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Principles in Perspective: A Review of “The Last Lecture”

Principles in Perspective: A Review of “The Last Lecture”

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    The Last Lecture is a book based on an internet sensation, the “Last Lecture” given by computer scientist Randy Pausch at Carnegie-Mellon University.  Pausch died tragically of pancreatic cancer in 2008; the principles he discusses in his last lecture (and in a companion lecture on time management, both of which are available on the internet) take on a whole new meaning in light of the fact that they were given by a man who was face-to-face with his own mortality.

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    The Last Lecture
      The Last Lecture

      The book has much to recommend it to the reader of Lifehack.  Pausch was the consummate go-getter who inherited from his parents a drive to go out and get the answers to questions rather than to simply ask questions (p. 22).  He inherited from his youth football coach a reverence for fundamentals and execution, without which “the fancy stuff is not going to work” (p. 36).  Pausch highlights this by asking whether self-esteem is something that can be given, as many educational theorists argue, or whether it is something that is developed by developing the ability to do things that one previously couldn’t do.

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      Pausch illustrates the principles he lays out with examples from his academic career.  He encouraged students to listen to those who would criticize them because this meant that they actually cared about their performance (pp. 36-37).  He mentions a meeting with William Shatner and holds up hiss earnest attitude and desire to learn about virtual reality as a quality that would be admirable in any graduate student (p. 45).  He discusses the power of framing in light of Disney employees who, when asked when the park closes, would reply that “the park is open until 8:00” (p. 62, emphasis added).

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      Among Pausch’s theme is his point that people are more important than things (pp. 69-70).  For the Pausch family, cars were never a status symbol but were instead means of getting from one place to another.  This point resonates with me in light of a recent addition to our family (our son, Jacob, was born at the end of July).  Life is too short and family and friends are too precious to worry about whether a car, couch, or carpet will survive if something is spilled on it.  Pausch didn’t sweat small details and uses a story about his wife crashing one of their cars into another to argue that “not everything needs to be fixed” (p. 87).  Particularly after it was discovered that his cancer was terminal, he and his wife had to learn that small things, like clothes left on the floor, don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

      The book is strongest when it moves to practical application.  As a professor myself, I found that much of what Pausch had to say about organization, teaching, and disposition resonated with me.  In discussing his educational philosophy, he argued that “educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective” (p. 112).

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      Through the second half of the book he offers a number of pithy expressions, some recycled and some original, that illustrate important principles about how to actually live.  Chapter 29 is titled “Earnest is Better Than Hip.”  On page 134 he reproduces advice from his parents, who said that “you buy new clothes when your old clothes wear out.”  A chapter beginning on page 138 exhorts us: “Don’t Complain, Just Work Harder” because “complaining does not work as a strategy” (p. 139).  He encourages people to discount what people say and pay attention to what they do.  He leaves us with sound advice about apologies (p. 161), honesty (pp. 163-164), and humility (pp. 168-170).

      I found an anecdote about treating symptoms rather than disease quite compelling (pp. 139-140).  Pausch tells us about a girl he knew who tried to deal with her financial problems through Tuesday night yoga.  Pausch pointed out to her that if she worked evenings and gave up yoga, she would be able to pay off her debts within a few months.  She did so, and I presume she was able to enjoy her yoga on a whole new level after her debts had been paid off.

      The Last Lecture is a quick, easy read that has much to recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in improving their performance.  The tragic context in which the book was written makes it all the more poignant.  Randy Pausch is no longer with us, but his legacy will live on in The Last Lecture.

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      Last Updated on May 22, 2019

      10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

      10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

      There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

      One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

      In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

      Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

      1. Cat Camel Stretch

      Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

      Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

      Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

      Here’s a video to guide you through:

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      2. Go for a Walk or a Run

      This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

      Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

      The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

      Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

      Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

      3. Jumping Jacks

      Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

      Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

      4. Abductor Side Lifts

      Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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      Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

      5. Balancing Table Pose

      This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

      Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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        6. Leg Squats

        Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

        Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

        The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

        7. Push Ups

        You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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        An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

        Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

        This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

        8. Bicycle Crunches

        There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

        Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

        9. Lunges

        Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

        Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

        This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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        10. Bicep Curls

        You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

        Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

        Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

        Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

        Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

        These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

        You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

        Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

        More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

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