Conan’s advice to Dartmouth grads good advice for middle aged writers, too

My friend Kelsey Timmerman, writer of all things fun and cool, posted this video of Conan O’Brien’s commencement address to Dartmouth College, pointing out Conan’s advice about failure as good advice for grads.

But listening to Conan’s speech, it’s also great advice for … well, me.

Like Conan, I’m 47. And lately, I’ve been wondering if this is all there is. I mean, I’m past middle age – unless I’m going to live to my mid-90s, and even in that case the likelihood that I’ll be able to do anything more noteworthy than wipe my own nose is slim. So I’ve been musing – have I missed my chance to do something significant?

Then along comes Conan, and with his advice to graduates (offered up after 20 laugh out loud minutes) reminds me that sometimes the best years come after you think the best is behind you. Some of his key points:

“There are few things in life more liberating than having your worst fear realized.”

“Your path at 22 will not be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling and 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 misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.”

“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.”

If you have 20 minutes, watch the video. It’s hilarious, and if nothing else you’ll get a good laugh. But you might also find a little inspiration in there, too.


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