#111-The Wisdom of Jerry Seinfeld — Timeless Lessons From a Comedic Legend

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to the greatness of Jerry Seinfeld.

I didn’t watch my first episode of Seinfeld until 2020, some 30 years after its infancy.

I also never had potato dauphinoise until 2020. If you don’t know what that is, then I’m glad, because I may have just introduced you to one of the best dishes on Earth.

My admiration for Jerry Seinfeld started with the Netflix show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

He likes cars, he likes comedians, and he loves coffee. Why not make a show about it?

If only all of life’s decisions were this easy.

Perhaps they are, but we have made it a point to make it complex because we have intangible useless junk lodged in the tiny crevices of our cabeza.

By the way, the storage industry is a multi-billion dollar industry housing tangible useless junk. If you don’t use it, why keep it?

Anyways, I love comedy and the brave comedians that practice this art.

They make observations and pour out their contempt and love for the world in a way that makes us think of everyday occurrences differently.

They are able to stroke our vagus nerves until we are gyrating with laughter.

Also, I deliberated heavily if I should use Jerry or Seinfeld for the purposes of this article.

I don’t know him. Never met him. Yet, he still occupies my digital devices for prolonged periods of time, so he could be akin to a remote relative.

When he passes away, will I be sad?

Let’s just say this. I’ll probably take a sick day. That says a lot for someone that doesn’t acknowledge my existence.

I’ll use Sienfield as a sign of respect.

Let’s get into the meat of the matter.

I would consider Jerry Seinfield one of the wisest and dare I say spiritual comedians of our time, but not in the ’60s acid-crazed, Woodstock kind of way.

Although, that would be fun.

Instead, he’s pragmatic with his spirituality. He uses it as a vehicle to get through the day and attempts to make life a beautiful and efficient journey.

He’s an avid meditator and a practitioner of TM, short for Transcendental Meditation.

Today, I will share a few nuggets of wisdom from Seinfeld. Please enjoy the quotes and commentary below.

Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

“To me, if life boils down to one thing, it’s movement. To live is to keep moving.“

Life has its moments of pain, worry, frustration, and every other strong feeling that can be aptly categorized as exhaustion.

It also has its beautiful moments. The beauty contains in it — happiness, gratitude, love, and other feelings of harmony that can be aptly categorized as joy.

No matter what the feeling, acknowledge them. Then forget them as if they are strangers passing by in Time Square to never be seen again.

Difficult feelings can harbor pain. They can build memories that create deep canyons of despair throughout our hearts and mind. Blissful feelings build a sense of attachment. You want more. This attachment disguises itself as joy, but its reality is anything but.

To keep moving means that no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be alright because movement is healing in action.

Reminisce about good times when the soul calls for it, and recount past unsettling memories when the heart needs a shield, but let memory serve its place as a temporary resting spot that gives way to the now.

To keep moving means to flow with the river of the present moment. You will fall. It’s a certainty, but get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving.

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

“People who read the tabloids deserve to be lied to.”

I’m a firm believer in the adage, that if you have nothing good to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.

In, Yuval Hariri’s critically acclaimed book, Homo Sapiens, he discusses gossip:

“Our language evolved as a variant of gossip. Homo sapiens is first and foremost a social animal. Social cooperation is our key to survival and reproduction. It is not enough for some men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bison. For them it is much more important to know who of their troop hates whom, who sleeps with whom, who is honest and who is cheating.”

Turns out, it’s ingrained in our DNA to gossip, but this doesn’t mean it’s right.

To talk negatively about another requires energy. We only have so much energy allowed in one lifetime, so use it wisely.

The next time a plate of delicious gossip graces your table, find restraint and cultivate a martial attitude towards it. Defeat it before it defeats you.

Nothing really good comes out of gossip. They are misconceived stories about another that tend to grow into misconceptions.

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“You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That’s how you know you’re still alive.”

I love Seinfeld’s stand-up, but more important than that, I’m obsessed with the devotion he pours into his craft.

He’s one of the few comics that doesn’t talk about sex or swears in his routines.

He does this because it’s a challenge. In an article in the Guardian, he said:

“A person who can defend themselves with a gun is just not very interesting. But a person who defends themselves through Aikido or Tai Chi? Very Interesting.”

When is the last time you have been challenged? I think it’s an important question to keep asking.

Photo by Murilo Viviani on Unsplash

“The mind has infinite wisdom, but the brain is a stupid dog that is easily trained.”

