Summary of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

  • Post category:Summaries
  • Post last modified:November 16, 2022

Summary: 4 min

Book reading time: 3h18

Score: 10/10

Book published in: 2008

Access the Summary Database


  • The nicest thing is to help others achieve their dreams.

About The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture is a book written by Randy Pausch. It’s a semi-autobiographical book about the lessons that Randy Pausch learned during his life. It taught me the importance to see the best in the people, addressing the elephant in the room, and that life is ultimately about helping other people be happy.

I hated and loved this book at the same time.

I have hated it because it’s incredibly emotional and sad.

I loved it because it’s incredibly emotional…and wise.

As he was dying from cancer, Pausch, gave “a last lecture” about the lessons he’s learned in life.

While this book is meant to help you live a better life, it’s first and foremost a book about death.

Randy left behind him three small children, a loving wife, and many, many friends.

I am happy I wrote this summary because I wouldn’t want to read this book again. Too heavy.

It’s the best and worst reminder of the little time we have to spend on this planet.


Get the book here.

RandyPausch Wiki 2.jpg
Randy Pausch. Wikipedia.

Summary of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Always address the elephant in the room.

When you have a question, address it right away.

Don’t make a decision before you need to.

Let your kids paint their bedroom if they want to.

Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome (bring a gift).

Get the basics right, or the rest won’t work.

If you do something wrong and nobody tells you anything, it means they have given up on you. Harsh critics mean they have not.

The only way to build self-esteem in kids is to give them something they can’t do, let them work hard until they can do it, and repeat the process.

The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re 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’re there to stop the other people.

If it’s working, don’t fix it.

Time is finite.

  • Time must be explicitly managed, like money.
    • “It doesn’t matter how well you polish the underside of the banister.”
  • You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. Use to-do lists.
  • Are you spending your time on the right things?
    • You have goals, interests, passions. Are they worth pursuing?
  • Develop a good filing system so you don’t spend time looking for things.
  • Delegate
  • Take time out (holidays)

Receiving feedback and objectively judging yourself is a great skill to develop.

Realizing your dreams is fun. Helping others realize theirs is better.

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

Guys enjoy programming because it gives them control over something. Girls don’t enjoy that. But when programming is presented as a storytelling activity, girls become perfectly willing to learn how to write software.

Dream big.

When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but too often, you’re working at the margins. When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved.

Don’t complain. Just work harder.

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.

Don’t treat the symptoms, treat the disease.

Don’t obsess about what other people think.

Here’s how to work well in groups:

  • Meet people properly
  • Find things you have in common
  • Make optimal meeting conditions: no one should be thirsty, angry, or cold.
  • Let everyone talk
  • Leave egos at the door: write ideas down, and focus on the ideas, not on the people that proposed them.
  • Give praise
  • Propose alternatives as questions

Look for the best in everybody.

Watch what they do, not what they say.

Dance with the one that brought you (be loyal).

Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted -> go big and don’t worry if you fail.

Handwrite thank you notes. People love that.

The only way to go somewhere is to work hard.

Be grateful.

Over-prepare. All you have is what you bring with you.

A bad apology is worse than no apology. Here’s how to apologize:

  • “Here’s what I did wrong”
  • “I am sorry it hurt you”
  • “How can I make it better?”

Tell the truth.

No job is beneath you. Also expressed as “if you think you are too good for a job, you don’t deserve it”.

Never give up.

Rights cannot exist without responsibilities.

When you want something, ask for it.

As a parent, encourage your kids to do what they want to do and be what they want to be. Not what you want them to be.

Parents don’t realize the power of their words on their kids.

Take care of yourself if you want to take care of others. But don’t only take care of yourself.

Did you like the summary? Get the book on Amazon.

Want more?

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and I'll send you a list of the articles I wrote during the previous month + insights from the books I am reading + a short bullet list of savvy facts that will expand your mind. I keep the whole thing under three minutes. 

How does that sound? 

Leave a Reply