Ordinary Radical

Sometimes in order to find balance, you need to fall many times. In order to find the center, you often have to walk the edges.

To find equilibrium, sometimes you have to experience instability.

That’s why I’ve found it helpful to pursue:

The Path of the Ordinary Radical

In the revolutionary sense, radicals are often seen in a negative light. But when it comes to your own self-development, you’ll often need to go to extremes in order to find balance. You will likely need to pursue radical undertakings to uproot your currently undesirable patterns. (It’s probably useful to note here that while they may seem radical to you, they could be perceived as mild or ordinary to others.)

Sometimes the pursuit of radical action is born out of necessity. You’ve hit a bottom and there’s really no other foreseeable path. But there’s also always another approach…

The Intentional Pursuit of Radicalism

This is the desire to pursue profound change in the name of personal growth. It’s not done because you’ve hit a bottom; you do it because you just can’t imagine living any other way. You can’t fathom not completely submerging yourself in the massive spectrum of possibilities life has to offer.

Pursuing the radical path is partly done in the quest of uprooting false paradigms, but it’s also because you’re a glutton for life. You want to arrive at the grave thoroughly used up.

Here are some of the possibilities of the ordinary radical:

  • Question all of your beliefs, even the ones that make up the core foundation of your framework for understanding reality.
  • Pray for your enemies.
  • Commit to the Four Agreements.
  • Take a vow of celibacy, or declare yourself straightedge (obviously not for everyone, myself included). These things could also be done for a set period of time.
  • Go on a rampage of kindness (see this guy for inspiration).
  • Be insanely open about your beliefs and feelings — no holds barred.
  • Say yes to everything for a day.
  • Be fanatical about living on your own terms, following your own path, and being completely authentic.

You might also seek some of these radical physical pursuits:

These are just a few ways you can be an ordinary radical. There are obviously many other paths you can take. Your imagination is your only limit.

The real benefit of pursuing extreme endeavors is that it gives you lots of practice to push your threshold of perspective. The more you stretch your limits, the more flexible and fearless you become. The more you see supposedly big, scary things as not so big and not so scary, the less daunting other challenges become for you.

Then doing something like reclaiming your dreams is easy.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

MoneyEnergy June 18, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I can vouch for the need to swing from what can feel like extreme to extreme at times, in order to find your own personal equilibrium or best creative space. Eg: with nutrition – you might swing from a horrible diet to trying an all-out raw diet, only to fall back to the horrible diet again. But the next time you try it, you might be able to moderate your expectations and find somewhere in between, a place that is really sustainable for you.


Seamus Anthony June 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Awesome. I think the best way is just to realize that there is NOTHING secure about the conventional path (9 to 5 job, etc) so you might as well take an unconventional path and do something awesome cos it actually isn’t any riskier than being “safe” (so called).


Sean June 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Nice…I like it.
In my life experience it I must swing from one radical end to the other before i can understand my own comfort point in the middle someplace.
Also, anything is radical if viewed through contrary enough personality goggles. The key is to do things that remind you to be alive and to experience life for the pure joy of living!


John June 18, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I have to say that this is a great list of radical pursuits. I’ve tried living without a TV and it’s a pretty easy thing to do. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s really nothing on television worth watching besides the national news.

You’re a true revolutionary. Keep on pursuing your dreams.


Vincent June 18, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Hi Jonathan,

“The more you stretch your limits, the more flexible and fearless you become.”

I love this sentence! We must constantly challenge our threshold so that we can handle bigger challenges lying ahead in our journey of life. If we do not challenge our threshold, we will only keep on repeating the same challenges that we have been doing over and over again.


Bud Hennekes June 18, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I’m starting the 100 push challenge today :)


Marisa June 19, 2009 at 5:40 am

Living authentically has become my number one pursuit. It’s something I never really thought about before. I never considered that every time I say sorry just to end an argument, every time I don’t speak up when I disagree, these things all threaten my authenticity.

It’s a worthwhile pursuit, to live more authentically, and it’s liberating when you feel like you are being true to yourself.


Nathalie Lussier June 19, 2009 at 6:37 am

I’d never heard of the Iron Butt Challenge, that’s so cool! Thanks for this radical list & link. My boyfriend & I have often joked about going straightedge, but I don’t think we’d actually go through with it. ;)

I can also vouch for moving to a new country without knowing anyone there. It’s just such a liberating feeling to know that you can start fresh and meet new people, and discover a place for yourself.


sarah robinson June 19, 2009 at 6:57 am

Screwing up the courage to say YES to everything! Thanks for the inspirations Jonathan!


