The Last Lecture -Reader’s Guide

The Last Lecture
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A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave–“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” –Randy Pausch (Amazon summary).



  • How would a terminal illness change your perspective?
  • If you had an opportunity to touch other’s lives beyond death, what would it look like?


  • How would you spend your limited time?
  • What would you like to learn?
  • What would you want to teach your children?

Chapter 1: The Last Lecture

  • What would you share in your last lecture?
  • What would you include on your reflections of your career, personal life, learning experiences?
  • What would your final goodbye look like?
  • How do you want people to remember about you following your demise?
  • What roles set you apart?
  • What roles can you create or accept to set you apart?

Chapter 2: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

  • How would you describe your family growing up?
  • Would you family need the dictionary or not? Why or why not?
  • What describes a Christian?
  • If you could draw your dreams on your walls what would you design?
  • What becomes of specific dreams?
  • What do you learn from working toward a goal?
  • What does it feel like to achieve a childhood dream?
  • How do you define leadership skills and learn from them?
  • How do you gain the skill of asking questions?
  • What would it feel like to have your fantasy come true?

Chapter 3: Adventures and Lessons Learned

  • How do scientists approach problems and learning?
  • How does a person educate themselves in the face of challenges?
  • How did Randy’s role as a scientist help him to process information?
  • How can you pause to recall what life is all about?
  • How do brick walls shows us what we really want?
  • What items in your life fall in the do not fix column and what falls in the fix column?

Chapter 4: Enabling the Dreams of Others

  • What would you add or subtract to the Pauschisms?
  • Is the number one goal of educators to help students learn? Why? Why not?
  • What results can you get by saying to your students, colleagues and children ‘I know you can do better?’
  • How can you move what you’re doing up a notch?
  • How can you enable the dreams of others?

Chapter 5: It’s About How You Live Your Life

  • How can inspiration be a tool for doing good?
  • How can the adage ‘don’t complain, just work harder’ change your life?
  • How does life change when we don’t obsess over what people think of us?
  • What strengths are added in a group working situation?
  • What would you add or subtract from the group tips?
  • How can failure be essential and what do you learn from it?
  • How can you think of the end user of your products?
  • How can you learn to show more gratitude in your life?
  • What is the intersection between reaching and nurturing for an educator?

Chapter 6: Final Remarks

  • What would you want to teach your children or leave for them?
  • What keepsake is most valuable to you? What keepsake would you leave?

By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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