Jerry Seinfeld has known for decades why you can’t do the good things you want to do in life.
It’s Night Guy’s fault, and Seinfeld has been talking about it for decades. The routine has improved over time because Seinfeld is on to an essential wisdom.
(Although he’s also right about the socks that escape on laundry day. He doesn’t talk about that anymore, but really, where do those
single socks slip off to?)
Anyway, it goes like this: You are up late at night, way past a reasonable bedtime, partying away or binging through the entire run of How I Met Your Mother, when you realize that you are only going to get four hours of sleep.
Then you think, “That’s Day Guy’s problem. I’m Night Guy!” The next morning you blearily groan, “I hate Night Guy.”
My problem is, I love Night Guy. He’s relaxed, enjoying all the time in the world and fun to hang with. Day Guy is always in a hurry, a little snippy and a bit of a buzzkill.
In either case, how do we get Night Guy and Day Guy to get along? A lot rides on that relationship — such as a fitness program, a career and all-around self-respect.
Science says Seinfeld is on to something. At least, he has the beginning of it. It all depends on the alignment of present self and future self, according to research that was recently highlighted in a Wall Street Journal column.
According to the 2009 Stanford University study “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow: Individual Differences in Future Self-Continuity Account for Saving,” if a people don’t see their future selves the same as their present selves, there is no self-continuity. Basically, Night Guy sees Day Guy as just some schmuck cleaning up after the popular guy.
Seinfeld usually teed up that joke with one about the zero-payments-for-six-months sales. “No payments till June; people are going, ‘June. It’ll never be June,’” Seinfeld joked with David Letterman in 1994. “‘The guy in June — he’ll have money somehow.’ Night Guy always screws Day Guy!”
Seinfeld even picked up on an important nuance that the Stanford study also identified. If people valued and liked the future self, they would care for it rather than wave it off as the self-serving Night Guy does.
The Stanford study had participants select the circles in the accompanying graph that best illustrated the relationship between their present and future selves in different scenarios. The more they overlapped, the more they thought that they would be the same people in the future as they are now. The researchers also asked the respondents to describe their present and future selves in positive, neutral or negative terms.
The study found that the more the circles overlapped, the more assets the participant had accrued. So, it literally paid to feel connected with, and to like, the future self.
Self-awareness is also key to the coaching that Marshall Goldsmith discussed with Publisher Paul Feldman for this month’s interview feature.
Goldsmith said that people should be asking themselves the same questions every day to ensure that they are grounded to their purpose and values. That foundation helped people handle the events that trigger unwanted behavior, such as staying up too late. But being aware of that purpose and those values first has to come with a bit of exploration.
Dave Edwards asked himself some tough questions to help redirect his life and business, as described in this month’s feature article, “Holistic Tech.”
Several years ago, he was adrift in a new life that followed a divorce and an emptying of the nest. He found himself free to do what he wanted, and he essentially asked himself two questions: Do you like what you’re doing? Do you like where you’re going?
Edwards had a boutique financial practice that did well enough — probably more than enough for many advisors. But he was impatient with plodding along in his one-man band.
He wanted to expand, and the only way to do it fast was with tech. When it comes to investing and learning when people are a few decades past school age, many of us turn into Night Guy: “Ah, Day Guy will take care of it.” And that day never comes.
Edwards worked in his business during the week and on his business on the weekend. He sacrificed quite a bit of Night Guy time to give Day Guy a seven-person agency with $300 million in just a few years.
He is proof that tech might provide the tools, but that is not enough. It takes a commitment to a vision of yourself in a better place in the future — where you might say Day Guy and Night Guy live in perfect harmony. OK, you might not say that, but at least they don’t mind being in the same room together.
The Stanford study could be seen as the sequel to an earlier Stanford study, the marshmallow experiment. Many are aware of this one done in the 1960s, where kindergarteners were placed at a table with a marshmallow on it. They were told if they could refrain from eating it for 15 minutes, they would get another marshmallow.
Of course, the kids who could delay their gratification did better later in life.
We can see where the kids who had their Day and Night Guys on friendly terms would have gotten ahead.
You can see the Night Guy and Day Guy kids in development in an experiment like this. But perhaps there is another guy, maybe even reading this feature right now.
That would be Sales Guy — the kid who takes the marshmallow, sells it to the Night Guy kid who already ate his marshmallow and buys more marshmallows to sell to the Day Guy kid, who probably still had his allowance money saved up.
So, Night Guy doesn’t always win. In fact, it’s often Entrepreneur Guy who collects everybody’s lunch money — and lunch.