Life Lessons Learned From George Costanza

Today, we’re going to make history.

A short, stalky bald man without any redeeming qualities or an ounce of athletic talent is going to help you live a better life.  You’re going to learn how to eat better, look better, and feel better from one of the most pathetic characters in television history.

George Costanza.

Balding, unemployed, “I live with my parents” George Costanza.

Now, if you have no clue who George Costanza is, you’re missing out on one of the greatest shows in television history, Seinfeld.  Here’s a quick recap in case it’s new to you: Jerry Seinfeld is a successful, well-to-do comedian living in New York City.  George, his best buddy, is the exact opposite – one of those guys who can never seem to catch a break…and whenever he does, he immediately screws it up in some way that makes you cringe.

Right now, you’re probably wondering how the heck this waste of space can possibly make you a better person.

By teaching you to do the opposite.

The Opposite

In the episode, “The Opposite,” George comes to the realization that his life has been a waste and he’s incredibly unhappy with how things have turned out.  He asks Jerry and Elaine where it all went wrong:

“Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable.

I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong.

My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s often wrong.”

Fed up with life, George decides to make a change.

After completely switching up his lunch order (ordering the opposite of “tuna on toast”), he catches a cute woman looking at him from across the coffee shop.  Normally, George would avoid talking to women, as “bald men with no jobs and no money who live with their parents don’t approach strange women.”

Then Jerry chimes in:

Jerry: “Here’s your chance to try the opposite, instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to her…If every instinct you’ve had is wrong, then the opposite must be right!”

George: “I used to sit here and do nothing and regret it for the rest of the day. So now I will do the opposite, and do something!

Immediately George’s life improves; he gets a date with this woman by telling her “My name is George, I’m unemployed and live with my parents.”  He stands up to bullies and even lands a job with the New York Yankees after telling George Steinbrenner how much he despises how the team is being run.  George does the exact opposite of everything his instincts tell him…and it works.

Here’s the video of that scene in case you want to see it.  It’s worth the three minutes.

Be more like George

Here’s another gem from George: “A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child, and it’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgement I’ve ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion, Elaine, Jerry. This is my religion.”

Are you happy with where you’re at in life right now?

Do you like how you look? Do you like your job? Do you like your social situation? Are you happy with how your life works on a day-to-day basis?

If not, maybe it’s time to channel your inner Costanza!

Think about it – every decision you’ve made up to this point has made you who you are, and a majority of those decisions are a result of instinctual behavior and habit: what to say, what to eat, how to act, how to exercise (if at all), what to do after work, what to do in the morning, how to work, etc.

I understand that the Jedi teach us to “feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.”

However, if you don’t like where you are or how things are going, then maybe some or all of your instincts are horribly wrong and it’s time to do the opposite:

Fitness – let’s say you’re trying to lose weight, and you’ve been counting calories and running on a treadmill for three hours a day and its not working.  Why not try the opposite?  Stop counting calories, stop running, and instead focus on lifting heavy weights and eating real food!  It worked for Staci, Tony, and Saint.

Every meal you’ve eaten and every workout you’ve done up to this point is responsible for your body composition – if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, trying more and more of the same thing ain’t gonna help!

Work – Maybe you hate your job, but you’re content to stick it out “until things get better.”  What if you did the opposite of what you normally do?  Instead of complaining on a Monday morning and sluggishly dragging your ass through the work day, what if you started looking for another job? Quit?  Started your own company on the side?  Being mediocre and miserable for the next forty years is no way to go through life…why not swing for the fences?  The Nerd Fitness philosophy doesn’t leave much room for mediocrity and complacency.

Habits – What do you do every day after work?  Come home, plop down on the couch, eat a pint of ice cream, and play Halo:Reach/watch Arrested Development reruns/etc. and then complain that you don’t have any time to do anything?  What if you did the opposite?  What if you came home and read a book, or started a website around a hobby of yours, or threw on some Vibrams and went hiking on the trail in your backyard?  If your instinct is to do nothing after work…try being active and see how life changes for you.

Love/Life - Nerds, both men and women, are generally risk averse when it comes to taking chances.  I actually used to be incredibly intimidated when it came to meeting new people or talking with strangers – luckily this big trip has forced me to get over that fear and step outside of my bubble.  I am so thankful because I now have way less moments of “damn I wish I would have said something” and way more moments of “hey I’m Steve, nice to meet you.”

