Why I’m Listening to Jerry Seinfeld

With barely three weeks left until school is out for the summer, many of us will begin transitioning into a different kind of daily schedule, one where the day-time agenda shifts. I will still do my work, but the pace will slow and we’ll all settle into a new kind of rhythm together.

New Rhythms

I wish I could say I glide gracefully into the summer schedule, but the truth is I limp and fight my way through this transition every year. This year I’m accepting that it will take some time to settle in to the slower pace and the constant presence of small people. But I’m also going to learn on purpose in whatever ways I can. For example.

As a writer, a part of my self-imposed job description is to pay attention to the world around me and the world within me and then to see how they connect.

I am always listening for reminders about focus, about saying yes to the right things, about remembering what I do and, even more importantly sometimes, what I don’t do. Teachers are everywhere as long as we’re willing to learn from unexpected voices. Yesterday I found a teacher while listening to an interview Alec Baldwin did with Jerry Seinfeld.

Alec points out that, with the success of his TV show in the 90s, Jerry could basically do anything he wanted to do now, be as big as he wanted to be. Here’s a peek into the conversation. (From Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwinoriginally aired October 14, 2013 on WNYC 93.9 FM)

Alec Baldwin: You could have your own channel. The Jerry channel.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, but I didn’t take that bait.

AB: Why?

JS: Cuz I know what it is. I know what it is, that’s why.

AB: What is it?

JS: You can’t pull that over on me! Cuz I’ve sat in all the chairs, I’ve been in all the rooms. I know what it is. Look, Alec, you’ve been there, right?

AB: Yes!

JS: You can’t trick me into thinking…

AB: Thinking what?! Share with the people.

JS: …that that’s good.

AB: That’s not good why?

JS: Because most of it is not creative work. And not reaching an audience. You wanna be on the water? How do you wanna be on the water? You wanna be on a yacht or you wanna be on a surfboard? I wanna be on a surfboard. I don’t wanna deal with a yacht. That’s a yacht. Some people want a yacht to say See my yacht.

***

This morning, I read an article by Dr. Shelly Provost called How to Tell If You’re Following Your Calling or Just Feeding Your Ego. It’s good, you’ll want to read it, but the gist is here:

“Your ego fears not having or doing something. The lifeblood of the ego is fear. Its primary function is to preserve your identity, but it fears your unworthiness. As a result, ego pushes you harder in order to achieve more . . .

A calling expresses itself quietly, through the expression of subtle clues throughout your life. It is unconcerned with you attaining or accomplishing anything. Its primary function is to be a conduit for expressing your true self to the world. What you do with that expression is less important.”

And then, the most revealing statements from the article: “Ego needs anxiety to survive. Calling needs silence to survive . . . Listening to your life and discovering what it’s asking of you is your calling and it requires more silence than most of us are comfortable with.” (read the whole article here.)

In other words, your ego reacts to fear while calling responds to reflection. Both can be important, but the question is which is moving you forward? Which is motivating you in your work?

***

The connection of these two ideas is loose in my mind and given more time, I’m sure I could flesh it out fully. But blogs aren’t necessarily for fully-fleshed out ideas, at least that’s not what I do here. As I consider these two teachers, Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Provost, here’s what comes to mind today.

Ego always has one foot on the shiny deck of an imaginary yacht, the promise of power and acheivement holding her strong above the water.

Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.

Here are some questions I ask to find out if I’m letting my ego get carried away:

  • Do I know I need margin but am afraid to take it?
  • Do I want to say no but am afraid of what I’ll miss?
  • Do I want to say yes but am afraid I can’t pull it off?

Ego speaks loud in the chaos — impatient, competitive, and scared. Calling rises up from the silence — focused, generous, and free.

Comments

  1. says

    A very timely word for me today. Thank you, Emily. School finished for the kiddos and the LOML last week, so we are already toddling through our big transition. And as I seek to finish my first book manuscript this summer, the battle of ego vs. calling has been fierce in my heart and mind the past few weeks. (Love the Provost quote!) I had a mini-meltdown about it last week and a good talk with the LOML–where he spoke truth and grace straight to the core of me. And I’m hopeful that perspective has been regained. Blessings to you and your clan as you find your summer rhythm.
    Kelli W´s last blog post ..What We Learned in Kindergarten

  2. says

    This really struck a chord with me today. I find myself often hovering in that space between these two questions:
    • Do I want to say no but am afraid of what I’ll miss?
    • Do I want to say yes but am afraid I can’t pull it off?
    It definitely comes down to those critical decisions of what to invest ourselves into – with time, thought, resources and energy – plus that all critical discernment of WHY we make the decisions we do.
    Thanks for a great thought-provoking post.
    Sarah Lowther Hensley´s last blog post ..Five Minute Friday: Close

  3. says

    AMAZING post, Emily! I’ve read it twice and loved every word.

    “Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.” That quote stung my eyes and gave me goosebumps all at the same time.

    You are unbelievably gifted and have such an ability to speak life into your readers. And for that I am grateful!

    Blessings,
    Jennifer
    Jennifer Frisbie´s last blog post ..Do you need to feel encouraged? Come join (in)courager community groups!

