7 Life Lessons Seinfeld Gave Us
Cult classic Seinfeld masterfully nailed the social dynamics of interpersonal politics, along with taboos, stereotypes, envy, insecurity and other fundamentals of building human relationships. So, here’s a neat little list of some life wisdom the cast imparted through the LOLs.
#1 Go paper free
George obsessed over keeping every piece of paper – from receipts to advertisements for a free guitar lesson. Thankfully, these days there’s more apps and less exploding wallets (which is kinder to the environment, too).
Evernote scans paperwork from your smartphone, storing it forever in the cloud and allowing you to live completely paper free. You can attach the scans to appointments in a calendar, and when you scan a business card it automatically finds the person on LinkedIn.
#2 Learn how to pack a bag
Jerry delighted in the celebration of the everyday, obsessing over the small details that make the modern man. While George packed the kitchen sink, Jerry took a minimalist approach. “Packing is no different than leading men into battle: you’ve gotta know the strengths and weaknesses of every soldier in that platoon. From a collapsible toothbrush to a pair of ordinary black socks.” It’s almost like he knew budget airlines with carry-on-only pricing were our future.
One Bag Living is considered the holy grail of minimalists, who digitise their CD and book collections and practice a one-in/one-out system when buying new clothes.
#3 If the loophole exists, exploit it
Jerry’s obsessive neighbour, Newman the postman, can scarcely believe it when he finds out that the state of Michigan has a 10 cent refund on empty bottles, while only 5 cents is paid in NYC. By altering the route of mail trucks he resolves to collect empty bottles in NY and transport them across state lines to redeem them for double the cash.
In a Seinfeld-ian real life tale, civil engineer David Philips bought 12,250 chocolate puddings in order to redeem 1.25 million airmiles. We’re guessing that the “one offer per customer” rule was invented pretty soon after that.
And as for all those bottles? The Michigan 10 cent deposit has resulted in a recycling rate of 97% of bottles, compared to 70% in states with 5-cent bottle deposits and 33% in states with no deposit law.
#4 Emphasise your words
Elaine and Jerry dodge a party invite as they can’t ascertain the caller’s tone: “Which word did he emphasize?! Did he say, ‘Why would Jerry bring anything?’ or, ‘Why would Jerry bring anything?’” Jerry asks.
The emphasis on a word can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Famously the phrase ‘I never said she stole my money’ has seven different meanings depending on which of the words is stressed. You’re trying it now, aren’t you?
When you’re talking on the phone you lack visual facial cues so it’s a good idea to repeat key points for emphasis. If you have an important business call to make, lead out with your main point right away. Then later when you’re wrapping up, revisit it and summarise it in different words to make sure that the other person understands.
#5 When things aren’t working, do the opposite
George spends the first few seasons as an unsuccessful real estate agent who lives with his parents, often daydreaming of grand schemes but never putting them into action. “My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.” said George. “Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s often wrong.”
One day, George decides to follow the opposite of all his normal instincts, and manages to land his dream job as Travelling Secretary of the New York Yankees.
In his book The Contrarians Guide to Leadership, USC President Steven Semple makes a case for doing the opposite of your peers, for example reading Machiavelli while everyone else reads the New York Times. According to Forbes, this opposite thinking has real world applications from Aristotle all the way to the football field.
#6 Be yourself
The cast often try and change themselves for a potential love interest, only to have it unravel once they have them on the hook. Jerry accidentally removes all his chest hair after a failed attempt at trimming it, then has to keep shaving it daily when his new girlfriend falls for his smooth chest.
Meanwhile Elaine is thrilled to bits with new boyfriend Kurt until she sees the hair he used to have before he started shaving his head. When he tries to regrow his hair he discovers he’s going bald and resolves to propose to Elaine before he loses all his hair. To be fair this was before Bruce Willis had made being bald hot.
The lesson here is that it’s pretty easy for things to go awry when you’re not being yourself (or just being straight up about who you really are). Who’s got the energy to keep up a farce?
#7 Find your people
The most endearing lesson in Seinfeld is that the cast find each other and stick together through thick and thin. Heck, you might end the series in jail for being bad people, but at least you’ll be in good company. #highvibetribe
A good friend recently shifted states on a whim for a job opportunity that felt right. “The finance director said ‘we’re not here to fuck spiders’ in a meeting,'” she said, “and I knew I was home.”
Finding and surrounding yourself with people that ‘get’ you and support you is a special thing. It allows you the space to be fully you. And when you do find your crowd, be sure to follow Jerry’s maxim to ensure you keep them: “Make your friends laugh.”
Matthias McGregor writes from Delillo’s fictional Pop Culture Dept, here to “decipher the natural language of culture, to make a formal method of shiny pleasures—an Aristotelianism of bubble gum wrappers and detergent jingles.”