A Good Commencement Speaker Is Hard To Find

by | Mar 5, 2009

I don’t read the Sunday Review of Books each week, but I should. There’s always something to learn in there. For instance, I just learned that Conan O’Brien went to Harvard, wrote a thesis on Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner and spoke at Harvard’s commencement in 2000.

Here’s some of what he shared with those about to depart Harvard in 2000:

I’ve dwelled on my failures today because, as graduates of Harvard, your biggest liability is your need to succeed. Your need to always find yourself on the sweet side of the bell curve. Because success is a lot like a bright, white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you’re desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it in any way.

I left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of The Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet, every failure was freeing, and today I’m as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good.

So, that’s what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over.

I can relate. I’m coming off a huge year earnings wise in 2008 and I know 2009 isn’t going to match up. Yet, I’m now free to write and pursue the things that matter most to me. Maybe I’ll make a mess of things as Conan suggests; maybe there’s no need for all that.

The story is never over and the music never stops.