On failure, disappointment and creativity

June 27, 2011

Conan O’Brien gives the commencement speech at Dartmouth College (2011) and in the process talks about his experience of disappointment.  In between the humourous asides (even the Secret Service guys in the background are laughing from time to time) he talks about his personal failures and encourages the graduating students to learn from the inevitable disappointing episodes that life will generate. The funny stuff goes up to about 16 minutes, the serious stuff (still funny!) starts after that.

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 be a catalyst for profound re-invention


2 People reacted on this

  1. When I learned about your research on disappointment, it struck me as a rather dismal topic. Who on earth would be interested in disappointment?

    But on further reflection I realize how rich and interesting it is. I have come to think of disappointment as an encounter with reality: it is when our fantasies meet the truth and there is a discrepancy between the two. It can be liberating to discover that reality is actually tolerable, that we don’t have to go around in fear of learning something through our wishes being frustrated. This is a moment of great potential.

    It’s possible to not even know one’s wishes until they are disappointed: when the new acquisition, accomplishment etc fails to make us absurdly happy.

    I look forward to your book on the topic, which will certainly make the reader perfectly loved, secure, attractive and rich, forever, and give the author the power of flight.

  2. That’s my view exactly on the topic Mike – fantasy meets reality – and the choice that’s presented to reimagine the future differently. As for the book – well, let’s get the diss out of the way first and if I’m loved, secure, attractive, rich etc then there’ll be a series not just one!

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