April 22 • 06:22 AM

Put 'Last Lecture' on your to-read list

March 24, 2010
According to Randy Pausch, if you're going to extend a half-hearted apology, it's often worse than no apology at all, because the person to whom you're extending it will recognize your insincerity and be supremely insulted. You see, he reasoned, it's like there's an infection in the relationship. A good apology acts as an antibiotic, while a bad one rubs salt in the wound.

Two classic examples of ineffective apologies, he postulates, are: "I'm sorry you feel hurt by what I've done;" and "I apologize for what I did, but you also need to apologize to me for what you've done."

Proper ones, reasons Professor Pausch, have three parts: saying that what you did was wrong, that you feel bad about hurting the other person, and asking how you can make it better.

He also talks about what he calls the sense of entitlement many of today's youth have. He had learned a lesson about that kind of attitude from his dad. At fifteen, Randy had worked at an orchard hoeing strawberries. A couple of teachers worked with him to make a little extra money; and he had made a comment to his dad implying that he figured the job was below them—thereby suggesting that perhaps it was below him as well. His dad, in what Randy called the tongue-lashing of a lifetime, told him in no uncertain terms that he'd prefer Randy work hard and become the best ditch-digger in the world rather than coasting along as a self-impressed elitist behind a desk.

In the little book titled 'The Last Lecture,' co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow, Pausch talks about the time-honored custom at Carnegie Mellon, of inviting professors to record a lecture as though it might be their last.

In his case, it was. In his forties, he knew he was dying of pancreatic cancer, so he dedicated his version of the final lecture to his young family. Rather than delivering a traditional lecture, he shared bits of wisdom in a power point presentation titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."

The book has a copyright date of 2008. Pausch has since died, leaving behind a legacy of wisdom, including another pithy little statement: "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." The book is well worth the few hours it takes to read it. Put it on your to-read list.

Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.
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