101 Ways to Live, Work and Goof Off More Ambitiously

101 Ways to Live, Work and Goof Off More Ambitiously
Illustration: Steve Scott

1. All they can do is say no, so what’s the harm in asking your company if they’d honor you with an equestrian statue?

2. Write a love letter. By hand. Use both sides.

3. Train a spider monkey to sit on your shoulder and give you a tiny high-five every time you say something clever.

4. The next time you have a meltdown, literally melt down. It’s very impressive.

5. Compress your workout and post-workout routines into one: Do cardio in the shower.

6. Tennis great Billie Jean King likes to say that “pressure is a privilege.” So whenever you can, thank your clients for all that privilege they subject you to.

7. Make Champagne Popsicles.

8. The next time you chew bubble gum, try really hard to blow an icosahedron.

9. Expand your daughter’s grasp of the real-estate market by buying her the Barbie Nightmare House.

10. Rake your leaves into color categories.

11. Write the Greater American Novel and win the Pulitzest Prize.

12. Eat an ambitious amount of Domino’s Pizza, then stand the 23 empty boxes upright in a row to demonstrate the domino effect.

13. Find a lucky 4.5-leaf clover.

14. Interview a very ambitious person in the aftermath of a major failure. This is when the ambitious are at their most intellectually productive. And their least chatty.

15. Ask your spouse to please address you as a divan potato.

16. Accept the eternal truth that happiness is a warm Great Dane.

17. Play “Words With Friends in High Places.” Do not waste time playing “Words in Places With High Friends.”

39. Go Medieval on your home security detail by building a moat. Fill it with Evian.
39. Go Medieval on your home security detail by building a moat. Fill it with Evian. Illustration: Steve Scott

18. Dress like a billionaire: jeans, sneakers, T-shirt.

19. Build a house with a widow’s walk…for your cat.

20. Hunt your Thanksgiving centerpiece yourself, with a crossbow.

21. Just for today, carry around a small, Bluetooth speaker and blast a triumphant theme song when you enter a room. Good: “Eye of the Tiger.” Confusing: “I’m A Little Teapot.”

22. Eat a floret of raw cauliflower so that you can truly appreciate how much better it is when roasted. Make roasting cauliflower a signature move.

23. