What Are You Thankful For?

Me? Way too many to list.

For life

For salvation

For family

For food

For love

For friendship

For good health

For everything!



On Not Writing, The Election, And Forging Ahead...



So I really have had no inspiration to upload anything here or to write for that matter. I have a couple of drafts that can be refined for a post, but I did not feel like editing either. I'm about 60% sure there will probably be no November book of the month. I don't feel like doing anything that isn't particularly compulsory/necessary; not just with my blog, just with life generally. And that's okay sometimes. There's no need to force it. It will come back. I guess we can chalk it all up to end of the year blues; you know being burnt out from the entire year. It is after all the eleventh month of the year. Heh. Perhaps.

Book of the Month: The Last Lecture

Welcome to November! Well, we're six days in already but better late than never. The book of the month (of October) is an especially poignant one. And obviously, I make a case for every single book of the month I feature, but I'm especially making a stronger case for this one. If you can get through without bawling your eyes out, it's one I'd advise everyone to read at least once. I'll tell you why, of course.

The Last Lecture is a New York bestselling book co-written by Randy Pausch, who was a Carnegie Mellon University professor of Computer Science, and Jeffrey Zaslow, a journalist. You'd understand the combination in a short while. How did this book come about? Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had about six months to live. Now, generally CMU had a talk series, where they invited professors to give a "last talk"; a speech they would give if they had to give only one speech before they died. As it turned out, it WAS indeed Randy Pausch's last talk. So while Pausch was putting his affairs in order, and literally getting ready to die, he accepted this challenge. Not only as one last thing to give, but also as a sort of letter to his children for when they grow up. At the time his kids were so little, they had no idea their daddy was about to die.

Before speaking (there is a video of the lecture on YouTube), he received an applause/standing ovation from the audience, which was so unusually filled up, they had to set up an overflow room. As he motioned for them to sit down, he said "make me earn it." Someone shouted back, "You did!". After the lecture garnered lots of media attention, he decided to turn it to a book. But because he really wanted to spend the little time he had left with his family, he collaborated with Zaslow.

This was one heart-wrenching, heavy, highly emotional, yet somewhat exhilarating and liberating piece. Basically, the book is filled with life lessons from Pausch's life. And from such an accomplished person, who lived so much in all his 47 years, the book was filled with gems: some pretty obvious, others very ingenious.

As you can see, he doesn't ease us into it at all. He goes straight to the point of telling us his prognosis.  The same way he started the actual lecture; by showing a scan which displayed ten tumors on his liver. He then went ahead to do some push ups for two reasons: to prove to the audience that although he was dying, he was in better physical shape than most of them; second, he did not want pity. In most of the book, you will see that matter-of-fact attribute in him. Again, if you can get through it without bawling, this is probably one of the best books you will ever read.

Or at least one of the best autobiographies.

He spoke on many different things about his life: growing up, failures, successes, personal philosophies, and most impotantly, advice on how to achieve your childhood dreams aka how to live. He spoke on the importance of discipline and how his coach taught him discipline when he joined a football team as a child.

"I don't believe in the no-win scenario." He said.

His determined, dogged personality and persistence shined through in pages of the book, but more so in how he handled his disease.

"Brick walls are not there to keep us out, but rather to give us a chance to show how badly we want something." 

And boy did he want to live. He fought hard.

Reading this book in public was hard stuff. Most of the time, I just wanted to break down in tears. Not necessarily sad tears. For instance, he wrote about telling his niece and nephew to tell his children when they are older just how hard he fought to stay alive. To tell them how he signed up for the hardest treatments possible just because he wanted to be around as long as possible to be there for his kids.

Oh, his perfect description of his wife. He joked in an interview that he did not want his life made into a movie because no Hollywood actress was beautiful enough to play his wife. Theirs was a beautiful, perfect love story.

But the biggest lesson I learnt from that book is that no natter how bad things get; saddle up and keep moving. This was beyond his sickness, that was just who he was. It reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg's famous "keep the shit out of option B" mantra.

The best part about him wasn't his formidable courage, or his inspiring optimism in the face of the worst, it was just how many people he helped achieve their dreams.  I learned the importance of handwritten thank you notes. I learned the importance of hard-work instead of short cuts. I learned to be like Norman Meyrowitz (page 160) and be ALWAYS prepared. I learned to pay more attention to what a man (romantically interested in me) does, not what he says.  I learned to dream big. To allow myself to dream, to hope. He inspired me to desire to achieve the maximum  human potential. To dare to be great. To dare to be different.

Needless to say, Randy Pausch has since passed away. But the legacy he left would continually live on. I haven't watched the entire speech on YouTube myself. But I will as soon as I have enough time to watch carefully. Do one at least. Either read the book or watch the speech. It will affect you somehow. If nothing, it will show you how fleeting and ephemeral life can be. It will and should inspire you to be better. To do better. To live better.