  4. says

    So, this…is where I’ve been lately. Struggling with the question of calling and how it looks for me in this season of life. Is it more or less than I’m making it. Do I just need to sit quietly for a while and not worry about the audience that I may or may not be gathering. Do I risk losing my voice (as small as it is), shut down and move on, or do I keep plugging a way hoping that it all makes sense sooner rather than later. I sense a need to reflect and mull things over. This post has given me food for thought. Thank you for your insight and for caring enough to dig deep and share your thoughts.

  5. says

    Well said. All of it, from your words about the struggle to change the pace to your questions and the bit in between about ego’s need for anxiety and calling’s need for silence. Thanks for the link to the article about ego and calling. It’s only Tuesday and I have plenty to think about already this week! Thanks.

  6. says

    Can I get those quotes — “I wanna be on the surfboard.” And the Provost quote. –painted in huge letters for my bedroom wall?? Preferably glow in the dark paint, so when 3 am rolls around and those stupid anxieties are building, I can remember the silence I need for my calling.

    I feel like this post was written just for me, Emily. It’s sometimes a little spooky reading your words because of that feeling. Like, “How did she know that’s *exactly* what I was thinking?!” I felt it again and again reading A Million Little Ways. I’ve taken a break from blogging for the last few months because I needed to sort things out before I went on with it. A Million Little Ways has helped me so much, it was like CPR for my soul. I thank God for you, and thank you, for sharing these thoughts and observations with us.
    Joy´s last blog post ..Last but Definitely NOT Least…

  7. says

    there are so many little nuggets of wisdom in this post. so much truth. my anxiety can be such a teacher to truth. (on a side note…. i love those nashville girls too! Lennon and Maisy! I listen to their Pandora station! hehe). I’m always encouraged here. thank you.

  8. Megan says

    This is just so where I am right now. I’m finally accepting that writing is something I want to do and don’t have to feel guilty about pursuing, but (per my usual) I begin second guessing myself the minute I begin to make decisions. I feel pride beginning to twist my goals to feed my ego instead of glorifying my Creator. It’s frustrating, and sometimes makes me want to give up on writing altogether. But I don’t think the problem is with the craft. The problem is that I’m human, and even my calling can get twisted by my ego if I’m not alert.

  9. says

    ‘ego speaks loud in the chaos…calling rises up from the silence…’ – after a few days with more moments of silence than usual i needed some of these words of yours to help guide me…this post settled down deep for me…thank you.

  10. says

    Such a breath of fresh air. I was actually headed to bed frustrated with the lack of opportunity or open doors for potentially publishing my writing – ego. And then, I clicked on your blog and soaked it up. My body and mind are now relaxed. I am re-aligned with God and His design for me and my life – calling. Thanks for that spiritual adjustment!

  11. says

    “Ego speaks loud in the chaos — impatient, competitive, and scared. Calling rises up from the silence — focused, generous, and free.”

    Love this, especially since I’ve been quite silent on my blog lately. Maybe I was just needing some focus. Thanks for the perspective!

  12. Kathi says

    Your ego fears not having or doing something. The lifeblood of the ego is fear. Its primary function is to preserve your identity, but it fears your unworthiness. As a result, ego pushes you harder in order to achieve more . . .
    A calling expresses itself quietly, through the expression of subtle clues throughout your life. It is unconcerned with you attaining or accomplishing anything. Its primary function is to be a conduit for expressing your true self to the world.”

    thank you thank you thank you, emily, for this post. Really helps me separate out what is going on inside of me these days. I am sooo excited to be able to get involved with things I am passionate about, but sometimes am hit with that feeling of fear and unworthiness…the solution isn’t to then DO more but to listen/pray/be still more.

  13. Cindy says

    Yes. These ideas so resonate with me. I’ve been railing against myself, caught in a struggle for what I’m “supposed to do” with my life. I’m caught between parenting four, working part time, volunteering a lot in my husband’s church and not sure what God has for me in all that busyness. I guess I need to stop and listen more. Thanks so much for sharing the pieces of your mind . . . they are what I needed to hear.

  14. says

    As a recent college graduate, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Nothing sparks the battle between ego and calling more than the endless questions of “what are you doing next?” And “what’s your ten year plan?” Its a delicate balance…this ego and calling. It’s hard to make them compliment each other!
    Also I love Jerry Seinfeld. Thanks for a great post!

  15. says

    Yes, with you on this on. You start on that surfboard, popping out the creativity because it just keeps coming and then your head somehow gets involved and the whole process gets complicated and somehow sticky.

    Keep surfing girl, and just ignore all the yachts that now seem to surround you. xx
    Kittysmum´s last blog post ..New home

  16. says

    Oh my…THIS: Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.

    So needed this today!!! It lets me know I’m on the right track!!

  17. says

    Just reading this. Wish I had read it before yesterday, but there’s always next time to talk. So good. And as for Jerry Seinfeld, he is my favorite because I heard him answer once the reason he doesn’t cuss in his comedy. He basically said comedians that cuss are cheating. Anybody can make somebody laugh with gutter talk, but it takes talent to make them laugh with everyday truth. He said “And I’m not a cheater.” Boom.
    Amy´s last blog post ..Those times when you think you heard Him wrong

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