The routine of exercise, meditation, and writing Seinfeld has developed are operating systems designed to train the puppy-like brain. There has to be some continuity in our lives in order for creativity to be properly conceived.

The puppy wants to run wild and indulge in every reactionary emotion, but training the puppy means your rational mind dictates what needs to happen.

This type of self-control takes patience and discipline.

In an article from the NY Times, Seinfeld said the following:

“I’m more about organized behavior routines. Yes, I do put my toothpaste on the same spot all the time. I’m not O.C.D., but I love routine. I get less depressed with routine. You’re just a trained animal in a circus. I like that feeling: Now we’re going to do this trick, now we’re going to do that trick. That makes me feel better. I don’t want too much mental freedom. I have too much of that anyway.”

I never thought about how having a routine can make you less depressed, but I will say, ever since I started my routine of priming the mind, I do feel better.

Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash

“It’s like having… you know, your phone has a charger, right? It’s like having a charger for your whole body and mind.”

Seinfeld equates a phone charger to meditation in this clever analogy.

Let’s face it, most of our days are hectic. We have careers, families, obligations, and the list goes on and on.

Life is flat-out exhausting because it takes energy to do just about everything.

Sometimes even taking a piss is a laborious task that I try to refrain from, but since the human bladder can only hold 14 oz of liquid, I eventually succumb to the John.

The other analogy Seinfield mentioned was stopping for gas.

Think about our life as one long road trip. Eventually, we will have to stop for gas. Meditation allows us the chance to take a break, fill up our tanks, and continue the long journey to nowhere.

I say nowhere because the world keeps spinning on its own axis.

Anyway, ever since I started meditating a few times a day, I do notice a sustained type of energy.

I am able to power through the day with minimal effort and without the dreaded afternoon crash.

When we are tried, we don’t make the most rational decisions, yet we are forced to make these decisions when our mind isn’t firing at 100%.

You owe it to yourself to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Meditation is a tool you definitely need to put in your life’s toolbox.

Photo by Ben Lei on Unsplash

“I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night ’cause I’m “night guy”. Night guy wants to stay up late. “What about getting up after five hours of sleep? Oh, that’s morning guy’s problem. That’s not my problem. I’m night guy. I stay up as late as I want.” So you get up in the morning, the alarm, you’re exhausted, groggy. Oh, you hate that night guy. See, night guy always screws morning guy.”

Night Guy wants to party, drink, eat ice cream by the gallon, and generally make life miserable for Morning Guy. We all carry a Morning and Night Guy in all of us. It’s a daily battle between the two.

Night Guy wants to indulge, chase what takes on the form of perceived pleasure, and shun discipline.

Morning Guy wants to exercise, have inner peace, and achieve goals in life.

Being aware of what we know is good for us, is one of the biggest things we have to contend with during our lives.

That’s one of the reasons I started Finding Swamy. As I am walking up the steep mountain of self-actualization, I want to take others with me.

Seinfeld has an excellent bit where he talks about cookies as if they are an army that comes out to hunt you during the late evening. He said,

“The cookies come out in their preformed plastic barracks, like a D-Day beach landing troop carrier.”

He’s a firm believer that meditation helps reduce cravings. His sentiments are in line with research regarding impulse behavior and meditation.

Meditation helps strengthen the awareness of the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for the following:

  1. Focusing one’s attention.
  2. Predicting the consequences of one’s actions; anticipating events in the environment.
  3. Impulse control; managing emotional reactions.
  4. Planning for the future.

For the purposes of cookies, impulse control is the driving factor on why meditation helps.

When we impulsively do things and give them little rational thought, we are likely to indulge in our temporary cravings, lower our inhibitions, and generally succumb to things that aren’t the best for us.

Mindful practices like meditation, journaling, and exercise help strengthen the connections between the pre-frontal cortex and the rest of the brain.

Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

“If you break down the human struggle in one word, it would be, confront.

In an interview with Tim Ferris, Seinfield said that’s proactive in confronting situations that call where disagreements occur.

This is a very proactive approach to the conventional wisdom which carries in it, passivity. Those that don’t care for disagreements will not indulge in acting on them. However, Seinfield faces disagreements head-on because he wants to understand the problem and find a solution.

If someone has a problem with him, he’s going to ask, “What’s wrong?”

No assumptions are needed. You deal with shit right then and there, instead of letting that shit wallow in the air like a dose of fragrant, curried flatulence.

