“…every decision I’ve ever made in my life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I wanted it to be.”
As you sit and watch George Costanza lament over his less than satisfactory life, you can’t help but chuckle. True to the character we’ve grown to love, he just can’t seem to get it right. He tries and tries, but it seems no matter what he does, life serves slice after slice of humble pie.
Then, as he realizes that every instinct and decision he’s ever had has been wrong, he decides to start doing the opposite. Instead of ordering tuna, he orders chicken salad. Instead of having coffee, he gets tea. Instead of shamefully avoiding a conversation with a woman, he walks up to her and introduces himself. Not only does he introduce himself, he comes right out and tells her that he lives at home with his parents. Ballsy.
In just a few minutes you see him shift, and with that shift, this particular episode of Seinfeld becomes educational. George, Jerry, and Elaine all give us some insight about life by the time the episode closes up shop with Jerry delivering his stand up routine, as per the usual.
George: If You’re Stuck, Switch Things Up
If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you already know that George spends most of the series in a collection of ruts. Whether by circumstance or his own doing, he rarely comes out on top. In this episode, in a sort of “What the hell? What’s the worst that could happen?” moment, his decision to do the opposite becomes his saving grace. He figures if what he’s been doing has brought him nothing short of misery, than acting opposite to his instincts should reverse his results.
And they do.
Within just a few days he gets a date with a beautiful woman, gets an interview with the New York Yankees–at which point he basically insults George Steinbrenner–and subsequently lands the job, and moves out of his parents house. A pretty quick turnaround for a guy who opened the episode staring out at the beach, solemnly observing the seagulls circling on the sand.
Lesson: If what you’re doing just isn’t working, switch things up; start trying the opposite of what you think is the right thing to do. Changing your state and changing your actions might be the breakthrough you needed. There’s something to be said for perseverance and determination, but there’s also tremendous value in adjusting course and taking a different approach to your goals.
Elaine: Don’t Be the Mayor of Victimville
As George is experiencing a meteoric rise during the episode, Elaine, mirroring the theme and title of the episode, is doing the opposite. In the beginning of the episode, she’s enjoying champagne, sharing a toast with her boss as she celebrates a promotion. From there, she goes to the infamous Seinfeld diner to meet with Jerry and tell him how great things are going with a relationship she recently rekindled. By the end of the episode, she’s out of a job and single once again.
Throughout the episode, Elaine caught some tough breaks, but she kept focusing on her circumstances rather than taking control of what she could. First it was her boyfriends fault for being too sensitive about her delay to visit him in the hospital, then it was her beloved Jujyfruits fault for not allowing her to call after her boss at a crucial moment for their company. If she had taken responsibility for her choice of actions, she may have been able to salvage a few pieces of her life as it all came crumbling down.
Lesson: No matter how many good things happen to you in your lifetime, you’re going to get fed your fair share of sh*t sandwiches. Rather than just owning those mishaps and doing her best to reconcile them, Elaine chose to focus on the circumstances around her, playing the victim instead of taking control of her thoughts, actions, and results. Take each misstep, mistake, and terrible situation life feeds you and focus on how you can make something positive from it. The longer you sit around and point your finger, the more things the Universe will give you to point a finger at.
Jerry: Believe in Abundance
During the episode Jerry begins to realize that everything always seems to work out for him. One stand up gig cancels on him, then 5 minutes later another spot calls to fill that night on his calendar. At poker night, while everyone around him was either up or down, he broke even. After Elaine throws $20 out the window to test Jerry’s “it always works out for me” theory, he finds $20 in his coat pocket.
Later in the episode, the girl that he’d been dating tells him that they should see other people. She expects him to be annoyed, upset, or at least a little disappointed. Instead, since he believes that everything works out for him in the end, he simply smiles, says “That’s okay,” and thanks her for the time they spent together. He knows that there will be other girls, and that eventually, someone will find their way to him.
Lesson: Live life trusting that with there’s always enough to go around. Money, love, energy, and any other resource you can think of can always be recouped. If you have a bad day at work, believe that you’ll enjoy a great night with the family. If you invest $100 in yourself and don’t make it back, trust that there will be an opportunity that will pay just as much, if not more. The key here, though, is that you have to believe that this is the case. If you’re reading these words skeptically, silently cussing me out in your head, then of course you won’t observe this in your reality of the world. But then again, that’s your choice. Jerry chose to see his life as one that balances itself out, and in the end, it always did.
Thanks for reading my friends. Keep moving past mediocre,
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