Aximilation June 19, 2009 at 7:40 am

Awesome, polyphasic sleep as the first physical radical pursuits! Good to see, I’ve done it for a couple months short of 3 years, it’s a great way to live if it fits into your lifestyle. I never considered it *radical*, mostly just different, but I guess you’re right, it does take a radical person to have the kind of discipline to pull it off. If anyone wants more info, feel free to drop by my blog, I’d be happy to answer any questions and point you at useful resources/blogs.
(link in my name above)


Keegan Burkholder June 19, 2009 at 8:19 am

I read both this and your “starting a revolution” post and am excited to see what else you have coming. Personally I have committed to moving no less than once every two year. Also my wife and I have committed to moving to a new country every 6 months for 5 years starting January 2011.

I really love your posts, thanks for the good work.



sherryayn June 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

Thank Jonathan. Awesome post. Which of these was the last Ordinary Radical thing you did? Did you come upon any obstacles?
Cheers and keep writing!


Valerie June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am

I’m inspired. Thank you. I’m taking the 100 push-up challenge — a part of arriving to my grave all used up. :-)


Duff June 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I think it’s radical to live by Aristotle’s golden mean or Buddha’s middle way.

Having tried many extreme and radical things, I no longer recommend extremes. I’ve seen too many people get hurt by going over the edge, when gently peering over the edge would have done just fine.

But to each her own! I only came to balance by going to extremes and luckily surviving. I hope that others don’t need to take such unnecessary risks, but perhaps some do.


Marc and Angel Hack Life June 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm

An inspiration as always.


Keep up the great work, Jonathan.


Jessica June 19, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Jonathan –

I just want to tell you what an incredibly powerful post this is. Not one of your longest but still it packed a punch in few words. Such brevity is difficult to achieve and I am inspired and motivated after reading it and felt the need to say thank you! It really is quite fitting for where I am in my life right now.


jayt June 20, 2009 at 6:45 am

OMG, is that the Verizon dude?


Tania June 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

The first revolution starts only on ourselves, in the deeply of our inside.
you can talk about force, energy and unshakable changes at the prespective I had never seen before!!!!!!
You are really nice. Keep doing this.


Jarrod - Warrior Development June 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm

It is odd that after pursuing the life of intentional radicalism for awhile, being comfortable just doesn’t really cut it that well anymore.

There are always more worlds to explore and more people to discover.


Tess The Bold LIfe June 21, 2009 at 5:02 am

This is one of the most useful posts I’ve read in a while. Great resources especially about living independently.

Will take the 100 pushup challenge~


ChristiaanH June 21, 2009 at 6:28 am

Often the best way to have an awesome life is to the radical stuff. (Or at least, what others consider radical)

Somehow just sitting there and letting life go by without doing anything just isn’t satisfying. You’ll end up with a low millage while in the grave. As quoted in the comments before. Make sure you “arrive at the grave thoroughly used up.”

Keep exploring new things every day and for me it’s the goal of getting to location independence. Slowly getting there, all I need now is the funds. (And working on that one too)


Celes | CelestineChua.com June 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm

On the 100 push up challenge, I modified that and I’m doing a 100 crunches version of it since last week. Challenging but it feels good doing it! :) Thanks for sharing the raw food link too – I’m eating raw food, on and off, and could do with more raw food resources. By the way Jon, read that you are a raw foodist – would you care to share with us on your raw food experience? I’m sure all the readers will be interested to read about it.


Javi June 22, 2009 at 8:54 am

Awesome article!!! I have actually been thinking of moving to a different country here in the next couple of months. I have always wanted to do it, so why not? Life is Now!!!

Thanks for the great article!!

Continued Success


prayerthegate June 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

You do so much with your blog to free the spirits of the enslaved. Be blessed.


Judy June 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Fabulous article, I’m already doing some of these and thanks for the new ideas I had not thought of yet!


Dayne from TheHappySelf.com June 23, 2009 at 9:41 am

As with many here, I’m in the process of the 100 push-up challenge as well. Not easy, but getting there. :) Fantastic article and great ideas.

