How did The Last Lecture Inspire You?

While you may know that the word inspiration means to motivate or stimulate, the word inspiration derives from the root spiritus, which means breath. Part of the reason why we say “God bless you” to someone who sneezes, is that we fear some of their spirit may have departed with the sudden sneeze. (Read through other reasons on the Library of Congress page here.) In addition, the prefix in, in this case, emphasizes the breath of a god or goddess being breathed into the mortal.  The word resonated with the ancients who believed that gods and goddesses breathed “spirit” into humans, and as a result, humans felt emotionally charged and ready to accomplish something special or creative. In that spirit, create 5-7 sentences and use MLA format to explain how a passage, idea, line, or word from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture inspired you. 

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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26 Responses to How did The Last Lecture Inspire You?

  1. michaeladomino13 says:

    One of my favorite ideas throughout Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture (sorry there are no italics allowed in comments) was the brick wall theme. From the beginning the metaphor struck me as something special, “The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. . . . The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” the way that Pausch threaded it into so much of what he was saying made it hit home even harder (Pausch 52 & 73). I have hit brick walls numerous times in my 17 years and, although troubling, I tried my best to make it so that these instances did not end in discouragement. This was a mantra that I subconsciously would try to follow, and then seeing it spelled out for me continuously in a far more fluent way, was magical to me. I hope that everyone has the chance to see this quote and hopefully, hopefully, the time to take it to heart.

  2. 20cc19 says:

    After reading The Last Lecture, one idea that specifically resonates with me is the concept of being a Tigger or an Eeyore in life. He explains that everyone has the choice of living their lives like Tigger, high-spirited and jubilant, or like Eeyore, negative and miserable. Understanding that everyone encounters diverse hardships in their lives, Randy urges everyone to recognize that every person has the option to decide how they handle their adversities. Reading this passage made me reflect on how I confront difficulties. I realize that I have been a Tigger in various situations, but I have also been an Eeyore. Considering how Pausch was constantly living life like a Tigger, especially while he was dying, he has inspired me to do the same when encountering challenges in my life.

  3. Sam Manning says:

    Brick Walls

    “Brick walls were made to show you how bad you really want something”. This line struck me the moment I read it. People who view the world this way are different; having the same philosophy as Pausch, I believe challenges come in life to test how strong a person is and test how much they are willing to work through to achieve their goals. Throughout the entire book Pausch continues to go back to brick walls and having to overcome them, which is a little insight into life. Challenges will never stop coming and each person faces their own. Regardless of the size of a wall someone must scale it and, without any will power, it will never be scaled.

    Lit Explained

  4. aidenmill6 says:

    One passage that really inspired me from The Last Lecture is where Pausch writes about Captain James T. Kirk. He says what was really amazing to him was how Kirk got to be a part of the U.S.S. Enterprise, as he did not have any particular skillset like Spock or McCoy did. But because Kirk was such a leader, he was able to captain the ship and create his own skillset, leadership. Pausch said that this idea of leadership is what pushed him forward in his own life which really inspired me because it says you do not need to be the best in the room in order to lead. Considering how much Pausch accomplished in his life, I think that it is safe to say that if you view leadership as its own skillset you can get anywhere you want to and be whoever you want to be.

  5. Nick Selvitelli says:

    The symbolism of the “head-fake” in Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture stuck with me especially because I have been directly affected by one of his own “head fakes”. Alice, arguably Pausch’s most ambitious project, is a computer program designed to teach children about computer programming through creating movies and games. Pausch describes this project as another “head-fake”, not unlike his take on children’s sporting activities. His vision for the project that is planned to precede him is “Millions of kids having fun while learning something hard. That’s pretty cool. I can deal with that as a legacy”. I, myself have been affected by Pausch’s most complex “head-fake”. I was introduced to Alice when I was in elementary school, learning to make games on the computer for the very first time. Pausch’s work to better teach children around the world directly impacted me without me ever knowing his name.

    Literary Theory: Postcolonialism

  6. Alana Colaccino says:

    “Are you spending time on the right things?” (Pausch 50). I loved this vignette because it reminded me that time is just as valuable as money. I often have trouble delegating and realizing when something isn’t worth my time. I’m often overly concerned with perfection, so this anecdote was a good reminder to prioritize the important things in life. Pausch’s tongue-in-cheek voicemail recording added a great dose of comedy as well.

    (I’m not sure if the page number is correct because I read the eBook.)

  7. Casey Eskridge says:

    Looking on the brighter side of things when facing adversity is not something that everyone can easily do. When I read Randy Pausch’s, The Last Lecture, his readiness to accept his situation and do what he could with what time he had left struck me, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” this level of resilience was something I instantly admired. Personally, I regard resilience to be the most difficult and most valuable quality somebody can acquire. His outlook on his situation is something that inspires me, as I, like most people, can feel dreaded by difficult situations that I have to face. Those words remind me that choosing to take the best out of the worst situation, while difficult, is a quality that will help me throughout the rest of my life.

