In 2010, nobody better encapsulated the comeback story than late night talk show host Conan O’Brien.

After losing his post at NBC’s The Tonight Show and a very public battle with his former employers, O’Brien took his comedy to Twitter, then toured the country in a series of stage shows, finally succeeding in 2011 with one of the top-rated programs on basic cable.

In spite of his high profile implosion at NBC, Conan’s unplanned career detour was “the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life,” he told graduates at Dartmouth College over the weekend.

And that’s the moral of his story for graduates and all those facing severe disappointment and adversity: “There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.”

“Whether you fear it or not,” he added, “true disappointment will come but with disappointment comes clarity, conviction and true originality.”