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Monday, November 30, 2020

It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us: Conan O’Brien

"The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality," he said

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | November 4, 2020 8:00:14 am
Check out his speech here.

TV host Conan O’Brien, while delivering the commencement speech at Dartmouth College, infused wisdom with humour. He recollected an anecdote to emphasise an important point about failure. “Way back in the 1940s there was a very funny man named Jack Benny. He was a giant star and easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation. And a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny. In some ways he was, but in many ways, he wasn’t. He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quirks and mannerisms, along with a changing medium, pulled him in a different direction. And yet his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation. David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson and was not, and as a result, my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman. And none of us are — my peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways. But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

He then related this to his own life. “So, at the age of 47, after 25 years of obsessively pursuing my dream, that dream changed. For decades, in show business, the ultimate goal of every comedian was to host The Tonight Show. It was the Holy Grail, and like many people, I thought that achieving that goal would define me as successful. But that is not true. No specific job or career goal defines me and it should not define you. In 2000, I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that. But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

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He concluded the speech by quoting himself. “I have told you many things today, most of it foolish but some of it true. I’d like to end my address by breaking a taboo and quoting myself from 17 months ago. At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said: “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen”. “ Today, receiving this honour and speaking to the Dartmouth Class of 2011 from behind a tree-trunk, I have never believed that more.”

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