Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Conan O'Brien explains it all to me

The commencement address that Conan O'Brien gave at Dartmouth resonated with me in many ways, but perhaps most at this point:

"Now, by definition, Commencement speakers at an Ivy League college are considered successful. But a little over a year ago, I experienced a profound and very public disappointment. I did not get what I wanted, and I left a system that had nurtured and helped define me for the better part of 17 years. I went from being in the center 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. It was the making of a career disaster, and a terrible analogy.

"But then something spectacular happened. Fogbound, with no compass, and adrift, I started trying things. I grew a strange, cinnamon beard. I dove into the world of social media. I started tweeting my comedy. I threw together a national tour. I played the guitar. I did stand-up, wore a skin-tight blue leather suit, recorded an album, made a documentary, and frightened my friends and family. Ultimately, I abandoned all preconceived perceptions of my career path and stature and took a job on basic cable with a network most famous for showing reruns, along with sitcoms created by a tall, black man who dresses like an old, black woman. I did a lot of silly, unconventional, spontaneous and seemingly irrational things and guess what: with the exception of the blue leather suit, it was the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life. To this day I still don't understand exactly what happened, but I have never had more fun, been more challenged—and this is important—had more conviction about what I was doing."

Well, maybe not the cinnamon beard part. Or the national tour part. Or the basic cable part. But the part where I "abandoned all preconceived perceptions of my career path"? That most definitely.

Later in the speech, he talks about how dreams change. And that's most definitely true as well.

I graduated from seminary 10 years ago, expecting to have a life-long career in the church, and now I find I'm a social media and marketing consultant. How did that happen? I don't know, but I feel really good.

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