What are the three human truths in The Last Lecture?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Pausch's The Last Lecture contains many examples of human truths.  What is featured here is only a small sample of what the text contains.

One life lesson that emerges from The Last Lecture is how struggle is a part of human existence. In talking about "brick walls," Pausch suggests they are evident throughout our lives:

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

This represents a truth about the role of struggle.  Pausch argues that rather than bemoan it, we should use adversity as an opportunity to display our love for something.  For example, Pausch is dying of cancer, a rather sizable brick wall.  However, he uses his "last lecture" as an opportunity to show how  "badly" he relishes it.

Another moral lesson is the role of priorities in our lives.  We live in a world where the emphasis on work overcomes all else.  Regarding this, Pausch poses a fundamental question:  “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”  A human truth from this is the need to prioritize what is important.  While many of us see work as the "most essential thing," the question is whether this is right.  Like Pausch, we might come to a point where we recognize that time is not on our side.  When we reflect on the path we have chosen, Pausch's question compels us to assess whether our choices have been made in the right mode.  

Finally, Pausch suggests that one of the most basic human truths is the need to work hard:  “A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.”  He argues that the secret behind success is hard work.  Anyone who has made something substantial of themselves have done so because of their ability to work hard.  Pausch stresses that working hard can apply to all people.  Regardless of situation and circumstance, Pausch sees working hard as a life lesson that needs to be learned.

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