The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture


Randy Pausch

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Themes and Colors
Dreams in Reality Theme Icon
Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Icon
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
Entitlement vs. Earning Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Last Lecture, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Dreams in Reality

When Randy Pausch, a professor and computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, learns that he’s terminally ill, he delivers a final public lecture, which he titles “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The lecture, and the book that quickly emerged from it, focus on the best strategies for turning childhood dreams into adult realities and, through that prism, the best ways in which to live a life.

More specifically, Randy urges his readers to do…

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Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops

As a professor, Randy believes in the importance of teaching and learning. For him, one of the most effective ways of teaching is by putting in place feedback loops, which are mechanisms by which lessons can amplify and perpetuate themselves beyond the scope of Randy’s literal teaching.

Randy gives a number of examples of feedback loops in his life and what he learned from them. Perhaps the most striking is from his time at Brown…

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Obstacles as Opportunities

In much literature, walls serve as symbols of disconnection, separation, and alienation. In Randy’s view, however, brick walls (shorthand for obstacles) should be viewed as assets and opportunities. They are assets because they keep the other people out, and opportunities because they give people a chance to show just how badly they want something.

When Randy gets close to achieving his dream of floating in zero gravity by taking a team of students on…

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Attitude and Positive Behavior

In The Last Lecture, Randy admits that his attitude can’t change the facts of the world around him, but he argues that it can change how he reacts to and interacts with the rest of the world, which positively affects how the world reacts to him.

Randy uses a story about Disney World, one of his favorite places, to illustrate his point. When he was 12, Randy and his sister bought a $10 salt-and-pepper…

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Entitlement vs. Earning

When Randy receives tenure a year earlier than most professors, one of his colleagues asks what his secret is. Randy replies, tongue-in-cheek, “…Call me any Friday night in my office at ten o’clock and I’ll tell you.” This epitomizes Randy’s idea about success—that earning success through hard work and continued effort is far more rewarding and realistic than being handed success through luck.

Randy holds up a former student of his, Tommy Burnett, as…

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