The Beauty of Disappointment

Adrian S. Potter
3 min readAug 2, 2021

Let it drive your personal improvement.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The Secondhand Inspiration Project begins with a motivational quote and ventures wherever the creative path meanders.

“The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.” — Conan O’Brien

Conan O’Brien provided this quotable during a Dartmouth College commencement speech in 2011. You can easily find footage of it online. If you have a spare 24 minutes, it is worth the listen.

He masterfully uses ethos and pathos in his presentation. Conan established credibility with the crowd by assuring them he was once in their uncertain position. He also adeptly used humor and a connection with the students, faculty, and parents in attendance to deliver a point — disappointment and change will happen no matter what, so embrace them rather than allowing them to overwhelm you.

But this rant is not just my inner Toastmaster gushing over Conan for delivering a primo speech. It is my appreciation of him testifying about how failure can beget glory. To better understand the impact of this message, consider the context of what happened to him before that graduation address.

Conan showed strength in this speech by being vulnerable. He drew from his personal experiences with disappointment to deliver this vital lesson. Conan had recently endured a messy split with his former employer NBC. That public rift culminated with him losing a prized gig as host of The Tonight Show.

Did he curl in a ball on his couch and sulk? Only Conan knows how he reacted privately. But what the world witnessed publicly was him taking that setback and transforming it into success, eventually becoming the host of a long-running late-night talk show on a different network.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

When you contemplate disappointment, the first thing that comes to mind probably is not beauty. I would wager most folks would use words like distressing or difficult. However, some of the best achievements and most-valued prizes are derivatives of pressure and pain.

Adrian S. Potter

Antisocial Extrovert · Writer and Poet, Engineer, Consultant, Public Speaker · Writing about self-improvement, gratitude, and creativity ·