Regret sucks. We want less of that.

What if you started doing the opposite, and went right up to that cute girl/guy and said: “hey I think you’re cute and I figured I’d be kicking myself all day if I didn’t come introduce myself.”  You might be thinking, “But Steve, that doesn’t work!”  How do you know!?  Why not give it a shot?  Spend 15 minutes working on your confidence and go for it.

Now, I do have to warn you when it comes to doing the opposite - you will get some push back from your family, co-workers, and friends when you suddenly start bucking the trend – they might call you crazy, make fun of you, or strongly advise you not to do anything drastic – to be rational.

Not cool.

As defined by Einstein, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Consider the source when your new beliefs are called into question – I bet these people are unhappy with their situation but chose to do the same thing over and over expecting that things will eventually improve change.

Here in Northern Ireland yesterday, I had a conversation with dude about Nerd Fitness – as I explained the philosophy around it, what I eat and how I train, he looked at me like I had three heads.  Today, I saw the same guy eat a bread and Dorito sandwich.  It quickly reminded me that I shouldn’t give a **** what others think about me.  I can tell you right now if I didn’t ignore my risk averse instincts I certainly wouldn’t be exercising around the world.

Two thirds of this country is overweight and things are getting worse by the day.

If you want to be more like everybody else (in debt, overweight, out of shape, and unhappy), keep doing what you’re doing.

If you don’t want to be like them – do the opposite.

Your Homework

My goal with today’s article is to inspire you to make a small change that improves your life TODAY. 

Your homework is to do the opposite of ONE of your normal instincts.  And no, driving on the other side of the road or wearing your clothes inside out doesn’t count.  Do the opposite of your workout routine.  Talk to the girl/guy instead of sitting there and doing nothing.  Drive a different way home from work and try something different for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Less regret + more Contanza = victory.

What do you do that’s the same every day? 

And how are you going to do the opposite today?

-Steve

PS – We’re still working on the launch for the NF hoodies, and I haven’t got a chance to go through last week’s entries to win one.  Thanks to everybody that participated, excited to read through them!

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  • Marissa Garza

    Thanks for this post! Being unemployed and living with my parents, the lessons of the one of the greatest characters on TV, hit home with me. :) I am trying to do the opposite and find that my family is taking some time to get used to it, but they’ll get there. Thanks again and sorry I missed your meet up here in Chicago! Catch ya next time!

  • Jaswandi

    I am going to eat a salad with dinner tonight. I am also going to do a full body circuit instead of the 30 min run I was planning. (or maybe WITH it. I really want to run).

    Thank you!

  • http://offthemall.org/ Bryant Turnage

    This is a great post, Steve.

    I only found your blog a couple of weeks ago, but I think I stumbled upon it at just the right time. I have been unemployed or underemployed for two and a half years. My girlfriend and I decided a few months ago that we needed to separate for a while to work some things out individually. And I ended up moving in with my sister’s family because I had nowhere else to stay. My private not-quite-a-joke has been that this was supposed to be The Summer of George, and it certainly hasn’t worked out that way (much like it didn’t for Mr. Costanza). After having a private pity party for almost two months, sitting on the couch, eating Oreos, and watching lots of cable TV, I finally started feeling ready to get off my butt and start getting back on track. Around that time, I saw your post, “What the Hell Are You Waiting For” on Art of Manliness, and since then you have reading your blog has helped me shape my focus as I figure out what it is I need to do.

    Tonight after dinner, I’m going to go out for a nice 30 minute walk, and then I’m going to turn off the TV and sit down to write a post on my own blog, which I’ve neglected for far too long. Thank you for all your inspiration in helping me get motivated to feel good about myself again.

  • http://twitter.com/netProph3t netproph3t

    Einstein never said  “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” .  That doesn’t make the statement untrue, it just means he isn’t the one who said it.

  • Danielle Sigman

    Get after it Bryant! Life is here to be lived, I know how it feels to have the bf/gf issues and it’s not fun but ultimately you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with anyone else. Carpe Diem friend and good luck!

