Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth College Commencement Address 2011

Addressing the Darthmouth College graduates of 2011, TV host Conan O’Brien gave this speech about failures in realizing one’s dream.

Way out in the 1940’s there was a very very funny man named Jack Benny.  He was a giant star, easily one of the greatest comedian in 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 mannerism, along with the changing medium, pulled him in a different direction. And yet his failure to completely become his hero, made him the funniest person in his generation.

David Letterman, wanted to be Johnny Carson. And was not.  And as a result, my generation of comedians wanted to be Dave Letterman.  And none of us are. My peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand and different ways.

But the point is this, it is our failure to become our perceived idea, that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.

It is not easy.

But if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.