The Seinfeld Technique: Becoming Master of Your Domain
It’s my favorite scene in TV Guide’s #1 rated SitCom episode of all time: The Contest from the fourth season of Seinfeld.
Kramer leaves Jerry’s apartment after he, Jerry and George notice an attractive woman galavanting around in the buff in an apartment across the street. He returns to the room 53 seconds later, slams a fistful of dollars on the countertop and proclaims “I’m out!”
He is no longer the master of his domain.
After George’s mother caught him pleasuring himself with a particularly steamy issue of Glamour magazine and he swears off touching himself, the gang, including Elaine, enter into a group bet, a contest to see who can go the longest without doing the deed. Kramer is first out.
Eventually they all succumb to temptation. Elaine is pushed over the edge by a spin class with JFK Jr, Jerry by a series of frustrating dates and George by a nurse with sponge.
Temptation is everywhere.
In the episode, George is the presumed last man standing, but it’s Seinfeld himself who is the true master of his domain. And he’s helped me become the master of mine.
Comedy pays the bills, but Jerry Seinfeld is more important to me for his eponymous productivity hack: The Seinfeld Technique
The story goes like this. A young comedian approached Seinfeld one day, bemoaning his lack of progress in the comedy world. And Jerry tells him that if he ever wants to get anywhere he’s going to have to write better material and explains the simple fact that if you want to write better material, you have more material. You have to write everyday. Practice. Practice. Practice.
The young comedian goes on to list all the standard excuses: I get writer’s block. I don’t feel creative. I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. I need to be in the right mood to write. I haven’t really felt like writing. Yada Yada Yada
But inspiration doesn’t just strike out of the blue. Work doesn’t just happen. And more often than not, we don’t really feel like doing the things we know we need to be doing more of.
It’s not very often that we wake up in the mood to make a ton of cold calls to sales prospects.
Most of the time we don’t “feel like” going for a run or going to the gym or eating our veggies, or in the case of the failing comedian, writing new jokes.
Usually we know what the right thing to do is. Having the discipline to do it on a consistent basis is where we struggle.
Another famous Jerry, Coach Jerry West said this: “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.”
The Seinfeld Technique can help you get started on work on days when you don’t feel like it and help you build the habit of doing the work every day. Day in and day out.
Seinfeld would buy himself a big year at a glance calendar and sharpie. And he would sit down to write. And every day he wrote he would draw a giant red X for that day on the calendar. Once he would write for a couple of days in a row, he’d have a streak going. And he’d do everything possible to not break the streak.
It works. And at first glance, it’s brilliantly simple.
But the why and the how are where the genius really come out.
First off it gamifies your productivity turning something you dread into something you look forward to.
It’s a game and work made fun gets done.
Marking that big red x on the calendar lights up all the reward and pleasure centers in your head the same as a Dunkin’ Donut in your mouth or a needle in your arm.
And just like Pavlov’s dog and the dinner bell, you’ll do all you can do to keep the treats coming. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?!
The Seinfeld Technique uses the science of small wins to create inertia.
It uses inertia to create habits.
And if you can change your habits, you can change your life.
I keep a clipboard on my desk with a spreadsheet of my streaks. The things I try to get done every day, day in and day out. There’s about a dozen and they change periodically.
I can unequivocally say this: Jerry Seinfeld has changed my life.
As I sit here and type this I haven’t had a drink in 1,058 days.
I’ve ran at least a mile every day for the last 267 days.
I meditate every day. Do a plank every day. And spend focused periods of time every day on my business and writing.
So what about you? Are you ready to become the master of your domain?
What daily habit can the Seinfeld Technique help you develop?
What can you do today, tomorrow and everyday thereafter to build a better life?
Terry Lancaster is VP of Making Sh!t Happen. Speaker. Entrepreneur. And Author of BETTER! Self Help For The Rest Of Us. He’s a husband, a father and spends most of his free time, like all true native southerners, at the ice rink playing the hockey.
Photo by flickr/insaphowetrust