This is a great practice that wasn’t the norm for me. I was raised with the notion that if you have a problem, keep it to yourself.

Today, I like to address uncomfortable situations with they arise. I value a clear mind, and addressing difficult things may be intolerable at first, but its result is understanding and that can lead to many good things.

Seinfield prefers to understand the root cause of issues and find a resolution or at the very least, some common ground.

His character of being a comedian drips into his everyday life. It’s his keen imagination, acute memory, and observational nature that allows him to confront issues that bother him and present in a way that’s abstract and humorous.

Seinfield has a fighter’s mentality when it comes to his art. For him, the audience is the opposing enemy. The relationship is martial, and laughter is the instant feedback that tells him if he has defeated them.

As I grow older and somewhat wiser, I see the value in confronting our problems. This confrontation may bring with it pain and uncertainty, but whatever the outcome, there is growth to be had.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

“I think operating system would be the best term for what I’ve created because it’s very pragmatic. It’s not faith-based in any way.”

In his earlier years, Seinfeld was a seeker. He sought out Eastern wisdom, although unconventional at the time.

He dipped his toes into the waters of Yoga, Zen Buddhism, Meditation, and even Scientology, but didn’t quite make it to the costume naval academy ceremony. He was in search of a working philosophy that wasn’t faith-based that he could adopt in his life. He calls it his “operating system.”

His operating system isn’t faith-based. They are actionable, pragmatic practices made to enhance the human experience.

All of life is self-knowledge, and how we integrate that knowledge has an outcome. It’s useful to look at wisdom from different cultures, different fields of study, and nature to develop a philosophy that will help you best.

“It’s like you’re going to hire a trainer to get in shape, and he comes over, and you go, ‘How long is the session?’ And he goes, ‘It’s open-ended.’ Forget it. I’m not doing it. It’s over right there,” he said. “You’ve got to control what your brain can take. OK? So if you’re going to exercise, God bless you, and that’s the best thing in the world you can do, but you got to know when is it going to end. ‘When is the workout over?’ ‘It’s going to be an hour.’ ‘OK.’ Or ‘You can’t take that? Let’s do 30 minutes.’ ‘OK, great.’ Now we’re getting somewhere. I can do 30.”

Seinfeld is a firm believer in having deadlines for things you want to accomplish.

Having a plan of attack for our workouts, our to-do’s, or any type of project we embark on, should have time constraints assigned to it.

Seinfeld’s practice for writing is something I want to adopt.

His writing sessions have a self-imposed time limit. He has his yellow pad and pen. Whether he writes one word or 1000, is irrelevant. What’s important is that he can’t do anything else. He takes away all distractions and gives himself the time to focus just on writing.

His career is a testament to his work ethic and routine.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

“Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void with great speed.”

Seinfeld believes life is a game. It needs to be fun, and pain is a part of that fun.

Whether it’s a workout or sitting in silence twice a day for 20 minutes (which he’s been doing for 30+ years), it’s the pain of doing the things we don’t want to do that makes us resilient and yields results.

He embraces the pain with his daily practices. It’s self-inflicted tortured discipline.

Many of us know what’s good for us, but we still don’t do it. It’s because what’s good for us takes effort.

In an ending of an interview, Tim Ferris asked Seinfeld, “If you had one piece of advice to give others, what would it be?”

“Just work.

Seeking advice and learning from others is very valuable, but there comes a point where we just need to dive into the pool of uncertainty and just swim.

Mistakes are inevitable, but we will be better because of them.

I have made so many mistakes embarking on this journey of writing, and I know I’ll make more in the future, but every fuck up offers a chance to raise the fuck up.

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

“I love energy. I love it. And I pursue it, and I want more of it. Physical and mental energy, to me, are the greatest riches of human life. And TM is like a free account of an endless amount of it.”

Seinfeld values energy more than anything. It’s because of energy that the creation of money is even possible. That’s why adopting operating systems into his everyday life have accumulated so much in the terms of intrinsic value.

Seinfeld is in his 60’s. He still does standup. He has 3 kids and is still working on other projects. He feels that he’s cheating on life, but in all honestly, I think meditation is the cheat code, and it’s available to us all.

People have a tendency to embrace and idolize celebrities, but we fail to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes work they do for themselves. Seinfeld is no stranger to doing the work.

His disciplined rituals of meditation, exercise, and writing help him create anecdotes and analogies that make us laugh. This act of story-telling through humor might be one of the best gifts on earth; to give and to receive.

With love,
Anand

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