The Art of Being Ridiculous; or Why Being Serious is a Waste of Time

Being a serious person has its benefits.

  • You fit in.
  • The rest of your life is fairly predictable; not many surprises.
  • No one asks questions.
  • You’re considered “normal.”
  • You wake up with a pretty good idea of what your day will consist of.
  • Your life is steady; it feels safe.

I used to accept this way of living because whenever I told someone my dreams, the common response was “that’s not a serious way to live.” But that’s not completely true.

I accepted “being a serious person” because when I told myself my dreams, I would respond “that’s not serious.” I never had complete ownership of my mind. I was too busy trying to be a serious person.

But then there’s this other thing. This hint. This whisper. This quiet voice of desperation that lulls from some sedated yet unrelenting innermost part of your mind. The part that never gives up until the eulogy.

And it made me wonder: What if there was some other way to live? Some other back door or hidden path that led to complete creative control over your life. One that wasn’t serious at all, but was highly ridiculous

The more I followed that unabating quiet pull, I eventually found…

The Art of Being Highly Ridiculous

Ridiculous people have something figured out that other people haven’t quite grasped. They wear a subtle, almost undetectable smirk that makes you think they’re about to make some kind of mischief. They probably are. Mischief is what they like best.

The truth is, ridiculous people aren’t ridiculous at all, they just seem that way to the people that are always trying to be serious. They seem unruly and careless because they’re not following the common template. They are obviously out of line, and that is most alarming to the serious tribe.

Ridiculous people seem highly irregular to the serious folk because they tend to…

  • Not follow pre-made templates. They prefer to freestyle life instead.
  • Work irregular hours, and often accomplish this by working for themselves.
  • Follow their natural rhythms and focus on creating value over obsessing over quotas and time-logging.
  • Be ordinary radicals: people that have deliberately chosen to dedicate their lives to a specific purpose that they’re most called to.
  • Not care much about weekends, and don’t dread Mondays. Since they do what they love for a living, the boundaries between work and life become blurred; to them it’s a good thing.
  • Change quite often. They don’t like stagnation and become especially bored with meaningless routines and predetermined patterns.
  • Follow their passions and find an intersection between they hold most dear and what the world deeply needs.
  • Live zero hour workweeks.

The reason most ridiculous people end up embracing this path is because they realize the bullshit false dichotomy of legitimacy and seriousness. In other words, they know that just because something is considered a “serious” or “approved” pursuit, it doesn’t mean it’s worth doing. They follow their hearts and leave it to other people decide whether they’re serious or not.

Ridiculous people that I admire

There are quite a few people out there that have consciously chosen to be ridiculous. These are just a few of those people I respect and admire.

  • Carl Nelson — Because he walks the talk, and he has mad moon walking skills.
  • Adam King — He’s bold enough to follow his passion and ship his art. He gets down to the simple nature of everything he creates; something that requires a lifetime of practice
  • Danielle LaPorte — She helps other people find and live their truth; she’s a wordsmith and a poet. Plus she channels Mother Theresa and Anthony Kiedis.
  • Ido Portal — The level of dedication he has to his practice and art is one of my biggest inspirations.
  • John Unger — It’s hard to find someone as committed to helping other artists find success as him. And how can you not like someone who create things to help you set stuff on fire?
  • My wife — Her level of courage and genuineness inspires me daily. She pushes me as a writer and an artist.
  • Kate England — She holds true to herself as an artist, and refuses to compromise her work. Also: her desktop icons will make you aroused.
  • Jonathan Fields — Because he pushes you to question your assumptions, and will lend a hand whether you’re big or small.
  • Charlie Gilkey — He helps creative people get their stuff out into the world. He is a metaphor ninja.
  • Nhan Khuong — He inspires others to embrace their true potential. He also runs barefoot. In the snow.
  • Gwen Bell — She helps you get your message out to the world, and always shows up from a place of “how can I help?”

These people aren’t the only ones I know on the same path. I’m lucky enough to be a part of an incredible community of people here that have chosen to live deliberately. Even though I have weirdo syndrome, it’s good to know that I’m not alone.

photo courtesy of derrickt

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Comment & Add Your Voice

J. D. Bentley March 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm

This post is great because when I look at those bullet points I realize that somehow I’ve reached a level I was only dreaming of a few years ago. I don’t hate Mondays, I measure my success in what gets accomplished instead of how long it takes me to accomplish it, I follow natural rhythms and I never use an alarm clock. I’m pretty lucky.

