The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

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What are four main ideas in The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch?

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emsteph eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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1. People should strive to follow their dreams, no matter the opposition. Pausch encourages young people to not be intimidated by adversity and struggle, even if achieving one's dreams seems an insurmountable task. As he says at the end of chapter 6, "If you can find an opening, you can probably find a way to float through it."

2. Be kind to other people, even if it doesn't seem like it will benefit you in the long run. In Chapter 50, Pausch describes an incident at Disney World where he and his sister bought a salt and pepper shaker set and broke it by accident. The employees replaced it free of charge. When his parents heard about this, they appreciated Disney even more and returned to it more over the years than they would have otherwise. In the end, Disney did not lose anything by giving the kids a free replacement—in fact, they gained loyal customers who kept returning to the park. So Pausch emphasizes, "There is more than one way to measure profits and losses. On every level, institutions should have a heart."

3. You need to work from the bottom on up to achieve your goals—there are no shortcuts. Pausch describes his students often having feelings of entitlement, believing menial jobs such as mail-sorting are beneath them. He argues that if you claim you can't sort mail or do the most basic low-level work, then where is the proof you can do anything requiring a more sophisticated skill set? Humility is a must in pursuing one's passions and a way to prove mettle.

4. Your relationships with others are the most important thing. Pausch emphasizes the significance of maintaining one's relationship with loved ones and friends. At the end of the book, he says the worst part about dying is the effect it will have on the family he's leaving behind, so he spends as much time with his wife and children as he can so that they will remember how much he loved them. Throughout the book, loving and appreciating family (and anyone you meet) is a big theme. In fact, one could argue love is as integral to Pausch's idea of happiness as following one's dreams is.

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lschertz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I believe one main idea Pausch asserted was that everyone should make everything they do fun.  He continually made the point that if it wasn't fun, it wasn't worth doing, because he believed life should be enjoyable.

A second main idea Pausch presented was that of living life to its fullest each and every day.  He used his experiences to show that he was happy with the way he lived, because he had given everything his all as much as he believed he could.

Similarly, Pausch asserted that people must work hard to be successful.  He told multiple stories of times when he lost out on something because he did not work hard enough, or times he got something because he worked hard.  He is quoted as saying "Brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."

And lastly, I believe a fourth main idea would be Pausch's determination to find a way to be happy.  He was convinced that he had to find some way to be happy and enjoy life, or it was simply not worth living.  Being unhappy was worthless to him, because it made other people unhappy.

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