Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Last Lecture: 5 Evergreen Lessons

randy pausch.jpeg
I am republishing a post I wrote around the time of Pausch’s death.

It seems like the closer one is to death, the more genuine one becomes. The more courageous one is to speak his truth, and nothing but the truth.

This was certainly the case with Randy Pausch, diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September of 2006, who died today at his home in Virginia.

A few months back, a friend sent me the video of his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon and I viewed it with the other millions of people in cyberspace. But unlike all the other lists of “10 things you need to know to be happy” I get in my inbox, his lessons stuck. I keep coming back to them, especially when I’m with my kids, pulling out my hair and begging the universe to send me a silent moment. THEN I will be happy.


This professor didn’t care about silent moments. Or a promotion to the dean of the college. Or a Porsche in the driveway. He saw beauty in the moment, even as he was dying. He celebrated his life to the end.

This man was all about joy. Finding it. Savoring it. Sharing it. Believing in it.

I guess that’s why he so impressed me. As a person struggling with chronic depression and anxiety, I have trouble getting to the joy. I stop short of the curtain, afraid to pull it up and realize that it’s been right in front of me.

Even though it has been at least four months since I saw his video, I remember very well these lessons:

1.Tell the truth.

Doing so will simplify your life. Harder in the short run, yes, but honesty leads to intimacy and life is about connection to one another, the shared experiences we have with friends and family. Now I’m not sure if the professor meant that when your wife asks you if you look fat in a pair of jeans, that you need to say yes, but I do agree with him that you absolutely have to spit out the real story when you want to tuck it into the pockets of those unflattering jeans. Because by doing so will grace your marriage, your friendships, all your relationships in the end.


2. Say sorry when you’re wrong.

Of course when you speak the truth, you divulge some less than perfect moments for which you need to apologize. And then move on. What a different world we would have if everyone who made a mistake said sorry and asked for forgiveness. No scapegoats. No excuses. Just a simple “Sorry. I did the wrong thing.”

3. Dream and dream big.

A large part of Pausch’s lecture was about pursuing your childhood dreams, and how these dreams need to be specific. For him, that was: playing in the NFL, authoring an article in the encyclopedia, winning stuffed animals, meeting Captain Kirk, being a Disney imagineer. And some of them came true. I couldn’t help but think of my own dad when he spoke about how important dreams are … even the seemingly shallow and unattainable ones. My dad wanted to be on a first-name basis with Frank Sinatra. Guess who sent a floral bouquets to his funeral? Frank and Barbara Sinatra.


4. Have fun and play more.

What a divine sense of humor this man had. His playful spirit was so charming throughout the lecture–the audience breaking into hysteria and laughter–that you almost forgot he was dying. Of all my tools to combat stress-especially the stress of dealing with manic depression–humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I’m finding that the longer I practice laughing at life (especially at its frustrations) the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named “silly.”

5. Live today fully.


This one Pausch nearly perfected. And it’s by far the most difficult for me. Because it means relinquishing some control over the future and letting things happen as they are meant to happen. It means believing in the miracle of the loaves and fishes–that there will be enough, even though it certainly doesn’t look that way. This lesson requires fretting less and trusting more. And it means recognizing the joy that is before you–tuning into it like today is the last day of your life.

God bless you, Randy. Thank you for your beautiful spirit, and your evergreen lessons.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • Melzoom

    I was so moved by the book–I finished it a few weeks ago on iLiberty’s suggestion.
    Some of it felt trite (I blame that on my Danish family who despises sentimentality) but the most of it was incredibly moving. And I could relate, I too grew up thinking there were two kinds of families: those who needed to use the dictionary to get through dinner (or encyclopedia, or atlas) and those who didn’t. Not a holiday goes by without an argument between my aunts and uncles is ended with, “You don’t believe me? Look it up!”
    My favorite quotes were:
    One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all h*** breaks loose. There are lots of things I don’t worry about because I have a plan in place if they do happen. (p. 161)
    Some of the best caregiving advice we’ve ever heard comes from flight attendants. “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” When we are physically or emotionally run down, we can’t help anybody else. So there’s nothing weak or selfish about taking some fraction of your day to be alone, recharging your batteries. (p. 201)

