Last night I caught a recent episode of Inside The Actors Studio that featured Conan O’Brien. Now, I’ve never been a particular fan of O’Brien – I’ve probably watched a total of 15 minutes of his show over the 15+ years it has been on. But, I figured I’d watch, though I was also somewhat skeptical of his place on this show, as he’s not exactly an actor.
I must say, it was an excellent episode. O’Brien is a super smart guy (Harvard grad, Simpsons writer) and what I found most interesting was his approach to life and to his craft. I thought many of these lessons were applicable to just about anyone and worth sharing:
He talked about being optimistic and his absolute lack of patience for people he felt were acting “too cool for school.” I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, but I’ve come to realize that the positive energy that comes from being optimistic is the difference between sucess and failure, not necessarily things like skills and resources. I’ll take the guy with a can-do attitude and $20, you take the negative millionaire and let’s see who gets further.
I also really appreciated Conan’s approach to his work. Several times he referred to late night television as a “volume business.” Five shows a week year after year after year. Not every one of those is going to be comedy gold. But you know what? You keep going, you keep tweaking and trying new things, you never stop. You need to push through the fear of failure.
He mentioned that the biggest laughs and the most exciting parts are when things don’t go as planned. He talked about the human psyche and the visceral reaction we have when things are truly real and unscripted. I thought that was a great explanation of the best marketing, that feeling of authenticity that just can’t be scripted.
Conan O’Brien is a great example of a guy who really understands himself, and has created a career – not a job – that he has embraced on a fundamental level. May we all be so lucky.