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Last Chance, Literally,
To Teach Life Lessons

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 21, 2007

Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954. Once, when challenged to pen a story in just six words, he wrote this:

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

It is said he thought it was his greatest work.


At many colleges and universities they now offer a “Last Lecture Series,” in which prominent professors are asked to reflect on what they would choose to say to the world if this was really their last chance to say something.

Carnegie-Mellon recently held one of these lectures. It was not, however, hypothetical. Randy Pausch has pancreatic cancer and expects to die in weeks or months.

Professor Pausch is a 46-year-old father of three children, ages 5, 2 and 1. He teaches computer science and, especially, virtual-reality technology for which he is world-renowned. He helped create “Alice,” a computer program that makes it easy to create 3-D animations. It was downloaded over a million times in the past year.

Jeff Zaslow, the “Moving On” columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote a poignant piece about the lecture and you can read it here. And make certain to click on the video below.

If you’ve seen the video, you don’t have to know Professor Pausch to know what a loss this is to his family, his school, computer science, and the world.

Especially trenchant were his comments on the obstacles life throws before us:

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

The brick walls are there for a reason.

The bricks 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.

The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people.

What a fantastic way to think about life.

The lecture was video recorded. His one-year-old and two-year-old children won’t have any memory of their father. His five-year-old may remember a little.

The last words of the lecture: “This was for my kids.”

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