Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Last Lecture

Eventually I’d like to do book reviews on here. I search a lot of these book blogs and find back to back daily postings of reviews of different books. I’m guessing these bloggers have a stockpile of reviews to use, but I’d like to keep it more current. Unfortunately I’ve dedicated myself to reading and finishing the Harry Potter series before I start anything new, and start posting reviews. I’m sure everyone else in the world has already read HP, so I’ll spare you those details (and I’m only about half-way through the 4th book, Harry just found out someone put his name in the Goblet of Fire for the TriWizard Tournament, how dare they!)

Anyways, instead of reviewing books, I’ll try and suggest some books that look interesting. I was editing an article the other day that mentioned a book called The Last Lecture. I needed a little more context about the book to edit the article so I looked it up and was intrigued by the man who wrote the book, Randy Pausch (with Jeffrey Zaslow). Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon and a married father of three when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The book is based off his last lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, about striving to make our dreams reality, seizing the moment and living life to the fullest.

As I browsed through the Web site I came across a blog Pausch created to update his readers on his life and health. Even towards the end he had such an optimistic outlook, despite the reality that he knew would he’d eventually face. Unfortunately, Pausch lost is battle and died July 25, 2008 at the age of 47.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

"What makes me unique?"

That was the question I felt compelled to address. Maybe answering that would help me figure out what to say. I was sitting with Jai in a doctor's waitin
g room at Johns Hopkins, awaiting yet another pathology report, and I was bouncing my thoughts off her.

"Cancer doesn't make me unique," I said. There was no arguing that. More than 37,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer alone.

I thought hard about how I defined myself: as a teacher, a computer scientist, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a mentor to my students. Those were all roles I valued. But did any of those roles really set me apart?

Though I've always had a healthy sense of self, I knew this lecture needed more than just bravado. I asked myself: "What do I, alone, truly have to offer?"

And then, there in that waiting room, I suddenly knew exactly what it was. It came to me in a flash: Whatever my accomplishments, all of the things I loved in life, were rooted in the dreams and goals I had as a child... and in the ways I had managed to fulfill almost all of them. My uniqueness, I realized, came in the specifics of all the dreams - from incredibly meaningful to decidedly quirky -- that defined my 46 years of life. Sitting there, I know that despite the cancer, I truly believed I was a lucky man because I had lived out these dreams. And I had lived out my dreams, in great measure, because of things I was taught by all sorts of extraordinary people along the way. If I was able to tell my story with the passion I felt, I thought, my lecture might help others find a path to fulfilling their own dreams.

I had my laptop with me in that waiting room, and fueled by this epiphany, I quickly tapped out an email to the lecture organizers. I told them I finally had a title for them. "My apologies for the delay," I wrote. "Let's call it: 'Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.'"

I haven’t researched all the reviews yet, but this book seems like it would put what’s really important in life into perspective. Has any one read it? If I ever get around to reading it, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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