Randy starts by letting the reader know he has “an engineering problem.” Though he looks healthy, his liver is riddled with tumors and he has only a few months to live. He has three young kids, and though he knows he has to spend as much time as possible soaking up experiences with his family, his real problem is how to communicate with them after he’s gone. To solve this problem, Randy decides to give a “last lecture,” both to cap off his career, and to leave a few of the lessons of his life behind for his kids to discover after he’s gone. He also notes that much of this book was distilled from conversations he had with Jeffrey Zaslow, his co-author, on the phone while biking. Still, Randy says, this book and his lecture are no replacement for living—“but engineering isn’t about perfect solutions; it’s about doing the best you can with limited resources.”
Doing the best you can with whatever limited resources you have is exactly at the heart of Randy’s ideas about attitude and positivity. Rather than having a “woe is me” type outlook, Randy faces his cancer head on and does whatever he can to positively impact the remaining time he has left, both for himself and for his family.