Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Last Lecture

I spent this Saturday with Pacey and 2 other friends. After we had lunch in Raffles City, I saw MPH on my way to toilet. As always, i was unable to resist going in, only to come out clutching 3 books in my hand, and 40 bucks poorer. 

I really have got to stop this bad habit of impulse purchase now that i am getting more cash-strapped. 

Anyway 'The Last Lecture' is a really good read. Like 'Tuesday with Morrie', it is about a dying man. But unlike Morrie, Randy Pausch was a man at the prime of his life when he discovered he had pancreatic cancer, probably the cancer with the worst prognosis. To make the matter worse, his kids were all really young. The eldest boy was barely 6. The youngest toddler was so young that she probably would not have any recollection of what her father was like. 

He needed to leave a legacy for his kids. One day his children will grow up and yearn to know who their father really is. 

There is a tradition of professors in Carnegie Mellon giving their last lecture of their lives. 

He knew immediately that was what he needed. He gave his on 18th September 2007, his wife's birthday. The last one that would ever have him around singing Happy Birthday. 

His story was just so magnificent.  

It made me feeling foolish to be mulling over my failure all these days. It made me realise that there were more pressing matters in life than to mourn my failure. I was being so petty.  

Reading the book was like immersing myself in his wisdom, and i did so in awe. 

Below are a few excerpts that i would like to share. They resonated with my being. 

It has not always been easy to stay positive through my cancer treatment. When you have a dire medical issue, it's tough to know how you're really faring emotionally. I had wondered whether a part of me was acting when I was with other people. Maybe at times I forced myself to appear strong and upbeat. Many cancer patients feel obliged to put up a brave front. Was I doing that, too?

Too often we feel it necessary to put up a brave front. I certainly am guilty of that too. 

He remembers me telling him:"I know you're smart. But everyone here is smart. Smart isn't enough. The kind of people I want on my research team are those who will help everyone else feel happy to be here."

This sounds like a good piece of advice for all of us who are too full of ourselves. 

Start-up companies often prefer to hire a chief executive with a failed start-up in his or her background. The person who failed often knows how to avoid future failures. The person who knows only success can be more oblivious to all the pitfalls. 

Maybe there's a purpose to my failure after all. I was, after all, not looking out for pitfalls often enough. 

All in all this is an invaluable glimpse into Randy's wisdom and optimism as he faced his terminal disease. Especially for us who will be/are medical professionals. 

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