The Last Lecture

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough." ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Background about Dr. Randy Pausch:

  • Brown University B.S. 82, Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. 88

  • Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Computer Science, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction and Design.

  • He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had ten tumors in his liver, was given only months to live.

  • After his diagnosis, he wrote this book that broke up into 61 short chapters with the story about his life and the bits of advice he wanted to give.


These are the top 7 lessons I think are essential to follow and live by:


1. ”We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.


I know it seems unfair that someone else might have an advantage over you and always seem like a disadvantage. One important key factor is realizing that you have to play the card given to you—finding what the card can offer and missing, which is similar to understanding your strength and weakness. Understanding this important element will make you a better place and help you realize where you are in life.


2. “You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.”


Many of us like to jump to conclusions and imagine ourselves achieving our dreams. However, learning the basics and setting up a good foundation will help you in the long run. One of the key examples Dr. Pausch uses is a project. Every project must have a good starting point and lay the foundation early before taking off. Once the basics are set and ready, it's time to launch off and see all the possibilities it can take. The reason behind this idea was to tell us that if no groundwork, the project will take nowhere. Therefore, preparing the base of the operation should be the first.


3. “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 they still love you and care about you, and want to make you better.”


Dr. Pausch believes that one of the decisive pieces of advice in college is feedback. Students who get to college often have an ego and idea of themselves never being beaten down and receiving negative feedback on assignments. No one likes to hear bad things, but some things are needed to be taken into consideration. Critics are not there to bring you down, but it should be considered a way to improve and help yourself out of the hole. Comments should be reviewed and looked upon heavily; no matter how bad it was, it's a course of action that will help us be better and raise ourselves.


4. “Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.”


Dr. Pausch dislikes complaining, and he often thinks this is a waste of energy. Complaining will push yourself and your mind away from your goals. The thoughts and ideas of everything going against you will put you into an unhealthy environment. He thinks that we should not focus mainly on the complaining, instead of taking everything to address the issue and where we need to go. No matter how terrible this issue might be, taking your energy into work will help you work things out much better than you think it might be.


5. “If you have a question, then find the answer. Open the encyclopedia. Open the dictionary. Open your mind.”


Dr. Pausch uses his childhood example when it comes to this advice. When he was growing up, his father always had World Book Encyclopedia on the bookshelf. When he had a question, his father would direct him to the bookshelf to seek answers. So today, he mentions that we have all the world's knowledge in our hands; when we are curious, let our mind dive into more information. Searching for information will encourage you to be better at information gathering and learning new things.


6. “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’s no other way to play it.”


One of the last pieces of advice Dr. Pausch wants to talk about is having fun. Life and work should include fun ideas for an individual, not to chase money or status. Even though he only has a few months left to live, he spends his time lecturing to his students because it's something he enjoys and wants to do. We have to learn how to have fun in life, not just work or study; you might not be in the right place without excitement.


7. “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”


The concept of the brick wall Dr. Pausch wants us to think about is the motivation to reach our goal no matter how hard it's. The wall will keep us out, but we must keep trying and never give up. Some people will get stuck and can't get past the obstacle, but we must face a challenge, and figuring out the way around will be our goal. This can show how desperate a person wants to succeed, how much they are willing to themselves to it. So never let the brick wall hold you back or keep you out; this should be considered a challenge you are eager to fight against.