A Carnegie Mellon professor, dying of cancer, gave this last lecture.
Here's the essence of what mine would be:
1. Get good at something and then work long hours at it. The extra work hours will be more rewarding to you and to the world than a round of golf, shopping with a friend, playing Monopoly with your family, or getting on a plane to go to your nephew's bar mitzvah.
2. Champion something that most people don't. I'm pro-choice, but so are zillions of other people. My efforts there would be a drop of water in an ocean. In contrast, today, no one seems to care about intellectually gifted kids, especially boys, in our public schools. When I champion their right to get an appropriate-leveled education I feel my efforts matter.
3. Do something very creative--as a hobby. Creative pursuits usually pay terribly. Doing your creative outlet as a hobby allows you to derive most of the pleasure without having to take a vow of poverty.
4. Be nice.
5. Never look back; always look forward. I asked my father why he never talks about the Holocaust. He said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Martin, never look back; always look forward."