There’s much to be said about being ridiculous. All the really successful people are a bit eccentric and all the best ideas seem really crazy until someone does them. The people who say that such and such a dream isn’t realistic or serious fail to realize that any dream can be serious if you work for it.

I don’t know. I’m still working my way through life but I’m happy with this unconventional place I’ve found, and this post is spot on.

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

It’s crazy sometimes how we’re so close to what we’re doing we don’t even realize how far we’ve come… Then one day we’re like “holy shit, that’s pretty amazing.”

Sonicsuns March 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

congrats, JD. =)

Boris June 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Amen.

Minimalist Ninja March 9, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Nice post! I plan on continuing being just as ridiculous as possible! – Thanks for thie inspiration!

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Naomi Niles March 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

From now on, whenever I want to give you the best compliment ever, I will tell you that you are ridiculous. :)

Great post! Love knowing you and some of the other awesome people you mention and seeing you all do great stuff.

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’ve heard worse. =]

It’s a pleasure to know you as well Naomi. I consider you one of the ridiculous folks.

Molly Hoyne March 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

New fav phrase of the week, “The Art of Being Highly Ridiculous”! I love my ridiculous life. It’s a hodgepodge of everything I love, shaken, stirred, and gulped.

Taking oneself seriously? Definitely out.

Living deliberately? For the brave.

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Living deliberately is probably one of the hardest things you can do in life. It takes a level of mindfulness that is very skillful. It’s something you have to dedicate your whole life to.

Eduard @ People Skills Decoded March 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I remember I recently answered the question: what advice would you give your younger self. And the answer was: stop taking things so seriously. Because I realized that a great part of my seriousness, judging by facts and results, was absolutely pointless. So you can tell why I enjoy this post :)

PS: Changed my blog name, as you can see.

Eduard

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Dig the new blog name dude.

Sid Savara March 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Hey Jonathan,

I loved this:

“ordinary radicals: people that have deliberately chosen to dedicate their lives to a specific purpose that they’re most called to.”

It almost makes it sound ridiculous to NOT be a little ridiculous ;). It does seem ironic then for a “serious” person call someone ridiculous for following their calling, if the “serious” person has deliberately chosen to give up their calling for a lifestyle they “sort of” want – but maybe are just afraid to lose.

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm

It is indeed ridiculous to not be ridiculous. But most don’t see it that way…

Stephane March 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Jonathan,
A great tribute to self-liberation and personal freedom! I think that “ridiculous people” have the ability to constantly ask “what if” questions and come up with creative ways to re-invent their purpose and art to impact the lives of many.

In French: Bravo, very insightful

Stephane

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Awesome to see you here Stephane. You’re always welcome here.

Victoria Vives March 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Pretty AWESOME Jonathan! Somehow you managed to compiled here the best of the best!

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Nhan-Esteban Khuong, L.Ac. March 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

What’s especially amazing is that everyone can live a life of deep fulfillment without negating anyone else’s opportunity.

I never really thought of it in terms of “ridiculousness” but it makes perfect sense. The conventional “rat race” involves everyone reaching endlessly towards the same thing that everyone else wants with the final result of pain and more reaching.

Being ridiculous is embracing individuality and honest self expression that does not always conform with the norm. It is tapping into the infinite resource that diversity and possibility provides.

I’m honored to be on your list.

Thanks for sharing!

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Charlie March 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Don’t you know I can’t do the metaphor thing on demand. I get stagefright! ;p

Thanks for including me in this list, and back at you. The funny thing about being an ordinary radical is that it’s as easy to forget that you’re a radical as it is for people who aren’t radicals to remember that they’re making a choice. It makes for interesting conversations when you meet people.

What ridiculous people can do that sets them apart is dance when there is no music.

Here’s to continuing this dance together, J!

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Tony Teegarden March 9, 2010 at 6:53 pm

It’s all about perspective isn’t it?

I mean one mans folly is one mans strife. What I’m serious about another person finds ridiculous.

“Since they do what they love for a living, the boundaries between work and life become blurred; to them it’s a good thing.”

