Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lessons learnt from 'The Last Lecture'

It was two years back when my daughter gifted me a book ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch, Professor at Carnegie Mellon. It was in fact the last lecture delivered by him as he was earlier diagnosed with terminal cancer and had few months to live. The lecture transformed into a story by one of his friends, was, published to become a best seller.

I read the book a number of times. Every reading enhanced my understanding of the valuable legacy which he left for his children and his readers. Being the last lecture and the simple truths it exemplifies, makes it poignant and sentimental. Let’s share a few of the professor’s proud moments.

He attributed his success to his firm belief in: “If you want something bad enough, never give up.”

One of his dreams was to experience the floating feeling of weightlessness in zero gravity. There was a plane designed by NASA to acclimatize the astronauts to Zero gravity. An opportunity came his way when his students at Carnegie Mellon were invited by NASA to do certain experiments. He hoped to accompany them but the authorities refused to accommodate any teacher. The opportunity was lost. However he did not lose hope. After extensive efforts he found a way out. He offered to become a journalist and send his virtual reality experiences to mainstream journals, publication of which would enhance NASA’s reputation. He kept persuading till they agreed and finally his dream was realized and he did experience that magical floating experience of zero gravity.

According to him: “Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster.”

When he was young, his parents always encouraged inquisitiveness ‘about current events, history’ and life. For him there was no better way to learn this than consulting ‘World Book Encyclopedia’ which his parents subscribed for, regardless of the ‘princely’ cost. The tradition in his house was: ‘Open the encyclopedia. Open the dictionary. Open your mind.’ He cherished the World Book and one of his childhood dreams was to be a contributor. It took him many many years of dedicated hard work in the field, before he could fulfill his dream of writing a new entry under “V” (Virtual Reality).

He believed in action and not brooding in the face of challenges. “This is not fair” was never a part of his vocabulary. Rather he’d say: “Let us saddle up and ride.”

His seven months pregnant wife, had her water bag ruptured at home and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors asked him to keep her calm as she was half way into clinical shock. With his presence of mind, he kept her conscious and reassured during the crucial C-section and saved both mother and child.

While concluding his lecture he says if we possess self belief, honesty and integrity, ‘no matter what cards we are dealt with, we will play them well.’