  8. Caroline Walsh says:

    After reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, one chapter in regards to failure really stuck with me, as it taught me that failure is not as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. For instance, Pausch discusses how some companies even look to hire those who have failed in their pasts, as they are less likely to make mistakes in the future. So many people live their lives afraid of failure, and throughout this chapter, Pausch teaches his readers that failure is a sign of a risk-taker and of someone that is not afraid to follow their dreams, no matter how hard they may be to achieve. If one lives their entire life being afraid of failure, they will never accomplish anything. Failure is an experience, and perhaps the greatest experience one can undertake. Pausch states, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” (Pausch 148), so if you haven’t failed, then you aren’t really living up to your true potential. Failure is our greatest teacher, and I am so thankful that Pausch reminded me that failure can sometimes be just as valuable, or even more valuable, than success.

  9. Nicole says:

    One moment from Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” that I found particularly inspiring was his personal philosophy of valuing positive relationships with others rather than material possessions depicted in the car scene. When Pausch’s sister warned her children to keep their uncle’s new Mustang in immaculate condition, the author, during her warnings, poured a can of orange soda over the backseats of his brand-new vehicle. While this seemed senseless at first, Pausch’s way of making his niece and nephew comfortable allowed for the children to feel comfortable around him, and when his nephew threw up in the car later in the trip, he was able to not feel guilty for ruining the car due to his illness. With this scene, Pausch acknowledges that in society, people have a tendency to pay closer attention to their broken or damaged possessions rather than a deteriorating bond with the people closest to them. However, Pausch’s priorities were far from material. He mused, “I don’t care how much joy you get out of owning a shiny new thing; it’s not as good I felt from making sure that an 8-year-old didn’t have to feel guilty for having the flu” (Ch. 15).

  10. sohishah says:

    One particular story in Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture that inspired me was the one about the $100,000 salt and pepper shaker. In this anecdote, Pausch recalls how the helpfulness of Disney employees resulted in his loyalty to the institution. This fosters the idea that simple acts of kindness can later yield greater results. The kindness of the Disney employees in Pausch’s story caused his family to return many more times and spend around $100,000 on their trips. This story shows how small acts of kindness are appreciated and rewarded. This inspires me to always be kind, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, because the effects of my actions are unknown. It also teaches me to show gratitude when met with such generosity.

  11. Aidan Caine says:

    I really connected with Pausch’s idea of remembering and trying to follow through with all your childhood dreams. I like how he refers to the necessary balance between dreaming big but not being so myopic that you ignore the realities of your life. He talks about imagining living in a 6 floor house as a kid, but looking back on the memory he wonders why he didn’t dream of eighty or even ninety floors. “Maybe it was a symbol of the balance in my life between aspiration and pragmatism.” He doesn’t linger on this idea for long, but after reading it, it stuck with me for a while. It inspires me to be incredibly hopeful for the future but not so ignorant that I disregard the truths of life and don’t do all the smart things.

  12. Lander Dalton says:

    “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” (Pausch 17). This quote is an incredibly important anecdote to remember in life. The knowledge extracted from this quotation serves as a reminder that success and happiness are all about adaptation. One cannot perfectly plan out the trajectory of one’s life. One must learn to deal with the inherent irregularities of life, all in an attempt to make each day count. With this information, one can develop an understanding of the value of life. Tragedy occurs when life is wasted. In order to avoid this tragedy, one must work with the cards they are dealt, making this quotation especially inspirational due to the nature of Pausch’s illness paired with the mindset he endures.

  13. vartika says:

    Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture emphasizes the importance of “feedback loops”, demonstrating how life’s lessons are a continuous cycle of (hopefully) positive feedback. This concept can be displayed through Pausch pouring orange juice all over his brand-new Mustang to show his children that they should value people over objects. By making such a significant impact, Pausch’s actions prompt his children to want to demonstrate this idea to their future children. Furthermore, Pausch’s assistant coach convinces Pausch that, “when you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you. You may not want to hear it but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you and want to make you better” (Pausch 37). This statement stuck with me as I realized that we all need to be there to support each other through our words and feedback, even if that includes critiques. By making such comments to the ones we care about, we are further showcasing our concern and want for them to improve on themselves. I thought that was very important because sometimes we tend to lose ourselves in negative comments, but the fact that someone close to you wants to help shows that they care about what you are putting out into the world.