I love this point.

Yes, that’s where I live and love right there. It’s so hard it seems for lots of people I come across to acknowledge this place. I generally realize I’m outside of their traditional perspective. I believe as long as I’m aware of this when it happens I’m in a perfect place to do something with it. Make a difference, make an impact…really listen to where that person is and if they are open or closed to my perspective.

Its now a fun thing rather than a judgmental thing. (Which I horribly did a lot)

Our freedom as a ridiculous person is a place of power. Internal power that is. A place of freedom within. What I thought were sacrifices are no longer sacrifices but responsibilities to obtain that freedom.

Damn, that sounded kinda serious didn’t it?

Loved the insight & perspective my friend.

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Jonathan March 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Sometimes ridiculous things *are* very serious. As long as you keep that in perspective, it doesn’t matter whether you’re one or the other, just that you’re following your heart.

Julius March 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm

For me, being serious stems from trying to fit in to a group. I personally face this pitfall from time to time. But I try to avoid it by thinking for myself and having my own unique goals without paying attention to whether others may like it or not.

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Erwin March 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Pretty cool idea. I figured it was written for the artisty among us.
But reading through the list that is pretty much what I do in a very serious profession called IT. Makes for interesting situations and conversations.

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Robin Bastien March 9, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Many people seem to be under a delusion where life is a ‘serious endeavor’, and to a point it is. I just completely agree with you that it’s a waste of time to ACT serious. People will focus heavily on how they perceive themselves to others and they’re literally stamped with “social approval”. I find that persona gets boring pretty quickly.

Thanks for the post Jonathan, namaste

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Jen March 10, 2010 at 12:15 am

Hey Jonathan
I love this … beautiful and inspiring post. Off to check out the links I haven’t seen before.
Jen

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Daniel March 10, 2010 at 12:20 am

Go have a blast of a time Jon. :)

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Craig Thomas March 10, 2010 at 1:31 am

Nice post. Living by a template would be massively boring for me to think about – I much prefer being ‘ridiculous’.

I agree, the society of bullshit is all around but in my opinion it’s falling along with the economy. Once it does die out the next ‘age’ will be fantastic. Hopefully money won’t be involved and we’ll have a resourced based economy like the venus project. :)

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Lana - Daring Clarity March 10, 2010 at 2:34 am

Here is to ridiculousness! Thanks for inspiring Jonathan!

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Butterfly March 10, 2010 at 3:52 am

It’s funny how we do something so out of the ordinary (to some people like in my hometown)people react differently. People around me think blogging and my write is ridiculous, well, it has given me a great joy and social networking therefore, I am coming back bigger and better. This post is very encouraging, thank you so much I appreciate reading like this.

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Mars Dorian March 10, 2010 at 5:26 am

What a beautiful post !

Life’s way too short to be “average”. You can bring the most value to the world if work-for-yourself maverick that refuses to accept the limits of society and is bold enough to find new & betters ways on how to enrich the world.

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Simple in France March 10, 2010 at 5:53 am

I’m constantly fascinated by how weird it feels to do anything differently than everyone else . . .even minor, meaningless things. And on my own blog, people react very strongly to anything that tells them it’s ok to be completely ‘weird.’

But I like the idea of being ridiculous!

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Alex March 10, 2010 at 9:03 am

Absolutely right! Ridiculous is the new black. You got to be different. This world is filled with too much seriousness. I get too bored by the serious. Ridiculous is the only life for me.

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Tyler Tervooren March 10, 2010 at 10:02 am

The beauty of all this is that living a life of absolute ridiculousness is actually quite a serious endeavor. It’s just not generally accepted so it’s never taken “seriously.”

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Gwen Bell March 10, 2010 at 10:48 am

Take it seriously, hold it lightly.

The best teachers through the ages are remembered for their humor and wit. But also for their understanding of how seriously short life is. (Shunryu Suzuki comes to mind. Check out that mans’ smirk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunryu_Suzuki)

In my teens I felt pretty unlucky. My mom died at 30 (I was 11). I lived with my grandparents and spent hours journaling and thinking I’d been dealt a lousy hand. In college, I started practicing meditation and eventually Zen Buddhism. After opening a yoga studio in Japan and vowing to be an entrepreneur for life, it shifted.

