Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedic Wisdom to Duke’s Class of 20243 min read

“Find your path”- image created by author and DALL.E-3

“What’s the deal…” with finding direction after college? Jerry Seinfeld’s wildly entertaining Duke commencement speech broke it down in his trademark comedic, yet abundantly insightful way.

He playfully joked that Duke was eager to get rid of the graduates and bring in new students. But his real wisdom came through in his core life advice:

Don’t obsess over finding your passion – Seinfeld advocated simply working hard at whatever you do well, whether your dream job or not. His three keys: 1) Bust your ass 2) Pay attention 3) Fall in love with everything around you.

On that first key about work, Seinfeld didn’t mince words: “Whatever you’re doing…Make an effort. Just pure stupid, no real idea what I’m doing here effort. Effort always yields a positive value.” He viewed hustle and hard work as non-negotiables, even if you’re not on the right path yet. “Just swing the bat and pray is not a bad approach.”

Seinfeld clearly valued a strong work ethic above all else, likely stemming from his own humble beginnings as a struggling comic. He reminisced, “When I started out as a comedian, I did not think I was funny…I just have to be funny enough to feed one person. And I could do that with a loaf of wonder bread, a jar of peanut butter.”

Bucking the common wisdom of “nobody ever looks back and wishes they spent more time at the office,” Seinfeld defiantly stated, “I definitely will not be looking back wishing I worked less.” He viewed work not as a grind, but as something “wonderful” to be embraced. If you hate your job, he bluntly prescribed: “Quit. On your lunch break. Disappear.”

On that third key of falling in love, Seinfeld elaborated “It’s easy to fall in love with people. I suggest falling in love with anything and everything…stumpt mundane objects.” He found joy in the smallest details.

He cheekily defended the concept of “privilege,” saying the elite Duke graduates should proudly own their accomplishments. In contrast, he knocked the “embarrassing” rise of AI as people being “dumb enough” to need invented brains to do their work.

Most importantly, Seinfeld urged the graduates to maintain their sense of humor – as it’s the essential survival tool to navigate life’s abundant insanities that will never make complete sense, no matter how just and improved they make the world.

When it came to careers, Seinfeld advised pursuing whatever job you find “coolest,” over chasing money. As he put it in his typical underdog spirit, “Money will come somehow. Don’t think about having, think about becoming.”

For graduates still feeling lost, Seinfeld argued that was the luckiest position – their lives were primed for way more “surprises and excitement” than those who think they have it all figured out.

In his signature style synthesizing humor and practicality, Seinfeld encapsulated an approach to life that would make any confused graduate feel empowered: Work hard, pay attention, embrace awkwardness, cultivate interests over pursuits, and retain a strong comedic perspective. Yada, yada, yada…not bad advice from a comedian who turned “nothing” into iconic entertainment.

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