The last lecture and brick walls

By glblguy

Brick wall
Photo by: star5112

My wife recently sent me a link to a to a video clip from an episode of Oprah where where Professor Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon University reprized a lecture he did for his students call the last lecture. Carnegie Mellon asked their professors to do a lecture for their students, as if it where their very last lecture. Their intent was to inspire the students and allow the professors to share some life lessons with them. In fact for Randy Pausch, it really is probably one of his last lectures. Randy has pancreatic cancer and doctors have given Randy only a few months to live.

If you haven’t seen the video before, take a few minutes to watch it. Randy Pausch’s lecture is inspiring. The lecture is full of wonderful lessons, but one of the profound statements he makes in the video is:

Brick walls are there for a reason, they let us prove how badly we want something.

I’ve been thinking about this quote some. Not only about how this applies to me, as I love nothing more than a challenge, but also about how this applies to our personal and financial lives.

As a Christian, I am often asked about why God let’s bad things happen to us, or allows difficult circumstances to occur, or frankly why he doesn’t just give us what we want when we need it. I think Dr. Pausch’s quote really captures the essense of the answer to this question, and in particular our financial lives. His story is all about how you take some tragic or difficult in your life and turning it around and make it into a positive event.

Financial Brick Walls

How many times in your life have you been making significant progress towards a financial goal, such as getting out of debt, saving your emergency fund, saving up for that new house, or even reaching your retirement goals only to have what seemed like a brick wall thrown in front of you? Ever wonder why this happens? “They prove how badly we want something“.

A little more than a year ago, my family had a life changing event occur in our life and not a good one in any shape of the imagination. It was truely the biggest brick wall I’ve ever seen. Prior to this we had always wanted to get control of our finances, and even talked about becoming debt free, but we never really made a serious effort. Here we are year and half later, with more than $20,000 in debt gone, living on a budget, living on less than we earn, and me even blogging on personal finance! I chose to climb the brick wall rather than give up.

Back in August, I wrote about a co-worker and friend who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Watching him go from a man who was so close to being able to retire and being so excited about it, to a man that was completely devastated by a diagnosis he never saw coming was horrible. But he also chose to climb the brick wall. He entered an aggressive treatment program and fought the cancer up until the day he died of pneumonia. Even though he died, as a result of the cancer, I was able to see and experience a side of him I never knew. He left a lasting impression with me, his other co-workers, and his friends that I will never forgot.

Some other bloggers that have experienced brick walls thrown in their paths were, paidtwice, Lynnae, and Trent:

Many others have shared their “brick wall stories” via financial epiphanies. I alway enjoy reading these kinds of stories as they provide hope and encouragement to those dealing with problems in their lives and provide true examples of how you can overcome the “brick walls” thrown in your path.

Tips for handling brick walls

Through my life and having to deal with the various brick walls God has provided to challenge me and help me grow, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share:

  1. God will meet all your needs – Philippians 4:19: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Regardless of the circumstances in your life, and regardless of who or what may have caused those circumstances, God has a plan for your life. It may not be what you think it needs to be, and more than likely, you don’t see the plan at the time the circumstances are occurring, but He has a plan that is best for you. He will provide for all your needs and “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
  2. Don’t panic – When what we perceive to be bad things happening in our lives, we tend to quickly become overwhelmed and panic. I know this first hand and all too well. Fight that urge to panic. Use that energy instead to begin forming a plan. Better yet, maybe even have a plan B. Having a plan or working on a plan will help you feed more confident and less overwhelmed.
  3. Reach out to your friends and family – Leverage your friends and family. Not only will they be able to help and support you, they will want to. They will provide support, prayer, temporary finances, a place to stay, and sanctuary from the potential heavy burdens you will have to bear for a while.
  4. Take one day at a timeWhen dealing with large brick walls, it’s easy to want to plan a week, a month, or even a year in advance. It’s also very easy to worry. Remember that 99% of things we worry about never happen. Deal with things one day at a time. My favorite Bible verse is Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Have you had brick walls thrown in your path? What did you do? How did you overcome them? Share your story, add a comment!

19 Responses (including trackbacks) to “The last lecture and brick walls”

  1. Dan Says:

    Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Phl 4:4.

    Speaking as one who has run against a few brick walls in his life, this may be the most imporant piece of advice every given a Christian. What is the purpose of life? To avoid pain? To get rich? To have a large family and a lot of friends? No. The purpose of life to to grow close to God. He has a plan and in all aspects of it He is giving you a chance to grow close to Him.

    My wife left me. I grew closer to Him. I lost my job. I grew closer to Him. I moved to an area with no money, no friends and barely enough gas to get me there. I grew closer to Him. I found a job. I grew closer to Him. I got engaged, then my fiancee came down with MS. I grew closer to Him. She recovered, we got married, had one child then lost another. I grew closer to Him.

    In good things and bad, learn to rejoice! God is using the bad times and the good to bring you closer to Him. In all things, know that He is in control, and even in the most terrible of times, you should thank Him for His goodness. Rejoice in your struggles. Rejoice in all things.

  2. KMunoz Says:

    this was a great post. Very inspiring.

  3. No Debt Plan Says:

    I remember hearing about that professor. When I’m not at work, I’ll give that a watch. I can only imagine how inspiring it is… yet heartbreaking to see.