Not having a mom meant I could take (ridiculous) risks and not worry about the repercussions. My friends in the States wanted to please their parents after college. I wanted to soar. My grandparents (wisdom of the ages) did nothing to pin me. And so I could cultivate a life as big and expansive as I wanted.

And I did. Awareness of our own mortality puts life square in our face. Even best case scenario, I have a finite amount of time on Earth. Even best case scenario, none of us reading this blog get out of this alive.

Ok. That’s true. So?
Live it to the max now.

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colbycheeze March 10, 2010 at 10:53 am

That is interesting. During some of my transformations I have been looked at with an odd eye.

Just the other day somebody was asking me questions about some of my eating habits, work habits, etc… and after I discussed a bit about what I do he said, “Man you are pretty radical aren’t you?”

I kind of laughed…it was in that moment that I realized how far I have come and grown over the last few years. It is kind of sad actually to think that just doing things that make you a better person make you “radical” or w/e society wants to call it.

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cynthia steadman March 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm

OMG!

I am just truly enjoying and loving this site..blog..and everything about it. And no you are not alone. I also have the weirdo syndrome and it does feel good to know we’re not alone because it can be quite annoying when people don’t understand how I can live such a carefree or “ridiculous” way of life. I just love life and I always do what makes me happy and I don’t like boring. In fact the other day on my facebook status I said…”what would andy warhol have to say about ‘boring’.” I am against boring…

Thanks for existing..I just find you very inspirational and more so like someone who understands me and people like us because you are one of us! :D

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Andy Fossett March 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I guess I just don’t see it as a big deal anymore.

On the one hand, I totally agree with everything you’ve written here. On the other, I’m just inured to any worldview in which being un-ridiculous is normal.

Maybe I’ve been in Japan too long. The simple act of having an opinion in pubic is considered quite risky and courageous here, so somebody like me has no chance of just finding a comfortable place in the fabric of established society. Instead, I’ve just done my thing and allowed others to quietly regard me as weird.

To me, it just feels like I’m going with the flow. If my flow is different from the one others seem to ride, then so be it.

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Girl Starup March 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Oh good, it sounds like I might just be a bit ridiculous – he he!

It’s pretty cool to get this point :)

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Kate England | Marmalade Moon March 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

This is ridiculously inspiring! Seriously! :D

I’m honored to be mentioned in your list.

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Jerry Kolber March 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Jonathan this is a fantastic post. Embracing the ridiculous is always the easiest path to creative breakthroughs. The beauty is you can be ridiculous EVEN IF you have a 9-to-5 job working for someone else. EVEN IF you can’t be ridiculous “in public” at work, you can be ridiculous behind closed doors or in your own brainstorm sessions, and blow people away with your brilliance. I have often found that being ridiculous brings with it an implicit agreement for freedom, even in situations that seem to demand rigidity. Thanks for writing such a clarifying post about the power of coloring outside the lines.

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Marly March 16, 2010 at 11:05 pm

What a ridiculous post. I loved it! I also love not dreading Mondays. I aspire to be a highly ridiculous person and your post has helped me in that path. Seriously, I do like to be a part of work that has important benefits, but if I can’t have fun with that (and be a little ridiculous in the process), then it’s probably being taken a little too seriously.

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mowky March 19, 2010 at 8:18 pm

A recent trip to vietnam opened my eyes up to a differet lifestyle. This post confirmed my ridiculous way of thinking and chages everthing.
Thanks

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Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 27, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Interesting angle Jonathan!

This is so true though. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously, and not enough balance between seriousness and ridiculousness isn’t healthy. We can’t have all work with no play, and we can’t have all play with no work.

But I think the take home point that you’re making clear is that, whether we’re working or playing not to take ourselves too seriously.

Great post!

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Arsene Hodali March 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I personally agree with this post because I went through the whole stage of being “serious” to “ridiculous” all too aware.

Danielle LaPorte and Jonathan Fields are quit “ridiculous” indeed. Same goes for the other Jonathan… last name Mead.

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Doug August 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Jonathan,

I absolutely LOVE this post! There have been times recently when I’ve noticed that subtle little smirk playing with my own face, and getting back to that today is such a refreshing change of energy! Love the irreverence.

Cheers -
Doug

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