  • Larry Parker

    I realized after reading this that Randy Pausch is really the modern version of Lou Gehrig (the man many thought was a better baseball player than his teammate Babe Ruth, high praise), who was forced to retire from baseball after contracting the paralyzing, crippling and ultimately fatal disease, ALS, now known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
    And one can’t even say Gehrig wasn’t part of the media machine circa 1939. I mean, they even did a movie about him (as no doubt someone will do about Pausch), Gary Cooper’s “Pride of the Yankees.”
    (The one where Cooper, as Gehrig, asked his doctor about his unexplainable illness, “Is it three strikes?” and the doctor replied, “Do you want it straight? It’s three strikes.” Only in Hollywood — or perhaps, Harpo Studios as well …)
    Yet I guess it was a more innocent time (yes, even given Nazis/Holocausts/Pearl Harbors going on around the world) and no one would have even had the suspicion that Gehrig was trying to take advantage of his tragic fate as (IMO) sometimes followed Pausch.
    In any case, it seems a fitting day to reprint Gehrig’s famous 1939 speech at Yankee Stadium announcing his retirement:
    “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
    “Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert [the Yankees’ then-owner]? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow [the Yankees’ then-general manager]? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins [Gehrig’s first manager in the big leagues]? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy [the Yankees’ then-manager]? Sure, I’m lucky.
    “When the New York Giants [now the San Francisco Giants, then headquartered just across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium at the Polo Grounds], a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.
    “So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

  • Melzoom

    Maybe I have mis-read that line…but I’ve gone back and read it twice and it still comes across the same way.
    I don’t think anyone wants to take advantage of a tragic fate, Larry. You know I respect you very much as a writer and on a personal level. And I appreciate the apt connection you’ve made between Pausch and Gerhig. But that line…about taking ‘advantage’ of a horrific diagnosis….to know you are leaving your life behind, your wife and children… it just seems out of place. If you asked him if he would rather be on Oprah, be a media focal point, write a best-selling book get to do a couple cool things he’s wanted to do…or have 40 more years with his wife and kids…I bet he would have picked the latter.
    I know it’s semantics, like so many of our discussions =) And I really think Gehrig’s speech is apropos. Thank you so much for including it in your post.

  • Rebekah

    When I first saw Pausch’s “Last Lecture”, I cried. Now reading this, and knowing that this wonderful enlightened man has gone to meet God, I cried harder. I pray that his family, in his absence, will be blessed beyond words. May God give them peace from their grieving, and the knowledge that everything will be okay.

  • Anonymous

    I, too cred when I first saw Dr. Pausch’s video. Then I mde sure that all of the upng people in my life also saw it and that we discussed it together(much to their dismay; Most kids aren’t too anxious to look death straight in the eye. (OR life!) Having experienced my own brush with death, I know how powerfully it effects one’s thinking. How fitting for me that you posted this today, T, on the very birthday that has sent me into a tailspin of late! I needed to refresh myself concerning Randy’s wonderful insu=ights today of all days! I might evenlet my friends bring me that birthday cake I had heretofore banished! And tonight I’ll look for a new star shining in the heavens, shaming others ith its brightness and think again of Randy!

  • Cully

    This piece was wonderful…to see your positive insights and affirmations makes me smile because
    1.Tell the truth.
    sometimes I am very worried for you – you care so much and I am affraid that all the sadness others share with or heap on you will take a dagerous toll.
    2. Say sorry when you’re wrong.
    I am sorry I stay away. I miss you and your smiling face!
    3. Dream and dream big.
    I would like to give you a big hug and have lunch with you.
    4. Have fun and play more.
    This part you know I don’t have a problem with – you’re the one who called me Barney!!
    5. Live today fully.
    well, this one we will both be working on, eh… Melzoom has it right though (as does my friend Redhead1957) we (all) have to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before assisting others.
    with hugz and lots of love ~ Cully

  • R.

    I *really* enjoyed this piece you wrote. I’m definitely going to watch the video, and thanks so much for sharing :)

  • Bonnie1958

    Dr. Pausch was an incredible man. I hope each of us learn from and use his wisdom in our lives. Disease isn’t the only way to end a life, sometimes death comes instantaneously, and we aren’t given a chance to impart such love, kindness, and wisdom before we go. Let’s all strive to live as Dr. Pausch, every moment of every day. What a great way to live, and a great way to honor his memory. He only wanted others to be happy. Let’s do it!

  • arial

    It sure broke my heart to hear Dr Pausch’s body has left us, for us to learn from his wisdom. We know he is here, his spirit(being) is with his family and everyone who allow themselves to be with him, it is sad that we are the one who are unfortunite not to be able to physicly see him to enjoy his presence, but he is here among us all. He has been in my prayer every day and every night and I pray for his being the spirit to ever be in peace with his creater. I could only ask his family to not lose their conection with him in any form or shape, and this is the only way he would be able to be in reach, stay in peace and may God bless you all.

