Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams


Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving presentation, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

At the time of this lecture in September 2007, Randy had been given six months to live. He died in July 2008. The “last lecture” is a type of presentation professors give from a viewpoint as if it is the last lecture they could ever give. What would they say? what would you say?

I had heard about this lecture, it’s very famous now for inspiring people. My Mother made me promise to watch it. So here it is along with a list of the quotes I liked best from the lecture.

Incidentally, in Randy’s famous lecture here he refers to Cirque Du Soleil. Is this lecture a big deal? Well, it has almost 8 million views on YouTube…

Quotes from the video:

  • “Brick walls are there for a reason – they let us prove how badly we want things.”
  • Have something to bring to the table, it will make you more welcome.
  • When you’re screwing up and nobody is correcting you, that means they’ve given up.
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • Most of what we learn, we learn indirectly (or by “head fake”).
  • The best way to “head fake” someone in education, is to have them learn something while they think they are learning something else.
  • It’s easy to be smart when you’re parroting smart people.
  • Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you.
  • It’s important to know when you’re in a pissing match, and to get out of it as soon as possible.
  • When it’s time to pass the torch, find someone better than yourself.
  • The best gift and educator can give is to make people self-reflective.
  • Respect authority while questioning it.
  • Decide if you’re Tigger or Eeyore.
  • Never lose the childlike wonder.
  • Help others.
  • It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
  • Loyalty is a two way street.
  • You can’t get there alone, people have to help you.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Be earnest.
  • Apologize when you screw up.
  • Focus on other people, not on yourself.
  • Brick walls let us show our dedication.
  • Don’t bail. The best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap.
  • When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.
  • Get a feedback loop, and LISTEN to it! Cherish it and use it.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don’t complain, just work harder.
  • Be good at something, it makes you valuable.
  • Work hard. (And people will ask “what’s your secret?”)
  • Find the best in everybody, no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it. You may have to wait a long time, sometimes years. But people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting, no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everyone has a good side. Eventually it will come out.
  • Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity. (Or as my mother would say: “Luck is the residue of a good design.”)
  • You can acheive your own dreams, or enable the dreams of others.
  • The final “head fake” of this entire lecture: This lecture is not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.
  • Have you figured out the second head fake? This talk is not for you, it’s for my kids…

For more, visit www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.

One thought on “Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

  1. Some people are unforgettable. I’d wager Randy Pausch is one of them.

    Guaranteed, his rare wisdom and insight were powerful motivators that
    went beyond the shaping of great minds, and helped to shape great lives.

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