The Jerry Seinfeld Method Of Spiritual Growth

Over and over again we hear that the best way to make longterm spiritual improvements is through slow and steady work towards our goal. How many times have any of us been told that the surefire way to a BT backslide is to take on too much too fast.

Recently, on a personal productivity blog, I learned of the Jerry Seinfeld method of self improvement and thought it was very well suited to spiritual improvement and Torah learning. Granted, it is not an earth-shattering, ground-breaking method. But nine times out of ten the best way to do things is so obvious it is overlooked.

Basically, the way Jerry Seinfeld became a successful comedian was through self-discipline and a visual method of encouraging himself to keep up the good work. He purchased a large wall calendar (the kind where you can see the entire year on one page) and challenged himself to write one new joke a day. Every day that he wrote a new joke, he got to draw an ‘X’ through that day on the calendar. Once he had a few days in a row with X’s through them, he had a chain and was motivated to “not break the chain.”

Again, this method sounds very simplistic, but I can tell you it is very satisfying to see a wall calendar with weeks worth of red X’s. And this method is particularly well-suited to Jewish learning as so many of our most important texts have already been broken down into segments suitable for daily learning.

I personally have moved my Seinfeld-style chain to a website called ToDoist ( It’s a website that allows you to set up all sorts of “to do” lists and manage large projects. The site’s creator has created a tool within the site meant specifically for the Seinfeld method of self improvement. I’d be happy to explain how to use ToDoist in the comments if anyone is interested.

So why not challenge yourself to learn a little Torah each day and pat yourself on the back with a a visual record of your accomplishment? If you are still growing in your mitzvah observance, this could also be a great way to progressively take on new mitzvot. For example, you could use this method to start saying the bedtime Shema each night, or laying teffilin, or saying the Birkat Hamazon. Seasoned BTs might want to challenge themselves to eliminate loshon hara from their lives; they could mark their calendar every day they filled with only positive speech. The possibilities are endless.

6 comments on “The Jerry Seinfeld Method Of Spiritual Growth

  1. Ah, gotcha.

    First, register with the site. Then click on the “add project” link on the left hand side underneath the blue box. You will be prompted to name the project. Projects are like folders where you keep related to do lists. I have one project for Jewish related things, another for tasks related to home, one for work, etc.

    After you’ve create a project, you will be taken to the page where all the tasks related to that project can be seen at once. At this point you won’t have any tasks there. On the right hand side you will see a link for “add item.” Click on it. A box will pop up for you to name a task. Let’s pretend that you want to study Pirkei Avot for 15 minutes each day, so type in “Pirkei Avot” in the box. Then press the space bar and type “!chain” after Pirkei Avot. The “!chain” command tells ToDoist that you are making a Jerry Seinfeld chain. You should see a date immediately below the task title box you have been typing in. Since you want to make a task that occurs every day, type in “ev day.” Then click on the Save button, and you’re done.

    You will then see a task in your list of tasks to do that says “Pirkei Avot” with a check box to the left and a bunch of greyed-out boxes to the right. When you finish studying, click the check box. The program will strike a line through Pirkei Avote (as if you crossed it off your to do list) and make one of the boxes to the right green. Each day that you complete the Pirkei Avot studying, a new green box will be added, and you will have a chain of green boxes showing you how diligently you’ve been studying.

  2. Yes. You wrote, “I’d be happy to explain how to use ToDoist”. I did not find the site very user-friendly. So I was hoping you would explain how to use ToDoist in the comments.

    Thank you

  3. I think this is a great example of how a growth-oriented person can learn lessons from many different situation.

    I remember when Blue Fringe’s first album came out some people in our middle-of-the-road community called it “bummy”, especially the song “Flipping Out”. However an extremely growth-oriented friend, thought it was actually quite a good mussar song if you just scratch the surface, and he’s right.

    By the way, Aish’s lead article this week by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon is called The Seinfeld Call.

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