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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 January 17, 2019

      8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

      8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

      In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

      Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

      Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

      Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

      Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

      The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

      There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

      How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

      According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

      Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

      Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

      The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

      Listen carefully:

      We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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      The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

      Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

      8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

      There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

      Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

      1. Pray Daily

      You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

      When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

      Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

      Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

      2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

      A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

      By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

      Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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      If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

      This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

      How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

      3. Smile Often

      Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

      Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

      Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

      The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

      4. Organize Your Working Desk

      A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

      When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

      Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

      Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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      5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

      I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

      Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

      What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

      6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

      God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

      I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

      I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

      7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

      You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

      How do you do that? This is my formula:

      First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

      If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

      If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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      If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

      Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

      8. Go Exercise

      Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

      The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

      You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

      12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

      The Bottom Line

      It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

      It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

      Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

      More Resources About Mindfulness

      Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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