  14. John Cremins says:

    An idea from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch that resonates with me is the idea of rejecting conventions that set us up for failure. In chapter 15, “Pouring Soda in the Backseat”, the idea of keeping a new car clean for as long as possible, even when young children are around, is demonstrated to be a flawed idea. Pausch explains, “‘Of course they’d eventually get my car dirty. Kids can’t help it.’… People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing,” (Pausch 69-70). Pausch believes that telling his niece and nephew to keep his car clean is not only redundant, but also sets them up to fail in the near future. Knowing this, Pausch pours soda in the backseat in order to send a message that it’s both inevitable and acceptable if the car gets dirty. This idea, applied to other situations, demonstrates that if common wisdom values objects over people, then the best course of action is to ignore common wisdom altogether. Rejecting common wisdom in these situations oftentimes leads to greater success and happiness, as demonstrated by Pausch’s own life.

  15. 20ara says:

    An idea that I learned from in the Last Lecture was from the theme of time and fulfilling your life in respects to it. “What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?” (Randy Pausch 3). The Last Lecture taught me to live my life to the fullest. It taught me to do things as if tomorrow was my last and that it is important to take risks in my life despite self-doubt. It taught me that I should embrace my friends and those around me and that holding grudges are not worth ruining my spirit. The lecture taught me that my time is of the essence and the importance of leaving something behind after I evolve. It made me really think about living a meaningful life and how I may want to be remembered after I ascend the earth.

    Literary link:

  16. anudaramola says:

    In Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, an idea that resonates with me is “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” (Pausch 148). This quotation emphasizes the idea that life will not always occur as planned because in short, it does not correlate with perfection. The most memorable parts of life may happen unexpectantly and these experiences tend to be the ones that matter the most. They push individuals to step out of their comfort zones in order to resolve the unforeseen. Accomplishments and triumphs are more satisfying when the effort and energy put into them are great. In short, how one handles situations when life goes askew can potentially lead to the most notable life experiences.

  17. Gabriella Tosone says:

    Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture inspired me to reflect on my own journey in life and appreciate what I have around me. I was struck by the chapter titled, “Get in Touch with Your Crayon Box” where Pausch describes his own personal crayon box as containing only two colors, black and white, representing how he views decisions and life actions. I was intrigued by this idea from the start, and as I continued to read the chapter, Pausch’s words expressing “that a good crayon box might have more than two colors” (Pausch 164). I tend to go through life thinking there is a right and wrong decision, representing the black and white mindset, however Pausch inspired me to look at my life in a more colorful view and realize the beauty of decision making and the choices we have in life to pick our own paths. He explains that black and white will always be used first because, I think, as people we do not like to have the thought that something we do has the potential to end in failure or be the wrong choice, however it is important to embrace this reality and make use of it. I have learned to explore beyond right and wrong and experiment viewing my decisions as opportunities to learn and be vulnerable instead of a right or wrong choice. I do believe in doing the right thing; however, I also believe, now, in allowing yourself to be free and make choices that sometimes are unsuccessful the first time. It leads to growth, which is something I value above all.

  18. 20ars says:

    One of the most riveting facets of The Last Lecture is the relationship between Randy and Jai. In chapters “Jai” and “Jai and Me,” Randy gives further insight into their marriage. Most of the book focuses on Randy’s life and his stories, but these chapters made me realize that despite his successes, life does not become easier. He points out that Jai might be in the worst position of all: she has to take care of her dying husband, raise her children alone after his death, and deal with the trauma of losing her husband. She is forced to be strong for her husband, her children, and herself. Jai’s ability to function under pressure is the true measure of character, and her strength made me realize that even in worst case situations, I am still in control of my actions. Despite his dying, their marriage is not only roses and last moments in love. They see a counselor, Dr. Reiss, and work through their issues. It takes strength to continuously work to improve something, even or especially in the face of death. The effort needed to find “a new normal” inspires me to work on my own personal relationships (Pausch 98).

  19. James Woolley says:

    We all face adversity to varying degrees of severity every day- some more than others- but adversity nonetheless. Pauch’s remarkably positive attitude was very inspiring to me, especially in his Tigger and Eeyore analogy. I think that very few people can say that they’ve had easy lives, I know I certainly can’t, but taking on life like a Tigger can make even the most difficult times more bearable. I am the type of person to be easily discouraged when I make a mistake or when I fail repeatedly; however, reading The Last Lecture really helped motivate me to react to life in a more positive way. Recently I’ve been trying new things regardless on whether I think I’ll succeed or not, and the way I react to failures has made me more happy than my sucesses. Being able to live life like more of Tigger has not only made me more confident, but also more secure in myself.

