The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch


Rick Carabba
Brilliant book that made me cry twice. He was a professor who got terminal cancer and died when he was 48. His book is a distillation of everything he learned in his life and also doubles as a letter to his young kids on how to live.
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Book Note


How to build self esteem: 

Self esteem isn’t something you can give to a child or a person. It’s something they need to build.

Best way to build it: give kids/people something they can’t do. They work hard until they find they can do it, and keep repeating the process. No coddling.

A Dutch uncle is someone who gives you honest feedback (sometimes brutally honest)

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”

-comes from Seneca, the Roman philosopher born in 5 BC

Always phrase alternatives as questions:

Instead of “I think we should do A, not B.” Change to “what if we did A, instead of B?”

-Allows ppl to offer comments instead of defend one choice.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

Way to reward people for aspirational “moonshot” thinking: “the first penguin award”

  • goes to person/team who takes biggest gamble in trying new ideas/tech but also failed.
  • Helps reframe failure
  • Called the first penguin award bc when penguins are about to jump into water that might contain predators, well, someone’s gotta be first.

Handwritten thank you notes. Do more of them.

Thin mint accountability trick:

If you need someone to do something really dense and tedious, send them a box of thin mints with a note saying “thank you for agreeing to do this. The enclosed thin mints are your reward. But no fair eating them until you review the paper”

Puts smile on people's faces & you never have to call or nag. If you do have to follow up all you have to say is “did you eat the thin mints yet?”

Nostalgia trick:

“I’ve often carried a crayon in my shirt pocket. When I need to go back in time, I put it under my nose and I take another hit”

What do you say to a dying friend? 

Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader in India who dies in 1986, was once asked what the most appropriate thing to say to a dying friend. He responded: “tell your friend that in his death, a pet of you died and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.”

Parenting rule that fosters deeper thinking and curiosity:

Tell your kids you can’t ask one word questions. (I.e. no “why?” But a more elaborated and thoughtout question)

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Rick Carabba is a writer looking for uncommon ideas that improve people's lives.