I didn’t have a lot invested in the Conan O’Brien vs. Jay Leno standoff, but I followed with some interest. What really hit me, though, as it did many people, was the last bit of Conan’s goodbye speech on his last episode of “The Tonight Show”:
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
Conan has been lauded by the press and public alike for his classiness in this situation, especially with regard to his goodbye remarks. But this sentence has particularly resonated with many folks. Part of it is because Conan comes off as incredibly sincere and humble. But I think that another reason is because he mentions something we don’t talk about often enough: kindness.
You may think that “kind” is not a particularly noteworthy adjective. It means “nice,” right? I don’t think so. In my mind, being nice is more about being polite. Kindness, in my mind, implies a greater degree of sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Nice is something you might be because you’re supposed to be, or it will get you something; kindness is more about the other person’s feelings, whether it’s a close friend, a colleague or a complete stranger. In the end, I believe, it’s more important to be kind than to be nice.
Why am I seeing this line quoted everywhere? Why is this hitting home? I think because we all recognize the importance of kindness, and also how unique it is to see someone call it out. The concept has become special, which is great, in a sense. But I wish it didn’t seem like such a novelty.
Hearing this line, I recalled the National song “Baby, We’ll Be Fine,” where the insecure protagonist desperately tries to navigate everyday life. “All we’ve got to do is be brave and be kind,” he reassures himself. I’m not sure how Matt Berninger’s protagonist turns out, but I hope he meant being kind to himself. That’s an important side of kindness, too. We are often too hard on ourselves, too critical and too demanding. Let’s forgive ourselves a little bit. Let’s give ourselves a break. We can’t take anyone for granted, much less ourselves.
Anyhow, kudos to Conan. People say he’s one of the nice guys in show business, and that may be true. And that’s great. But if he’s one of the kind guys in show business? Amazing things are definitely in store.
Image by Clay Larsen