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ABL Book of the Month | The Last Lecture

​​Whether you’re in the brainstorming stages of launching your dream startup or years deep into running your small business, there will be phases where you become lost in the balancing act of trying to do it all. In times like these, it can become harder to keep the fuel of ambition going, and that’s when you know it’s time to pump the brakes and pull the car over. And while you’re sitting there, taking a deep breath while the car idles, this is where I would say to pull out a copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. As our book of the month for August, this one is a go-to for putting life back into perspective.

Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University who worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts, and Walt Disney Imagineering. “The Last Lecture” is a popular talk many professors give that brings them to consider what wisdom they would impart if this were their last opportunity to do so. In Pausch’s case, this actually was his last chance. He gave the talk after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007 with only a few months remaining to live. The lecture became the basis for his book, a collection of lessons for living life with purpose and joy. 

You may be wary that this will be a heavy read, but Pausch’s storytelling is anything but serious. It is refreshingly concise, humorous, and full of pure honesty. You know those deep conversations you and a friend will sometimes get into where you’re naturally flowing from topic to topic with a level of existentialism that really gets you thinking? It’s like that. I guarantee you’ll find many, many great takeaways that apply both as a professional and personally. Here are a few of the ones I highlighted while reading:

“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”

This is a bad place to be, especially in a team environment. Mistakes are inevitable, so it’s not so much what you did but how you handle the error itself. At times criticism can feel personal, but when you consider the feedback is coming from a place of care, that can help you maintain a growth mindset when mistakes happen. 

“Time must be explicitly managed, like money.” 

Are you spending your time on the right things, or are you investing time on irrelevant details? Time management can be a slippery slope, especially when you’re being bombarded by emails, deadlines, and meetings. If you are deliberate with where you spend your hard-earned bucks, why wouldn’t you be intentional with your time? Sometimes you can get a refund for a misguided splurge, but time can never be returned.  

(Read our article on 6 strategies for conquering time management

“That’s why I wanted to impress upon my students the importance of thinking about the end users of their creations. How could I make clear to them how important it was not to create technology that is frustrating?” 

If we are talking secrets to success, here is a big one. This is the mindset every business owner should be operating from – the hero of the story is the end-user, not you. Take a moment to consider your marketing, client intake processes, and overall customer experience. Has it been streamlined with the end-user in mind for efficiency and ease of use? Is the client positioned at the forefront?

(Read our article on Building a Story Brand)

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” 

You never know what impact a simple thank you can have on a person, especially a team member. It’s an instant morale boost and a powerful way to create a supportive work culture.  Being mindful of paying it forward is another way to express gratitude as well. Many people contribute to the successes we achieve, and it’s essential to keep that cycle going.  

“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose.” 

Shoutout to all my over-planners! It pays off to have a backup plan in place that can be a safety net for the unpredictability of life. Worry is the most significant drain on our mental battery, and this is an easy way to stay ahead of the curve. 

It’s important to make time to refresh and remember why it is you do what you do. As a business owner or entrepreneur, how you show up for yourself will inevitably trickle down to impact those around you. You only get one go at this life. Make sure to make it count!


Want more? Read the ABL book pick for July, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

Written by Harleen Bola