Conan O’Brien Explains How to Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

Posted 06.15.2011

Conan This is the time of year when commencement addresses are given at high schools and colleges across the country. The speech that’s getting a lot of buzz this year is the one that late night TV comic Conan O’Brien gave at Dartmouth College.

You may remember that last year O’Brien was more or less squeezed out of the job he had always wanted when Jay Leno decided that he really still wanted to be the host of The Tonight Show.  Conan hibernated for a few weeks to lick his wounds and then, as recounted in a great article in Fortune magazine, morphed into a social media comic juggernaut winding up with a new show on TBS.

Still, for all of his success on the rebound, it wasn’t what he had dreamed of doing all his life. In the Dartmouth commencement speech, O’Brien explains why he now realizes that “There are few more liberating things in life than having your worst fears realized. He says, “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 reinvention.”

One thing that’s for sure about leadership is that the circumstances around you are going to constantly change. You’re not going to get everything you want. That’s when it’s good to know how to make lemonade out of lemons. Conan O’Brien has figured out how to do that.  

His speech is about 25 minutes long. If you like his humor, watch the whole thing. It’s funny. If you just want the serious message part of the speech, pick it up around the 16:25 mark. Would love to hear what you think about it through your comments.