-pity.”

The video is packed with real life wisdom illustrated by stories from his life – I really appreciated one of the themes that came up several times:

Every time he faced an obstacle he made the point that

“Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.”

He made the comment that “brick walls” are to keep the “other people out” – others who don’t want it bad enough, or aren’t willing to work hard enough to achieve. I’m a brick wall smasher by nature – and I think I got that from my parents who believed in me probably a little more than I was worthy of! You will rarely hear me say “I can’t” – but you’ll often hear me say, “we can!” I do believe it often comes down to how badly do you want something and how hard are you willing to work to help it happen. (and how creatively too!)

I also appreciated this slide in his PowerPoint:

I remember as a young man wondering, “What am I good at?” Especially at the age when it was becoming more and more obvious what I wasn’t good at! (Thanks for allowing me not to list them all, its quite a long list!) But I figured out what I was good at, and worked hard to do it well, and share it with others – and both my church ministries would blossom as well as this little non-profit I founded called Kidology. I laughed out loud when he said people asked him, “What’s your secret?” because I’ve had so many people over the years ask me the secret to founding and running a successful “business” (ministry) and my answer is usually, “just go do it.” No one gave me any secret, and now that I’ve done it (with the Lords help and many others!) I know there is no “secret” – you just have to jump out there and DO something, and if you are walking with God and focused on serving others – it will succeed! Maybe that IS the secret – to DO something, rather than sit around wondering and dreaming forever.

I love his emphasis on fulfilling your childhood dreams, but also – helping others fulfill their own. I’ve had many dreams fulfilled, and the ones still left, I’m getting read to pursue with renewed zeal and passion, as I’ve been acutely reminded by recent events to make the most of my days! Expect some changes in my life soon! But I also find the older I get, as Randy mentions, the more you will find helping others is more fulfilling. I can point to many people I know I’ve been able to help or encourage or mentor, and few things are as fulfilling as watching them succeed and knowing I played a small part in their life. And then once in awhile I get an e-mail from someone I don’t know who shares the impact of Kidology on their life or ministry and again I get that awesome satisfaction of finding out how God used you in someone else’s life, even when you were completely unaware of it. Helping others succeed is far better than any ‘success’ one can achieve for themselves. (and it will out last you too!)

So I’m reading and enjoying The Last Lecture and encourage you to watch the video and even get the book. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, let me ask you a few questions I am asking myself right now:

1) If you had the opportunity to give a “Last Lecture” – what lessons from life would you share? What stories would you tell? What advice would you give others? What legacy would you want to leave behind?

2) What childhood dreams do you have that are yet to be fulfilled or experienced? What are you waiting for!?

Don’t get stuck in a rut – life is too short! Get out there and DO something already. Too many people spend there life talking about what others have done, reading about what others have done, watching TV shows about the lives of others, and WATCHING life as a spectator instead of DOING life as a participant.

Side note: I watch virtually no television, and it comes up when people talk about American Idol or ask if I’ve seen a certain commercial or some other popular show and I know nothing about it. When I say, “I don’t watch TV” they usually think it is because of some conviction and I’m judging them, so I always have to say, “No, its just that I never turn it on.” It’s not because of some conviction or holier than though attitude, but just because I’m too busy living life to sit in front of a television. And it’s not that I’m a workaholic (been there, done that, cured!) but I just want to DO stuff, not sit and watch stuff that is nearly half advertising. (I do enjoy renting and watching movies and invested in a home theater to make it an incredible experience!) But to give my evenings to TV when I could be with my family, or DOING something else, or creating something just seems to be yet another way to let life waste away and miss out on so much that is so incredibly better.

I say, GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING – if you miss out on anything in life, you have only yourself to blame!


3) What do you day dream about? Why not stop dreaming, and start planning! I used to daydream about spending some extended time in Yosemite with a bunch of like-minded guys. Finally, one year, I stopped dreaming and started planning and Yosemite Summit was born.

I DARE YOU – stop dreaming and start planning!

(OK, my lecture is over, but it’s probably not my last!)

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  1. For some good, but emotional reading and viewing, be sure to visit the media page on Randy’s book’s site: and just follow the many links. Inspiring.

  2. As for TV, that’s what Tivo is for… skip all the advertising :)

    Henry Zonio’s last blog post..My Conspire 2009 Thoughts – Concluding Thoughts

  3. Excellent content, Karl. I appreciate you taking the time to write this. Pardon the shortness of my comment, but I am going to go out and do something now. ;)

    Glen Woods’s last blog post..Here We Can Learn About God….

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