  20. 20vdr says:

    One moment I really enjoyed from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is when Randy asked his parents if he could re-paint his bedroom when he was a teenager, and their immediate “yes” after seeing how excited he was. Pausch writes, “I felt this urge to splash some of the thoughts swirling in my head onto the walls of my childhood bedroom…that explanation was enough for my father. That’s what was so great about him. He encouraged creativity just by smiling at you. He loved to watch the spark of enthusiasm turn into fireworks” (Pausch 27). One of the reasons I believe Randy Pausch was so successful is because he grew up in an environment with people who supported his dreams and desires, no matter how unconventional. His parents showed him to work hard for what he wanted, but to do it in a way where he could have fun. Their encouragement of his creativity translated into his work ethic, teaching him to work outside the box and find new ways to be successful and efficient. This was inspiring to me because in the chaos of our daily lives, I believe it is important to remember to have a little fun and provoke our innovative sides by finding new ways to do things.

  21. 20tw says:

    In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch said “Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids’ dreams, too. Once in a while, that might even mean letting them stay up past their
    bedtimes” (137). It really inspired me because many people in the world don’t believe in dreams as they think it is not reasonable and unrealistic. People once dreamed about going to the moon, their ideas were shut down, and it was thought to be crazy. But eventually, they did. It inspired people from all over the world to do the impossible that they have been dreaming about. Kids need to dream too! I remember always saying I wanted to be something, but taken down by adults who claimed that my dreams were too unrealistic. However, personally, I believe dreams drive motivation, to do greater things in life, and to achieve the impossible. As Pausch said, “When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved” (137). Moreover, not only should we all have big dreams, but also to inspire others to do the same.

  22. Allie Mohn says:

    “When you’re screwing up, and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you” (37). This line speaks personally to me, as I have always understood the importance of receiving advice. I am quite stubborn, and often can not keep my mouth shut, but I am still receptive to feedback all the while. My parents experience the worst of it; regardless of whether or not they are correct, I still give them a hard time. Pausch was not only an adult when he relayed these words during his last lecture, but a renowned and talented professional all the while. It is refreshing that someone with so much experience understands the importance of staying grounded and humble and listening to the advice other people have to offer. In other parts of the book, Pausch talks about becoming less of a know-it-all, and I think this relates to that as well. I feel so fortunate to have adult guidance and wisdom, and I enjoy the fact that Pausch makes this a relatable aspect of his lesson.

  23. justinhern says:

    One part of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture that I enjoyed a lot was when he talked about not complaining. Pausch argues that people complain to much and that “if you took one tenth of the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out” (Pausch 138). He uses two examples of ‘non-complainers’. One of these is Sandy, his quadriplegic landlord and the other was Jackie Robinson. Both of these men were faced with difficult situations and rather than complaining and giving up, they focused their energy into working hard and making a positive result. I think that this idea is something that is very present in our everyday lives, even at a much more basic scale than losing your limbs or breaking the color barrier. Everywhere we go, we hear people complaining about their schoolwork or the food at lunch and many other trivial things. I think that Robinson and Sandy stand as good examples that no matter how bad your problems are, complaining will not just make them disappear. You need to actually make an effort to make things better.

  24. 20jp says:

    In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch elaborates on the importance of “feedback loops,” signifying that feedback should not only be given between an original one-to-one relationship, but it should become an infinite loop that transcends the simple relationship. He believes that feedback given to a certain person should be delivered onto different members to increase the influence of it and to emphasize the significance of teaching and learning. One of the most prominent examples he gives is when Pausch intentionally spills coke on his new car seat in order to teach his niece & nephews that they should not have a materialistic attitude. Thus, using this method, he was able to teach his nephews that people should be valued more highly than things, and he later insists them to pass on this feedback to their future children. This shows the “feedback loop” method of teaching he desires to practice. I believe this is significant as sometimes teaching can be superficially done and the true message fails to be delivered. However, using Pausch’s method can leave a strong impact on the students/learners and thus helps them to perceive the feedback accurately. Furthermore, the infinite loop of feedback can allow not only the educators themselves to improve as they continuously refine their lessons, but this endless process benefits all generations.

  25. Tommaso Calderan says:

    Randy Pausch’s anecdotes of and fascination with Disneyland left a large impression on me. He discusses how from the first trip he made to Disneyland when he was eight years old, he was hooked on it. Pausch describes how since that moment, his biggest dream has been to become a Disney imagineer, and he finally made his dream come true: “Tears actually began streaming down my face as I drove past the building. here I was, the grown-up version of that wide-eyed eight-year-old at Disneyland. I had finally arrived. I was an imagineer,” (Pausch 54). In a section of his book dedicated to the childhood dreams that he made come true, this story, in particular, inspired me. Despite the initial setbacks of not being hired as an imagineer, Pausch continued to be determined to work at Disneyland. His unlikely story of later being asked to work at the park later, for computer science, inspired me because it showed me that even if something does not work out the first time, it might work out later on down the road in a different and maybe even better way. Pausch inspired me to live out my childhood dreams and to take action to do so

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