Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Discussion Questions for The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Well here's the discussion questions for our next book ..... Enjoy :)

1. When someone asked what he wanted on his tombstone, Pausch said: “Randy Pausch: He Lived Thirty Years After a Terminal Diagnosis.’” [Page 247] If you were to write his epitaph, what would it say?

2. Summing up a theme of his lecture and book, Pausch writes: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” [Page 32] This is one of many clichés he admits he loves and uses liberally in The Last Lecture. Did he succeed in making any old ideas fresh? How did he do it?

3. Discuss Pausch's statement that "it's not about how to achieve your dreams. It's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way ... the dreams will come to you."
Do you think he's right? Might the reverse be true—that only by working toward (and achieving) your dreams can you "lead your life the right way"?

4. Randy remembers his childhood dreams with clarity. Do you remember your childhood dreams—are they as vivid as his? And how important is it to hold onto your childhood dreams—might not they change over time?

5. Does The Last Lecture make you rethink your own priorities —what you want out of life, your work, your friendships, your marriage? Does it make you re-evaluate—or confirm—the things you thought were important?

6. If you had only 6 months to live (and adequate financial means), how would you spend the time left to you? Would you continue to work? Travel? Spend time with family and friends? Would you make changes in your day-to-day life or continue the life you're living now?

7. What passages in particular resonated with you? Which struck you—personally—as most profound or meaningful for your own life?

8. Why is it that The Last Lecture has struck such a chord with people? Co-writer Zaslow says that "it's because we're all dying," and that Randy's fate is ours. Do you agree? Are there any other reasons?

9. Pausch began his lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” by saying he wasn’t going to deal with big questions of religion or spirituality, and he sticks to that pattern in The Last Lecture. How does the book benefit or suffer from his decision?

10. The Last Lecture recycles much of what Pausch said in his valedictory lecture at Carnegie Mellon and expands some of it. Should people who’ve watched the talk also read the book? Why? What does the book give you that the lecture doesn’t?

11. Pausch could have called his book The Last Lectures, because he structures it as a series of mini-lectures instead of one long lecture. How well does this technique work?

12. The Last Lecture balances general advice such as “dream big” with specific tips – for example, about how to work well in small groups. “Instead of saying, ‘I think we should do A, instead of B,’ try ‘What if we did A, instead of B?’” [Page 190] Which, if any, of the tips struck you as most helpful?

13. Many cancer patients are bombarded with the advice to “be optimistic” or “think positively.” This approach has led to a medical backlash alluded to in the chapter “A Way to Understand Optimism.” Pausch says his surgeon worries about “patients who are inappropriately optimistic or ill-informed”: “It pains him to see patients who are having a tough day healthwise and assume it’s because they weren’t positive enough.” [Page 249] What is Pausch’s view of this? Is he appropriately or inappropriately optimistic? Why?

14. Many people who have heard about The Last Lecture may be tempted to give the book to someone who has had a devastating diagnosis, or who is perhaps dying, hoping it will provide comfort or cheer. What would you say to them? Is this a book for the living or the dying?

15. "What kind of wisdom does this book have to offer about the importance and meaning of life?"

16. If you were going to give your own “last lecture,” what would you say?

Special thanks to LitLovers for some of the discussion questions :)

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