  • marianne lopez

    Godspeed , Prof.Pausch..
    I read the last lecture in one sitting .I cannot put it down . It came to me at a time I needed exactly those words he has to say .
    And since , then I’m always looking for news pieces about him and was always happy that he’s still around .
    I felt sad for his family especially his wife and children but I know they will be okay coz he has prepared them for this .
    And yes , the hardest part for me too is living each day fully .If I’m not in the past , then I’m into the future , seldom am I in the present but it is truly only in the present we can be fully alive..I have to try harder .It’s really gonna be okay no matter what..

  • Barbara formerly Babs

    Randy Pausch was a teacher, a wise, self-giving teacher, who’s joy in teaching was assisting his students in taking flight. He seemed to find delight in the things so many of us “out-grow.”
    I don’t think that he took advantage of his celebrity. Rather his message of finding joy and peace in your life struck a chord in so many people who yearn to have what he did, and would have accepted his same fate for an ounce of what he had. He loved his family, his students and his work, and he was loved. We look at him and see a man who’s life was centered on what he found important, and in the process gave so much to his family, students, and community. He had a fulfilled life, even if it was short. I think the most telling thing in his speech is that it was meant to be a legacy for his children. We were just fortunate that he allowed the rest of us in to share it as well.

  • MJ

    I have to watch this – I’m still overcoming my years and years of telling myself that a ‘good, worthy person’ doesn’t have fun and forces him or herself to be something that they aren’t (to prove to the world that he/she is good and worthy and a responsible adult). For example, force yourself to be a MD, JD or MBA and kill off everything internal that might tell you that you hate your work, are miserable, and are spending every Monday driving to work thinking about how driving into a bridge abutment would get rid of the misery.
    There is a horrible mentality in this country, or perhaps at least with insecure, ambitious parents, that fun and dreams are bad and that slamming yourself into a “good job’s” iron maiden and killing yourself internally to succeed is the way to go.
    Dr. Pausch showed us once again that joy is the right thing to pursue – the miserable rarely achieve or enjoy anything.

  • Frank

    Finding one’s joy and maintaining it in the face of adversity of any kind is hard work. It really requires us to be our own surgeon. Whether we have the courage and good sense of Randy, bless him and his family, or not – sometimes we have to cut away some of the junk to really establish joy and have it flourish.
    There are toxic thoughts, circumstances and toxic people as well as environmental toxins. Finding the wisdom and fortitude to excise the bad is not easy or painless. But it does reveal joy when all’s said and done. That is my ongoing task right now – and it’s difficult but not impossible.
    The world was made a better place, if for too brief a moment, by Randy Pausch.

  • Louisa

    Randy’s amazing honesty, willingness to share his experience and full living reminds me of the greater mysteries at work, of our soul’s rhythms and timings, aspects we as personalities may not fully understand like the timing of leaving.
    Yet, it was his very humanness that so touched my heart and reminded me of the words of Teilhard de Chardin” Joy is the most infallible sign of God”.
    Randy left through the lion’s gate at an astrological time of the union of opposites, the union of the masculine and feminine. He had done his lion’s share of the work. He will be a beacon for me in my daily challenges.

  • Adele

    The Lord take care of his wife and family. Romans 8:28

  • marvin wiley

    There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Pauch engineered a human event that parallels any religion. Reviewing Dr. Pauch’s legacy again today and also speaking with a brotheren in the hospital, I am inspired as follows:
    Pure water has no taste It’s impossible to describe….But for a drop upon my lip I sake my wordly pride…
    Now I flail my human aches with the wisdom from whence derived..
    No task shall bid me sorry again …I’ve been taught to be alive..
    My shoulders are much broader now though my body remains it’s born size….My soul has become much deeper too ….no future event may occur that will blur my opened eyes….

  • Priscilla Senecal

    Being present in all things and greatful for all things is something for me that brings great joy. Dr. Pauch obviously lived his life to the fullest and could be present, grateful and Happy even knowing he was leaving. Meditation I believe also brings us closer to God. It connects us with who we really are. It brings me to a better place in my life, where I trust that there is a divine plan for all of us. God bless Randy and his family. I wish them peace and comfort. Blessings, Priscilla

  • Sandy Springer , Kenosha,Wisconsin

    Praise be unto God , Randy is with him now and I know he,s in a much better place as he,s at Peace. May God continue to Bless his wife and children and may they have Peace , Love and understanding from all they come in contact with. I send my Prayers and Love to them all.

  • Barbara Seffens

    When it is my turn to leave this life, I hope I will do it with as much grace as Randy and as much concern for others.

