Partially due to the ease of carrying hundreds or thousands of books around with you easily today (Thank you Amazon for the Kindle!), I am reading more non-technical books. I recently read “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. You may have heard about this lecture, available on youtube.com.

Many college professors give a “last lecture” based on what they would like to say if it was actually the last lecture they would ever give. Randy was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he learned that he had just months to live. He decided to give a last lecture, in part to leave a legacy for his three young children.

His lecture was based on how he had achieved his childhood dreams and enabled the childhood dreams of others. He claims some pretty specific and far-reaching dreams, such as working for Disney Imagineering and experiencing weightlessness. He encountered many of what he termed “brick walls” along the way to achieving these dreams, but, because of networking and perseverance he managed to meet most of his goals.

Professor Pausch was a pioneer in virtual reality technology and one of the developers of the Alice http://alice.org/ programming software. It was important to him that investments in Alice continue after his death so that he would continue to make a difference long after he was gone.

Of course, I while reading I had to think back at what my childhood dreams were. There were some silly things like marrying Davie Jones, but I also wanted to be a teacher and to write a book someday. One of the big stars when I was a kid was Cher. I dreamed about singing.

Unlike Randy, I forgot about my dreams for many years. Eventually, I just fell back into them. I wrote a book in 2009. I have taught at the college level and also teach training classes for Pragmatic Works. If you know me well, you probably know I love to sing and was the person who originally introduced the SQL community to Karaoke. I developed a new dream as an adult, to be a programmer, and let nothing stand in my way to achieving that goal in 1997. It’s also always been important to me to make a positive difference in the world. As “Aunt Kathi” to SQL Server professionals all over the world, I believe I have done that.

“The Last Lecture” is a great read with lots of good advice about managing time and focusing on what is important. I think that the overall lesson is to have fun no matter what you do. Even when he had just months to live, he was determined to have fun until the end.

Another thing that struck me was Randy’s stories about his childhood. His family was very focused on education and providing great experiences for their children. I noticed the same theme when reading the memoir of Steve Wozniak. Both of these men were innately brilliant, but their parents helped create the spark.

Many of us SQL Server professional work long and odd hours. We need to make sure that we get away from computers once in a while, spend time with our kids, and, well, just have some fun. Be sure to take a look at the lecture or read the book if you need a bit of inspiration.