What Freelancers Can Learn from Conan O'Brien

No matter where life may take you, there is always another lesson to be learned. These lessons don’t have to come from within your own realm or your own area of work. Just as freelancers have a lot to learn from the Dog Whisperer, they can also learn a lot from Conan O’Brien.

The former late night talk show host went through quite the battle with NBC when it came to the situation surrounding Jay Leno and the Tonight Show. You’ve surely heard the story by now, but what can a work-at-home freelance writer possibly learn from a millionaire Hollywood personality? A lot, as it turns out.

1. Have a Sense of Humor

It was clear that the negotiations with the network were not going amicably, but Conan was able to keep smiling and keep laughing despite of it. Sure, he may be a comic by trade, but we can all remember to keep a sense of humor about ourselves. He was willing to laugh at himself, at the network, and at the situation.

Did you just lose an important client? Are you having trouble with one project or another? Get the job done, but try to keep a smile on your face while doing it.

2. Stand Up for Your People

As it became clear that Conan’s days with NBC were numbered, he stuck to his guns and stood up for his staff. The severance package contained not only money (and stipulations) for Conan, but he worked hard with his lawyers and agents to ensure that his staff would be able to walk away from the situation comfortably.

After all, many of them made the cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles to do the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Going a little further back, it’s also nice that Conan was able to offer a new job to his former sidekick Andy Richter. No hard feelings.

Don’t forget about those who got you to where you are today. Be thankful for your support system, whether they be family, friends, and business associates.

3. Be True to Yourself, Be Willing to Walk Away

Years ago, Jay Leno promised the Tonight Show gig to Conan. This was to prevent Conan from leaving to another network at the time, so he stuck around. After finally getting the show, the ratings weren’t as good as NBC had hoped, so they wanted to bump Conan to a 12:05am time slot. He refused and for good reason; this went against the promise they made years ago.

It was easily the most difficult decision in his career, but Conan stuck to his principles. He refused to have a “Tonight Show” that was after midnight. The Jon Stewart rumors came and went, but NBC still didn’t want to provide Conan with what he was promised.

You have to be willing to walk away from a bad situation. This is true of entertainers, significant others, and freelancing alike.

4. Celebrate the Positives in Life

On his last show, Conan spoke frankly and honestly into the camera. He told us that he was allowed to say whatever he wanted. He could have bashed NBC and been bitter about the situation, but that’s not what he did.

Instead, he chose to celebrate the good times and be happy with the blessings that he had received over the years. He had a very successful and happy run working at SNL, Late Night, and the Tonight Show, and he was grateful for the memories. To bid adieu to the Tonight Show, he chose to rock out on a guitar.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but you should be celebrating the positives instead.

5. Remember the Past, Look to the Future

Conan will never forget his time with NBC, but he is prepared to move forward with his career. He remains hopeful and is keeping a smile on his face. His Twitter account is filled with laughs and his upcoming tour should be a lot of fun too.

Don’t dwell in the past, but don’t forget it either. Instead, look ahead to the future and anticipate where life’s road may take you next. We’ll see you on Fox, Coco.