Although Conan O’Brien is one of the biggest goofballs on television today, he’s also an incredibly intelligent person with lots of wisdom to share. He’s had plenty of success in his life, but he’s also experienced a lot of failure, and that’s usually the best combination when it comes to giving a good commencement speech.
So although this is an oldie (a little over 3 years old), this commencement speech at Dartmouth is one of the most heartening and inspiring commencement speeches I’ve ever heard. Here are 12 quotes from Conan’s commencement speech that will leave you ready to take on the world, no matter how many roadblocks you encounter along the way.
“My first job as your commencement speaker is to illustrate that life is not fair. Deal with it.”
“Though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it.”
“Nietzsche famously said, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ What he failed to stress is that it ALMOST kills you.”
“Disappointment stings, and for driven, successful people like yourselves, it is disorienting.”
“There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.”
“Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course.”
“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 misfortunate and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.”
“No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you.”
“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.”
“There is no greater cliché in a commencement address than ‘follow your dream.’ Well I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change. And that’s okay.”
“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…I have never believed that more.”