I just happened to watch a graduation address given by one of my favorite comedians, Conan O’Brien, during the 2011 commencement ceremony at Dartmouth College. As expected, he kept it hilarious and entertaining, but best of all, he gave the students an excellent piece of advice that I couldn’t help but post here.
It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.
I can certainly relate to the message above and concur completely. The majority of people do not know what they want to be or do when they grow up; yet, most of them cling to the idea that there is an ideal job, lifestyle, activity out there and that if they reach it, they would be fully accomplished and satisfied. The trouble is the ideal develops by observing others and not necessarily from personal experience. That ideal, or as Conan shrewdly refers to it, that ‘perceived ideal’ is what causes many to succumb to depression and hopelessness. The truth is, unless people attempt themselves a certain activity, there is no way that they can know whether they are good at it and most importantly, whether it makes them happy and helps them feel as if they lead a meaningful existence.
Therefore, the failure to reach that ideal is not something to languish about. Rather, it is to be accepted as a warning that what we thought would be an ideal situation is not necessarily so once we actually get to experience it. If handled properly, failure can be the impetus for finding one’s true calling.