How Perceived Failure Can Be a Blessing in Disguise

“A perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

In Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, a 2011 documentary directed by Rodman Flender, O’Brien gives viewers an in-depth look into the months following his unceremonious departure from NBC’s The Tonight Show. After his last show on January 22, 2010, Conan found himself unemployed, sharing the same fate as 8.6% of Americans. The documentary is amusing and clever, for sure, but it is also a raw portrait of a man trying to find a new purpose after his greatest failure has been realized. Through the comedy shows and unscripted footage, the viewer sees a man’s journey to keep his career passion and craft alive, even after losing his job.

Although we are unable to host the video here, we can share with you a video of a commencement address Conan delivered last year that echoes many of the same lessons.  His audience may have been college students, but the wisdom Conan skillfully delivers is something we can all learn from whether we are twenty-somethings preparing to embark on what we believe to be a lifelong journey or businesspeople suddenly facing a daunting setback. He never once claims that it is easy to come back from a hard fall, but he is resolute in his belief that by nature, failing gives us a clean slate. And Conan’s advice for getting back in the game? “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.”


He’s a comedian, so of course there is a lot of banter in the beginning—skip here to get to the really good stuff.


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