Conan O'Brien: Failure Is Inevitable, But Liberating


Conan O’Brien spoke at Dartmouth College’s commencement ceremony yesterday in New Hampshire, and delivered two important messages: life is not fair, and failure can be the most liberating event in a person’s life.

Conan uses himself standing at the podium giving this speech at an Ivy League school, as the example that life just isn’t fair. He says: “Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired President of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, has been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom.”

Conan points out that he is receiving an honorary degree from Dartmouth, the same thing each student in the audience is receiving for working hard for four years, further proving, life is just not fair.

Along the way, he pokes fun at Mark Zuckerberg and his own alma mater saying ” Incidentally, speaking of Mr. Zuckerberg, only at Harvard would somebody have to invent a massive social network just to talk with someone in the next room.”

But on a more serious note, Conan uses his own life to describe how failure can be a very liberating experience. Conan talks about his recent experience with NBC, and how ” I did not get what I wanted, and I left a system that had nurtured and help define me for the better part of seventeen years.  I went from being in the centre of the grid to not only off the grid, but underneath the coffee table that the grid sits on, lost in the shag carpeting that is underneath the coffee table supporting the grid.”

He jokes to say “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.” And he talks about how his failure allowed him to try new things, grow a beard, and do a lot of “silly unconventional, spontaneous, and seemingly irrational things,” like fashioning a blue leather suit, and making a documentary, and how it was the best year of his professional life.

In short, Conan’s “failure,” allowed him to grow, change, and improve his life, and what seemed terrible at first, grew into something wonderful.

He signed off in the same fashion as his last show on NBC, “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen,” saying that now, he believes this more than ever.

Watch his speech here:

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