  4. lyza Says:

    Aleluya! I love this post. It encourage me to climb this brick wall I am going through. A job loss in december 21, my husband new business beginning, a home remodeling over $30,000, a total debt of 33,000+ and going up, a 6 month kid and $ 0.00 savings fund. Yesterday I dreamed about Lord told me that he wants me to trust more in him because He wants to teach me something about him, todays personal devotion was Psalm 146 “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob” and now your post tells me the tips for my brick wall. I feel God speaking through you. Thank you! God bless you!

  5. Pete @biblemoneymatters Says:

    Great post – i think you’ll probably be speaking to a lot of people with this one. We all have our own brick walls to climb, and its a nice reminder that God will help us through. It’s funny, it’s often when we’re at our lowest that we feel closest to God – because we have to rely on him! Sometimes I often think that these brick walls can be a blessing in disguise – even so, I still don’t look forward to them.

  6. Jeff Says:

    That is a truly inspiring and touching lecture. The Oprah version, while good, is extremely condensed. The full version, while longer, is in my opinion well worth the time invested.

    There are so many good lessons to pull out of it. The brick wall lesson is a good pull and so true.

  7. Lynnae @ Being Says:

    Excellent post! I saw that Oprah episode a while back, and the professor was really inspiring.

    When I’m up against a brick wall, I often remember a lesson I learned in a Bible study (the same lesson that Dan reiterated): God isn’t as interested in our comfort as much as he is interested in our faith and relationship with him. And it is often through the darkest times that our faith grows the most. I know that’s been true in my life.

    Thanks for the inspiration today! And thanks for the links too!

  8. John Hunter Says:

    That is a great lecture. I posted about it previously: CMU Professor Gives His Last Lesson on Life

  9. Shanti @ Antishay Says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am in a good place right now, but many of my friends are not and they will need this :) The video is amazing and I sent an email out to all of my family and friends with the link just now. Just… thank you so much!

  10. Kingdom First Mom Says:

    Yes, this post spoke to me in a big way. Brick walls are all around me right now, financially speaking. Thank you for the scripture references, they are great!

  11. Ric Medrow Says:

    Randy PauschÂ’s message is so clear to me.

    Sometimes, we see a brick wall and get angry at God. Why should life be so difficult?

    We rage and get angry and sometimes even doubt His existence. A good God wouldnÂ’t make me suffer, we say.

    But, our suffering comes from struggling.

    We fight GodÂ’s plan for us. We attain peace when we cease to struggle and do what we know is right.

    I remember when I lost my career in journalism to a recession. I was angry.

    It was my career. My life! My vision for my life was so clear in my mind. I hated this!

    But, I went back to grad school. I struggled for seven years of hard work. Really struggled.

    But, a strange thing happened. As soon as I went back to school and just gave up on journalism, I was at peace with myself. It felt right. All those long, hard nights of reading awful books was no fun. But, it felt right.

    There are some who say I have changed their lives. I donÂ’t regret the loss of my journalism career at all.

    I thank God every day I walk into my classroom and make a difference.

    We can struggle and rage and hang onto our will all we want. Sometimes, my way just seems to make more sense. How can this other way be right? It may even feel right if we are paying attention. But, it makes no sense!

    One of the best lessons IÂ’ve learned is to stop struggling and trying to choose my path with my brain. Now, I follow my heart.

    It always leads me down the right path. I enjoy life now like never before!

    Thank you, Randy. You have enriched our lives with your gift to us!

  12. Michael Says:

    How inspiring Randy Pausch is! If you liked “The Last Lecture”, another fantastic memoir I just read and highly recommend is “My Stroke of Insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Her TEDTalk video ( has been seen as many times as The Last Lecture I think, and Oprah did 4 shows on her book, so there are a lot of similarities. In My Stroke of Insight, there’s a happy ending though. It’s an incredible story! I hear they’re making it into a movie.

  13. Shell Says:

    I just found your site thru Trent at Simple Dollar. You have a wonderful and inspiring outlook. When we feel that we are all alone and the only ones that are going through negative or bad times it’s encouraging to be able to read about others who have gone through similar situations and come through them back to the positive and to remember that no matter how bad the negative financial situation might appear to be that other things are far more important in the long run…God, Love, Family, and Supportive Friends. Anybody who has these has true abundance no matter what the financial statement says at the end of the month.

  14. Keith Says:

    I do audio video for a church in Southern California. Last week I actually spend about one hour making a BRICK WALL GRAPHIC with a hole in the middle (missing bricks) like a bank vault break in in 1908… Through the hole you had a glimpse of greener pastures (if you will). But for the brick wall blocking your view there is HOPE and JOY beyond the walls in our lives (many self-imposed I suspect). The scriptures are full of common sense for not allowing the seeming impenetrable walls to defeat us. Many folks in 2010 have seemingly more walls surrounding them than ever with all of the financial ramifications. How inspiring were your words – and well-crafted with much thought. Thank you!

  15. Jonathan@Friends and Money Says:

    I love the honesty in how you write. Blogging is all about personal experiences and stories and it’s often these that communicate a point much more clearly than anything. Financial brick walls are always tricky to overcome and I’m in the process of one right now. Thanks for the advice…. much appreciated