Reward enough

Jerry Seinfeld’s “Jerry Before Seinfeld” special on Netflix is a great illustration of what true passion looks like.

Seinfeld returns to the stage at the Comedy Store in New York where he first began his career in 1976 and tells the story of growing up dreaming of doing comedy. He took his first steps at age 20 when he moved to Manhattan from his parents’ house in Long Island because the Comedy Store agreed to let him perform a few nights a week…without pay. As he relates:

“I lived in a little apartment on the West Side. And it was very small. It was just 15 feet square. That is not a joke. You know New York apartments are like that. And I brought my little bed from my room to sleep on. That was all I had. I didn’t care. I wasn’t planning on really gettin’ anywhere doing this, by the way. I just loved it and I wanted to do it.”

Students, seek that feeling from your activities.

Too many students measure the worth of an activity by the purported impact on their college applications. Some go as far as to quit things they enjoy just because they aren’t excelling at levels that will allow them to eventually garner awards or recognition for doing so. And that’s one of the worst effects of college admissions pressure. The constant need to crash activities against the mythical admissions measurement destroys the idea that the joy of participating is reward enough.

I’m not telling you to give up goals. If you have a dream to play college basketball or to earn your black belt or work your way up at your part-time job, chase that dream, especially if the pursuit of it makes you happy.

But not everything needs a projected end result to be worth doing.

In 1976, 20-year-old Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t thinking about how he was going to make a full-time living doing comedy, or how to get on television. He just loved getting on stage to make people laugh, and he leapt at any opportunity to do it. The time on stage and the resulting laughs were reward enough.

How much joy are you finding in how you spend your time? Not the ways that you think those involvements will help you get into college, but the fulfillment you spend from just doing what you do? The higher on the scale your answer, the more passion you’re fueling and demonstrating.

The best (and often most objectively impressive) things you can do are those where the joy of doing them is reward enough.