👖 Put on your blue leather suit
Hey everyone! I’m Brian and here is a dose of Growth Snacks. I post content on personal growth. Sometimes it will be things I’ve learned in my own growth experience, but most times I’ll be answering readers’ questions about personal growth or sharing inspirational stories that can support your journey. Send me your questions, and in turn, I’ll do some research & interviews and humbly offer the best advice I find.
If you find this newsletter valuable, consider sharing it with friends, or subscribe if you haven’t already. 👇
A reminder from Conan O’Brien about how hitting rock bottom can be a blessing in disguise.
2020 has been a whirlwind of a year for many of us and in spite of election results and a rebounded stock market, we’re still not out of the woods yet.
On a call last week, I was reminded of a story of resilience, creativity, and renewal that might be inspiring for all those who are still figuring out what 2021 and beyond will look like. I wanted to share that story with all of you.
Conan O’Brien landed his first talk show on NBC back in 1993 when they gave him a job hosting “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He took the show over from David Letterman who had moved over to CBS. As Conan tells it, he was horrible at hosting the show initially. But he stuck with it, improving over time from practice and encouragement from people like Letterman.
Conan hosted “Late Night” for nearly 16-years. But the goal was always to move up a time slot to host the Tonight Show once Jay Leno stepped away from the show. Taking over the Tonight Show is a dream job for lots of comedians. For a long time, it was the holy grail of comedy. Honestly, it still might be; I am not a comedian, so I don’t know these things.
Anyway, in June 2009, after 16-years of working towards that dream job, Conan O’Brien finally took over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno. He had reached the pinnacle of his career goal.
But, after only 7-months on the air, Jay Leno came back to The Tonight Show and Conan was out of a job. Can you imagine working towards something for 16+ years of your life, reach it for 200 days, only to have it taken away?
Failure hurts and it can feel worse when it’s public. So, Conan crashed hard. If you were following comedy or entertainment at that time, you probably remember this part of the story.
But part two of the story was more interesting.
Conan could have just run away from Hollywood, and no one would have blamed him for it. Plenty of people had run away before. You might remember when Dave Chapelle walked away from $50M and ran to Africa.
What’s most interesting about Conan is that instead of following the “Chapelle Route,” Conan decided to dive into the craze.
It would seem like for the next year, Conan just did whatever he wanted. At some point, Conan started looking at losing everything he had as a blessing and an opportunity. After operating within a certain structure for 16+ years, he was all of a sudden given a blank canvas without any rules. A canvas where he could create anything that he wanted.
So he started tweeting his comedy. He started playing live music. He grew a long beard and went on a comedy/music tour. It all kind of culminated in him performing in a blue leather suit that, thankfully, we’ve never seen again.
He would later describe the year after his downfall as the most liberating year of his life. His failure at The Tonight show gave way to the free time to create. The freedom to be weird, quirky, awkward and completely experimental post-downfall ended up informing the kind of work he does now. He landed another show, this time with TBS, and was able to bring all the weird & awkward with him, to great effect. Awkward stuff like this:
This is a “blue leather suit” moment
So why do I bring this story up today? Well, 2020 has been a challenging moment for all of us. Some of us have had our worlds flip upside down. For others, the winds shifted just a bit. But, everyone is tired, and rightfully so.
I can’t help but believe that there is still a ton of opportunity to put on our own versions of the blue leather suit. To try some things that we’ve always thought about but felt like they were ridiculous. Things we think people might not understand or would even judge us for.
When Conan went through his blue leather suit phase, he was the only one going through the mess, so it looked pretty crazy from the outside. But today, there are so many people in transition that, if you tried something outside of the box, no one would blink twice at it. There’s safety in numbers, remember. We all learn that on our first elementary school field trip.
Embrace the transition. It, unfortunately, seems like things won’t be getting back to “normal” for a long time, and that’s OK. If Trader Joe’s can start using plastic bags, then let that inspire all of us to do a few things we might cringe at later. We’ll all be better people for having tried.
Try on a blue leather suit. Then maybe a red one, a green one, or a yellow one. I trust that some of the awkward discoveries we’re making in 2020 will serve us all in 2021 and beyond.
💥 Actions you can take
That weird, odd thing you’ve been thinking about doing but haven’t done yet… give it a try over the next 7 days.
💪 Other things you might find inspiring
Conan O’Brien gave a commencement speech at Dartmouth back in 2011 where he talks about his fall and recovery. You might find that forwarding.
This TEDx Talk by Taylor Conroy about things you can do while you’re embracing the transition. This is about what to do when you’re still in the hole of a decline.
In other news…
I’ve been quiet for the last couple of weeks. Part of that was because of the election cycle, which I guess is technically not over. The other is that I’ve been working on a new venture that I’ll share more about later.
I plan to keep delivering Growth Snacks to your inbox, at least on a bi-weekly basis. The new cadence will make sure I can keep the quality high. You deserve only the best growth tips.
That’s all for this week! Hit me up if you have any thoughts, feedback, or insights to share.
If you found this valuable, consider sharing it with friends, or subscribing if you aren’t already.