Balancing opportunity and control

What do successful stand-up comedians and CEOs have in common? An ability to think creatively, make quick decisions based on less-than-optimum information, take rigorous feedback and bounce back from failure. One of the best of the current crop – on the comic side – is Harvard-educated Conan O’Brien, whose eponymous variety show has become a cable cult hit in the US. “I’m big on preparing,” he told the June 2011 issue of Fast Company. “Prepare like crazy. But then just as you’re heading out… forget all of it. It’s there. It’s in your reptile brain. Go out but feel loose enough to grab opportunities as they come up.” A veteran writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, O’Brien says it’s about finding a balance between opportunity and control. “They did a study and found that really successful CEOs are good at knowing what’s in their control and what’s not in their control. And I have learned that…there are times when you’re really in a flow, things come and go, your opportunities come and go. It rains. There’s a drought. It rains. The show is not all coming from me. My job here is just to try and make the adjustments I can make, set a tone.”


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