Jerry Seinfeld on Morning Guy vs. Night Guy

“I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night, because I’m Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. ‘What about getting up after five hours sleep?’ Oh, that’s Morning Guy’s problem. That’s not my problem, I’m Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want. So you get up in the morning, the alarm [rings], you’re exhausted, groggy… Oh, I hate that Night Guy! See, Night Guy always screws Morning Guy. There’s nothing Morning Guy can do.”

(Jerry Seinfeld from the opening monologue of Seinfeld Season 5 Episode 2 – The Glasses)

This is funny…because it’s true. It’s how our brains are wired. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”, as The Doors’ Jim Morrison sang. Something may eat us tomorrow. Live today. Food may not be found tomorrow. Eat it tonight….preferably at 3 AM before finally turning off the TV and stumbling to bed

This is why ‘scared straight’ programs that have inmates and ex-cons talk to kids are entertaining – who doesn’t love a good story? – but they don’t work. It’s why classic drivers ed movies like Highway of Agony and Red Highway also don’t work. And those stop-smoking scare tactic commercials also don’t work. And warnings on cigarette packs and beer cans don’t work. Along with ‘live for today’ hard-wired in us, we also can’t see ourselves in the future, and especially can’t link today’s actions with tomorrow’s regrets or pain. 

When we try to imagine ourselves in the future, the same parts of our brain fire as when we’re thinking of someone else. We just can’t do it.

One solution that has helped me is to think of what I do as an act of generosity towards Morning Guy. Or ‘Fifty year old guy’ or ‘summer guy’ or ‘senior citizen guy’. I’ve even written notes to myself as a little gift card for my future self. And I always appreciate

Try it! Do something small and vaguely distasteful to prepare for something, write yourself a little note and stow it in what you’ve completed. I guarantee when you read it you’ll smile and be grateful for the little present. That positive blip of emotion is what you can build on for the big stuff. Morning Guy will thank you.

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