So, how to spend my very limited time?
The obvious part is being with, and taking care of, my family. While I still can, I embrace every moment
with them, and do the logistical things necessary to ease their path into a life without me.
The less obvious part is how to teach my children what I would have taught them over the next twenty
years. They are too young now to have those conversations. All parents want to teach their children right
from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want
them to know some stories from our own lives, often as a way to teach them how to lead theirs. My
desire to do that led me to give a “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University.
These lectures are routinely videotaped. I knew what I was doing that day. Under the ruse of giving an
academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my
children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed
music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured.
I lectured about the joy of life, about how much I appreciated life, even with so little of my own left. I
talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude, and other things I hold dear. And I tried very hard not to be
This book is a way for me to continue what I began on stage. Because time is precious, and I want to
spend all that I can with my kids, I asked Jeffrey Zaslow for help. Each day, I ride my bike around my
neighborhood, getting exercise crucial for my health. On fifty-three long bike rides, I spoke to Jeff on my
cell-phone headset. He then spent countless hours helping to turn my stories—I suppose we could call
them fifty-three “lectures”—into the book that follows.
We knew right from the start: None of this is a replacement for a living parent. But engineering isn’t
about perfect solutions; it’s about doing the best you can with limited resources. Both the...