  • Larry

    Sandy Springer You wrote “Praise be unto God , Randy is with him now and I know he,s in a much better place as he,s at Peace”
    I pray also this is true, but I never once heard Randy mention Jesus. Was Randy a born again Christian? I pray that is so, as we know Jesus told us no one comes to the Father except through Him.


    Is ABC-TV having a “special” on Tuesday evening (July 29th) about Professor Pausch’s life? Does anyone know the time of this program?

  • Rosemary

    As a youngster growing up, my father nicknamed me “the philosopher.” The interview aired on ABC with Dianne Sawyer was “full of Randy’s spoken and verified “joy.” Parents make such an impression on their children. Examples are always stronger than “mere words.” As the expession says, “talk is cheap.” Randy’s dad testified to the “thinking big thoughts alongside of acturial life lessons.” Like Randy, his Dad received recognition and has “left behind” flesh-buiilding philosophies, that even though father and son no longer are mortal, their way(s) of thinking and living, will bring many to their own authentic self and see the need for “each day” as a journey toward “living life” not merely, “waiting to die.” His progeny will thrive on the legacy that he has left behind.
    Rosemary Grace

  • Nilsa

    We don’t know now why bad things happen to good people or why God answers some prayers and not all, however we do know who is in control of it all. We do believe that one day we will be with those loved ones that have gone before us because God said so. It is very difficult to thank God in all situations especially when someone we love is taken away. God knows all things and HE promised to never leave us or forsake us. God is watching He knows what you feel at this moment, healing will come just as JOY cometh in the morning. I am praying for your family and Randy’s soul. God bless you and your family.

  • John Feltman

    I found it difficult to understand Beliefnet featuring a self created persona of a man who never mentioned God as an important factor in who and what he was. He mentioned time as the most important when ,in fact,it is only a man made instrument of chronology and has no place in eternity. I suggest you go to the following website to read some enlightened and really inspirational views concerning Randy,a seemingly courageous man facing the fact that he was soon to die.

  • Dyane357

    In Randy I found the mentor I never had. I had always had the “Live Life to the Fullest” sentiment but until the Last Lecture, I never felt I had the ‘right’ to do so. What Randy leaves the world with is his masterpieces: his wife, his children and his example. The world IS a better place because of this great man.

  • HIlda Campbell


  • jean burdo

    After watching the “Last Lecture” by Professor Randy Pausch, that aired on NBC last night, I would have to say that it was the most inspiring lecture I’ve ever heard, and what an inspiration this man was. He seemed to have learned important life lessons early on from his father. What a wonderful upbringing and childhood Mr. Pausch must have had.
    Even in the midst of facing death, Mr. Pausch never seemed to lose courage, he seemed to live life to the fullest, even to the end. He seemed to fully embrace, everything he taught, from honesty, to even being able to say I’m sorry when needed. It takes a big person to admit when they’re wrong. He seemed to know how to have fun while leaving behind the world of materialism, that most people cling to. He had dreams he pursued, and seem to live life to the fullest. He wouldn’t let any obstacle stand in his way. Life is a gift, that should be enjoyed and lived to the fullest. He seemed to enrich the lives of others with wisdom, and his honesty was refreshing, along with his quick wit and sense of humor. What a remarkable man. This world needs more people like him. May he rest in peace.

  • Midge

    I lost my Mom to lung cancer just 4 short years ago, and sometimes I didn’t understand why God would give anyone this dreaded disease. I learned through watching Randy that we all suffer some sort of disaster, and our life will go on. What we chose to do with our lives is what really counts. I saw in Randy’s face durring “The Last Lecture” that he believed.
    When my Mom was told of the lung cancer, she just gave up. I prayed for her to have little to no pain, and 10 days latter, she was taken from us. She didn’t have the will power that Randy had to push on. I think Randy is an inspiration for everyone who hears his words.
    After I listened to Randy”s lecture, I had a good cry, but not because he was dying, but more because he had given everyone who listened with their heart, some valueable knowledge. It really isn’t a bad thing to have the knowledge of how long we have, but what,and how we use that time. I do understand your grief, and I pray for healing for you and your family. Please be reminded everyday that Randy was and is a great man. His memory will live on in the hearts of all who heard his lecture.

  • Alphonse Denayer

    The commnets of Randy appear to reflect that of a Humanist ethicist rather than one who finds meaning in an eternal transcendant life in God.
    This appears very much to be the emphasis of Belief Net, to my observation.
    I personlly find this approach leaves a feeling of emptiness and conveys the impression there is nothing transcendant to a world dominated by the vapid and morally corrupt, as exemplified in our news media adulation of unbalanced hollywood and political celebrities.

