Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Last Lecture II

Having read The Last Lecture, I pondered on the three most important things that I learnt from the book.

It is a challenge as the book shares more than just three things about how we should lead our lives. From the book, I gathered that though Randy did not live to a ripe-old age, he definitely led a meaningful life and he has fulfilled his childhood dreams.

But if I need to pick, these are the three which resonated the most in me:

1. Think Out-of-the-Box, Things will Somehow Fall into Place

Randy shared that he and his wife, Jai were married under a 100-year-old oak tree on the lawn of a famous Victorian masion in Pittsburgh. It struck me that they did not leave the reception in a car with cans rattling from the rear bumper. Instead, they opted for the unconventional - a huge, multicolored hot-air balloon.

The beginning was well and beautiful. The balloon raised and carried the newly-weds and the ballooner up the air and above the city's famous three rivers. Things went awry when they had to land near the train track.

I was struck by how Randy managed to maintain his cool and think straight. That was one important attribute to navigate out in a stressful environment.

Perhaps, part of the reason I was drawn to this little episode was that it reminded my stay in Pittsburgh. Though some people may term this one-year stay as being a carefree stay-at-home mom or "tai tai".

I can assure you that the initial adjustment period was a challenge. There was a time when I would cry silently when my hubby went to school and my boys were having their nap. I remembered a Singaporean friend who called me showing her concern. It was when I calmed down and decided to make the best of the situation. That was my first real-life lesson on the phrase "It is not what that happen to you that matter but what you do." Though I realised the wisdom of it at the grand old age of 35, it was never too late. Today, this phrase still has a familiar ring to it.

And what else did Randy say? Don't complain, just work harder. To paraphrase him, too many people go through life complaining about their problems, if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out.

2. Going Back to Basics

In the car-craze Singapore, what is your reaction when someone pours a can of soda on purpose in his convertible? He must be nuts.

But this was what Randy did. He did so to prove a point, a car was there to serve a utilitarian function - to travel from one place to another.

Many a times, we need to go back to basics. It does not just apply to the tangibles but also the intangibles. Randy knew very well when he shared the story of Coach Graham, his football coach. In whatever things we do, we need to get the fundamentals right. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. In the course of my work, the temptation is there to ignore the fundamentals - asking the right questions before plunging head in to solve the problem. You have got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.

3. Head Fakes

I especially like the concept of head fakes in the Alice project. The people are learning program and yet they think they are having fun.

If we view our job as play, we will be having fun. I have always tried to make it fun for my boys to study. And it definitely sets me thinking of what head fakes I could use.

The two head fakes that Randy delivered in his last lecture were brillant.

"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 karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you."

The second head fake.

"The talk wasn't just for those in the room, it was for my kids."

The last one tugs my heartstring. Whenever I work or I do something, I think about my children. I want to put in the best efforts, because it is not just for others, nor is it for me. It is for my kids. I want to prove to them that it is not difficult to be successful, if we just work harder than others.

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