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Five Fundamental Life Lessons


Based on the national bestseller and the extraordinary final lecture by Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch, given after he discovered he had pancreatic cancer, the book The Last Lecture is an inspiration to anyone who wants to live each day with purpose and joy.

Here are five life lessons that will help you view each day as an opportunity to live large — no matter what challenges appear in the way.

Dream without Fear

What would you do with your life if you knew you would not fail? What if you did fail, or hit some setbacks along the way? Life is about taking risk and reaching toward dreams — even childhood dreams. Pausch teaches that road blocks are in our lives for a reason. Challenges and failures are there to reveal how badly we want things. We can face setbacks in our careers, relationships and personal goals, but if we allow ourselves to dream without fear, we will be persistent in taking steps that move us closer and closer to them.

Believe in Others

Believing in other people involves helping them realize their own dreams and feeling supported to pursue them without fear. We can be a champion for others, not only by being their cheerleader, but also by sharing how we see their strengths and passions. We can act as enablers for their unique greatness to be revealed in their lives. When we look for the best in others, that is what we find.

Release Anger and Resentment

Anger is a natural emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. It can be released in healthy ways, through calm communication, or held within to grow into rage-filled resentment toward others. This type of anger makes nothing better.

Who do you need to forgive? Perhaps yourself for perceived weaknesses or for major mistakes, or for others who have let you down? Pausch is passionate about purposeful apologies. Proper apologies, he believes involves three parts:

  1. What I did wrong.
  2. I feel badly that I hurt you.
  3. How do I make this better?

Tell the Truth

You are only as good as your word. Be open to know your own truth and living it. Lying is only a short-term strategy that seems to get us what we want with less effort, yet it is ineffective in the long-term.

Pausch taught others how to recognize their own abilities and own flaws, believing we can only improve by developing our own ability to assess ourselves. Being honest builds character and character builds honesty. Is there an “honor code” for how you live your life?

Live with and Joy

Love the life you have or do something about it. Do not sit and wait for the perfect life or the perfect circumstances. Live in the moment through deliberate choices that move you toward maximizing your life purpose.

Pausch sought joy and fun each day, living fully and completely with a focus on living and not dying. There is no other way to play the game of life than by being a “Tigger” rather than an “Eeyore.”

While cancer did take the life of Randy Pausch in 2008, it did not take his purpose and joy for his family or his contagious passion for his career or his message to others. These five life lessons remind us that while we cannot change the cards we were dealt, we can change how we play the hand.

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