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Conan O’Brien: 8 Tips For Surviving A Near-Death Career Experience

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In 2011, Conan O’Brien gave the graduation speech at Dartmouth College. In it, he shared while 2010 didn’t kill him, it definitely included the sort of near-death career experience he’d rather not repeat. For many of us, losing the stability of a job/career that we nurtured over years is downright depressing. We hit a funk so deep, it causes us to hide. Or, as O’Brien explained,

“…watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.”

In his speech, he encouraged the graduates to not be afraid to fail, but to also prepare for disappointment. Makes sense, right? Well then, how does one cope with disappointment?

O’Brien Took Eight Drastic Measures – Maybe You Should, Too!

The following are the eight steps he took on the road to career recovery:

  1. Grew a beard.
  2. Dove into social media.
  3. Threw together a tour that showcases his comedic strengths.
  4. Played guitar.
  5. Did stand-up in a tight blue leather suit.
  6. Recorded an album.
  7. Made a documentary.
  8. Frightened his friends and family by abandoning all preconceived perceptions of his career path and stature.

How did these things help? In short, O’Brien says,

“I did a lot of silly, unconventional, spontaneous and seemingly irrational things and guess what: with the exception of the blue leather suit, it was the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life. To this day I still don’t understand exactly what happened, but I have never had more fun, been more challenged–and this is important–had more conviction about what I was doing. How could this be true? Well, it’s simple: There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.”

In my opinion, O’Brien did the one thing we all need to do when faced with a near-death career experience: Stop worrying about what others will think and focus on impressing ourselves. O’Brien gave himself a huge gift in 2010 and I think it literally SAVED his career – He allowed himself to experiment without fear of failure.

I say we all take a page from the Conan O’Brien Career Survival Handbook. Do you agree?

Then, share below what you’ve done to experiment with your career. Had personal success fighting back from a near-death career experience? Tell us in the comments below and help others get the confidence they need to do the same!

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J.T. O'Donnell Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of Work It Daily. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.