How long have you been doing the raw food diet?

Thanks again Jonathan!


Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching June 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

Thanks for this. Questioning my beliefs about how I “should” and “should not” relate to my family, friends, strangers and so on, and realizing there’s no foundation for any of them, has been a daily practice for me lately.


Jared June 23, 2009 at 11:24 am

Well said Jonathan.


Paul Maurice Martin June 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Sounds a lot more fun than being an extraordinarily bad-off radical! I’m in my sixteenth year of a rare, progressive and incurable disease.

Physical suffering afflicts millions worldwide, whether through something so unusual as what I’ve got, to people with treatable conditions but without access to care or in politically unstable, war-torn environments. My experience has broadened and deepened my compassion.



Ian | Quantum Learning June 24, 2009 at 1:54 am

‘Rampage of kindness’ .. love it!

I think the nature of radicalism changes as we mature. As you say, it can be extremely powerful as a conscious choice of self development – especially when we are mindful and compassionate of it’s impact on others.

Earlier in life, as an adolescent, radicalism is great for breaking free and stamping our identity on the world. It’s tough for others because it rarely is accompanied with mindfulness and compassion.


alex - unleash reality June 24, 2009 at 10:20 am

hey jonathan

really cool idea for a post :)

…and super cool energy in the possibilities.

i like the inspiring type ‘radical pursuits’ like living it up, creating the legend and owning adventures.

for me, the biggest quality of a radical is to fully attack burning fire ignited anything that he does. fully go at it. knowing he’ll be the best. completely own it and bring it. unleash the funk outta it.

inspiring stuff.

gave it a stumble

keep well and in touch
alex – unleash reality


Jenny June 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I could definitely live without tv. As long as I get to keep my internet. xD


Jon Winthorp June 27, 2009 at 11:47 am

Some of these ideas are definitely radical. Say yes for a day is kind of like that new Jim Carey movie. Lol seems like that could be fun!


Priyanka D July 1, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Really wonderful post!


Kyle Harris July 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Interesting list, a rampage of kindness actually sounds pretty doable but I can see myself looking at this list again and trying more in a couple of years. Wasn’t there a recent movie about a guy saying yes to everything?


Steve L July 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I’m a regular reader of zen habits, and I like your post over there, but never made the jump into reading your blog regularly… until now. You have outdone yourself. I look forward to reading your stuff regularly from now on!


Facing Fears July 5, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for the great read. I’ve subscribed to your feed so I can keep up with your musings. I try to do something that scares me every day. Usually showing people my writing or reaching out to people. It works and giving fear the finger (as I call it) is actually starting to be fun. Cheers, Annabel Candy


Family Matters July 6, 2009 at 12:06 am

How very exhilarating and scary at the same time. Of course, doing some of these things, like saying yes for a day, can get you into heaps of trouble, but most of the ideas are like a life purpose – you’re not supposed to get it, you’re supposed to go after it for direction and meaning.

Hell yeah!


Diggy - Upgradereality.com July 7, 2009 at 11:12 am

Hi Jonothan!

This is one of the best areas in personal development I think. Throwing yourself in the deep end, doing completely 180 degrees what you normally wouldn’t do just to try it.

I love the suggestion of moving to a new city not knowing anyone. Everyone should experience this, even if only for a few months. You learn so much about yourself when confronted with a difficult situation!

As for the 100 pushup challenge, props to the people who can do 100 pushups. I’m stuck at 50 :P

Subscribed to your blog!
You have an awesome site

See you the next post!


Valerie July 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm

@Diggy, I’m impressed you’re stuck at 50. I’m one who took the challenge too. I’ve modified mine. 100 seems un-doable to me. (If you could see me, you’d understand that statement better. :-)) However 100 pushups in one day – as opposed to one setting – is doable. So that is my goal now. I’m at 60 a day. And everytime I pause to do pushups, I also do the plank for a bit. It’s not as ambitious as I’d originally planned, but it’s more than I was doing before the challenge. :-)


ali July 13, 2009 at 11:10 am

Here’s one – embarrass yourself in public – on purpose.


tricia November 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Im new to blogging and have been seeking persons of inspiration to follow. I just want to say that as someone going throught a rough patch in life I am very grateful for this post. Please continue to do what you as the right word at the right time can save a life and open new doors. Thanks again


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