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The Last Lecture

June 2008

by Michael O’Brien

Maggie gave me a guide to Texas and a book called The Last Lecture last week for Father’s day. I recommend The Last Lecture as it contains a number of useful ideas for anyone’s life.

I want to remember a few of the points so I’ll make some notes here.

On group dynamics, author Pausch recommends the following:

•Meet People Properly. It all starts with the introduction. Exchange contact information. Make sure you can pronounce everyone’s names.

•Find things you have in common. You can almost always find something in common with another person, and from there, it’s much easier to address issues where you have differences. Sports cut across boundaries of race and wealth. And if nothing else, we all have the weather in common.

•Try for optimal meeting conditions: Make sure no one is hungry, cold, or tired. Meet over a meal if you can; food softens a meeting. That’s why they “do lunch” in Hollywood.

•Let everyone talk: Don’t finish someone’s sentences. And talking louder or faster doesn’t make your idea any better.

•Check egos at the door: When you discuss ideas, label them and write them down. The label should be descriptive of the idea, not the originator; “the bridge story” not “Jane’s story.”

•Praise each other: Find something nice to say, even if it’s a stretch. The worst idea can have silver linings if you look hard enough.

•Phrase alternatives as questions: Instead of, “I think we should do A, instead of B,” try, “What if we did A instead of B?”

•Look for the best in everybody.

•Watch what they do, not what they say.

If at first you don’t succeed…try a cliché.

•Dance with the one who brung you.

•Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

•Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

•Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? (Don’t focus on the little issues while ignoring the big ones.)

Other suggestions:

•Send a handwritten thank you note.

•All you have is what you bring with you.

•A bad apology is worse than no apology.

•Tell the truth.

•No job is beneath you.

•Know where you are (Understand your place in each specific cultural context.).

•Never give up.

•Be a communitarian (Rights come with responsibilities.).

•Make a decision: Tigger or Eeyore?

•Don’t obsess over what people think.

•Don’t complain, just work harder.

•Treat the disease, not the symptom.

•Dream big.

•Time must be explicitly managed, like money.

•You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.

•Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?

•Develop a good filing system.

•Rethink the telephone.

•Not all fairy tales end smoothly.

Thanks for this book, Maggie; it’s got a lot of good advice in it.

To these I’d add some I use often:

•When in doubt, act.

•If you fall on your face, you’re moving in the right direction.

  1. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.