  • Danielle Sigman

    I am constantly finding that needing to have everything planned and scheduled is holding me back in my life. In order to feel safe and secure, each day is planned out accordingly most of the time a week ahead of time. Sounds like I’m really organized but in fact, this needing to plan everything has hindered me a lot. If things don’t go “as planned” I get upset and it effects my mood for the day. Well guess what? I don’t want to plan anymore. Today/this week/this month, I’m going to try to be as spontaneous as possible… it’s very uncomfortable for me but hopefully it works out! :)

  • wanna_B_nerd

    Steve, im amazed at how relavant and interesting ALL your posts have been. I’ve been reading for about 3 weeks now, and even the archived stuff is just awesome! For the first time in my life I have kept to a diet and fitness plan for 2 weeks (monumental for me) and its your blog that keeps me motivated, thanks!

  • http://www.bzemic.com/impossibleInstinct/ steve ward

    i’ve been like him, i have friends like him the most funny thing of it all is how easy it is to take a step and try something else

  • http://twitter.com/bowhite Belinda Thomson

    I’ve also found your website just recently. I was at a plateau – well if I’m honest, I was backsliding a bit. Training a bit, but without focus. Eating well, but with too many cheats. Drinking way too much wine. What I needed was some discipline and goals, and you’ve helped me crack that. My normal instinct is to not write anything down or track my progress – so now I have an Excel spreadsheet, and a goal: at least 1 full pull-up by Xmas.

  • http://twitter.com/gerishnakov David Austin

    About the guy with the Dorito sandwich – you were in Northern Ireland. That kind of thing is probably normal for people over there. Let’s just say that everyone knows each other a bit too well over there.

  • http://twitter.com/gerishnakov David Austin

    About the guy with the Dorito sandwich – you were in Northern Ireland. That kind of thing is probably normal for people over there. Let’s just say that everyone knows each other a bit too well over there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=611907468 Sara Nguyen

    Steve, I love reading your blogs and this one especially made me laugh loudly – many times. Such a joy to read and share your writings. Keep it up. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-Dias/600816841 Natalie Dias

    can’t stand ya.

    great post steve!

  • Be Ninja

    I totally agree with you….can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

  • Be Ninja

    I totally agree with you….can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

  • Be Ninja

    I totally agree with you….can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

  • http://twitter.com/BeNinjaMyFriend Be Ninja My Friend

    what about lessons from Kramer?

  • csansby1

    good man. I’d split from my gf of a year not long before i started following this site. I’ve gone from unemployed, to launching my own tshirt company with a job in a video game store. moral of story, anything you want is reachable, just need a walk to it :)

  • Xenocles

    Biggest one I have is, “Don’t yell racial slurs at your audience while on camera.”

  • Xenocles

    Biggest one I have is, “Don’t yell racial slurs at your audience while on camera.”

  • http://UncorneredMarket.com Audrey

    This brought back good Seinfeld memories. The wisdom of George Costanza – love it. 

    We try to live life and make decisions with the regret avoidance principle. Will we look back 5, 10, 15, 20 years and wonder with regret “what if?” If so, then we try to take that plunge. Our families and friends already think we’re crazy, so each time we do this it’s a bit less of a shock :)

  • Dawn

    Simple…if it ain’t working, do something else.

  • Spritemaster13

    Standing up, brushing away the tears and EFFIN DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!! Change the way you look at things. Be different. Be spontanious. Dont conform, and most of all, be yourself. I hate fake people. If you like doing something, go for it. Dont let ANYBODY tell you that you can’t do it. If you have enough strength, courage, and determination, you can do anything. You are not helping anybody in the SLIGHTEST by crying and being sad. Stop being sad, and do something. Take me, for instance. I am not happy w/ the level of fitness my body is in. So, I am diving into the world of parkour. But, though some may get that far, they don’t stay motivated. I DO stay motivated. Also, I am into the whole singing- acting thing. I felt that, when it came down to it, I was limited to just acting and mediocre singing. So, I’ve decided to write my own songs, joined a band, and I’m taking dance as an elective in high school. I wouldn’t have done these things if I didn’t feel it would be worthwhile. Also, I wouldn’t be able to do these things without the support of my beautiful girlfriend. I love this website. The articles are VERY informative. But, still. The look on her face when I bluntly said, “Hey. I’m going to become a superhero.”

  • Crusader

    This post was really great, because I’m standing at a sort of teetering point between grad school and following a career as a consultant. One offers more money and is interesting… the other, I think, more fulfillment. So I’m taking that horrible path of getting a Ph.D. in medieval history to become a professor, god s help me. :P

  • Superbuddha

    Unleash the George Costanza within.

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  • andycanuck

    SERENITY NOW!!!11!!!

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