  • Patty

    I first saw Professor Pausch on the Oprah show. After hearing his “Last
    Lecture” I feel more aware of my feelings. What an astounding human being, and what a legacy he left to his loving wife and children and to all of us who had the opportunity to hear this lecture. The had two programs about him, one on PrimeTime and one on Good Morning America, after he passed. I haven’t watched them yet, as I feel so bad that he is gone. What a wonderful,positive attitude this wonderful man had. I wish nothing but the best to his family and I offer my sincere condolences on your loss. He sure made an impression on me and my way of thinking. God Bless Him and all of you!

  • Judith

    I was glad to learn that he was able to sign a $7.5 million dollar contract for the story of his illness and death based on the popularity of the Youtube video.
    His final act was to leave his family wealthy. I hope that many, many people with terminal illness are able to channel their experience into such lucrative ventures.

  • Netsanet

    Randy saw himself inspiring countless people and his work enriched most of our lives. He got the secret of Life. He understood what it means to live in the Now. He cherished the present moment and made the most out of life. Thank you Randy. You live in each one of us who were inspired by your words~ Netsanet

  • Barbara St. Mary

    When I turned on the net andread that he had passed away within the last 12hrs., I took out his lecture. I didn’t know Randy, though I thank him for being a teacher and mentor, and someone that made me realize the fear of computers was redundant. Therefore at my age in my 50’s I am releaning to type and use a computerr. Thank You.

  • Marie Morrison

    I saw Randy on the Oprah Show and found his lecture inspiring. While he emphasized the five lessons, I believe there are others which he had to come to grips with and are catagorized under the four elements: water (emotion), fire (love), air (mental), and earth (death). He had the courage to overcome his own fears, provide a lasting give of love to his family, keep his thoughts positive, and accept with grace his own demise. What a splendid example of Christ-like detachment and surrender to God’s Will. I trust that the gift of Randy’s life is indellibly imprinted on us all, especially his children. I pray that God will continue to bless his family abundantly.

  • Gayle E. Negro

    Randy Pausch was my second hero. My husband was my first hero. He died from the same disease just 9 months before Randy. Like Randy, Paul lived his life with courage dignity and acceptance. His glass was always “half full” rather than the other way around. Paul inspired many people in the town where we lived. Randy and Paul showed people what life was really about. I am sure there are many other heros I do not know about.
    Thanks be to God for these 2 men. They have showed us all life.

  • Shirley Moore

    I have always run away from even the thought of death. Now that I am older I want to be able to enjoy every minute of life without the fear of death hanging over my shoulder. I want to be able to be like Randy. How do you do that?

  • Shirley Moore

    Since I was a child I have been terrified at the idea of death, avoiding any discussion of it at all costs. I do not know where this fear came from, but I do not want it to continue. I want to be like Randy.

  • MJS

    I was blown away by the five lessons, because since I suffered from severe bullying several years ago, and fell deeply into depression..I have had to learn to FORGIVE those whom bullyed me…one was a woman that I am still remembering..for several years when I thought of her…I shook with fear…but now I just feel sorry for her..that she could raise to such a level in her career field, and still be subjected to such a lack of self esteem that she had to “attack” me, when I was just the receptionist……verbally, personally….
    I hope that she will read this blog and find the lessons..and dwell on..tell the truth, Say you are sorry when you are wrong….
    Because the one that I am now LIVE YOUR LIFE TO ITS FULLEST>>>>

  • barbara

    Our dear old friend Tom died yesterday of cancer of the pancreas Toms whole life was about caring for others and he had a great sense of humor-he was always for making people laugh and feel better- he would come right into your home or vacation condo and if there were dishes that needed washed or a baby to take care of he would wash your dirty dishes while smiling and talking- then hold the baby too~~~~ everyone loved tom, he was a hunter…..the years he did not feel well enough to hunt he brought his BIKE and rode around the roads where his friends were hunting just to be with them- he would cook for them and make sure all their basic needs were met- he raised four daughters. One is married to my brother. His wife died just 6 months before him with cancer…… he opened his house to anyone who wanted to come and visit and gave people veggies from his garden. He loved to tell sotries about his lifes journey- everyone was ready to listen he could tell a good story!HE always had a smile on his face. The world lost a great guy yesterday–we who knew him will have an empty space in our hearts for him always!

  • Anonymous

    for the persone that ask…and said “I want to be able to be like Randy. How do you do that?” I’m reading a book called “The Power of Now” and is really helping me.

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