“Sometimes 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.” – Conan O’Brian
This quote is taken from Conan’s commencement speech at Dartmouth University in 2011. It was said in the context of him sharing about how a young Johnny Carson wanted to be like the famous comedian Jack Benny. He initially sought to emulate him in every way but in the end felt he simply could not reach his “ideal.” That failure took him in another direction–the direction we eventually all know him from. Likewise David Letterman initially wanted to be like Johnny Carson but simply couldn’t achieve the similarity he desired. Conan then went on to discuss how he and his comedian peers who grew up laughing at Letterman all wanted to emulate him. But all failed miserable. Conan included. It is within this context that Conan’s quote is taken from. I’m not a big fan of watching late night comedy at all–in fact it has been years since I have tuned in. However I was struck by his statement. In life we often seek to xerox ourselves according to the ideal life or persona of how someone else has lived their life. Until this need of comparison and unhealthy emulation is dropped we are not set free to become our own unique persons who can enjoy the journey of self-discovery.