Not since the early days of The Data Administration Newsletter (TDAN.com) have I written a
review of a book that had a lot of meaning to me. Even then, most of the books I reviewed (and most of the books reviewed in general on TDAN.com) were about the data management industry and
specific disciplines therein. Never did I review a book about the bright side of life (whistle with me now). And never did I publish or blog about a book that I had not read yet. Well this is a
review of both.
Maybe you have heard of the book I am reading. I am reading The Last
Lecture, a powerful book written by a Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, a school where I grew up literally blocks away. In the early
seventies when hippies roamed the campus and there were small kids skateboarding amongst the students, well I was the kid on the skateboard. The sad part of this review is that the author, Randy
Pausch, just recently passed away at the age of 47 from pancreatic cancer. Both of my parents shared his same fate. My father was a Carnegie Tech grad (before Mellon came along) and both of my
brothers received their Masters at CMU. My father stayed very active in chemical engineering programs at CMU all the way up to his death. As far as I know, my father and brothers did not know or
have any association with Professor Pausch when they were active with the university.
As I read the book I am being led to believe that Pausch’s death had everything but nothing to do with this book. This book is literally his last lecture but it is clear that the lecture
itself is not about dying. This book and lecture have made big news this summer and presently the book sits at the top of several best seller lists. This book already has meaning to me and I want
to share that with you as I read the book.
You see …, When Pausch wrote the lecture, he knew that he was going to die. His immediate reaction upon learning that news was the realization that he would not be around to share with his
young children all the things he had to share. He could not share his wisdom, his courage, his advice, his fatherhood, his opinions, and more. He knew that he could, but that his children would be
too young to understand. Pausch wanted to leave a legacy for his small children ages 5, 2 & 1. I can understand that. My daughters are a bit older but I still have a lot of life lessons to
Early in the book (the part I have read thus far) Pausch described his upbringing and family life. He talked about his father and his mother. I saw a lot of my mom and dad in what he wrote and how
he thought about them every day and all the time. We had similar upbringings in several ways in different locations. Very similar in fact. He was 46 when he wrote the book. I am that age right now.
He lectured all the time as part of his job. I do the same.
Family values were very important to Pausch but work had a similar importance and was a constant demand. In the book he wrote about his struggle to spend his dying days with his wife and children
while also putting together his legacy in the form of his last lecture. He wrote about using the last few months of his life to uproot his family from my hometown (and his) of Pittsburgh and moving
his family to a place where extended family and friends would help his wife Jai to raise the children. Life was not easy for Pausch in those last months leading up to his book. And then it got
worse. He was told he had less time on this planet. The plan became to jam six months into two.
“Last Lectures” at universities, as described in the earliest part of the book, are fairly commonplace. Universities often allow their esteemed professors to provide commentary on their
life, how their life has led them to that day, and the direction that their life is pointing. The last lectures typically are not lectured by a person who knows their life is coming to a close.
I am just now starting into the actual lecture. I have heard from several people that the lecture itself is humorous, serious, reflective, inspirational, … all of the things that make it an
absolute must read. Stay tuned … I am getting there. Please come back for more.
This blog/review also appear in my blog on the Business Intelligence Network. If you have read this book, or if you are in the process of reading the book, please share your thoughts with me and
with the other readers of my publication, TDAN.com, and the Business Intelligence Network. Thanks.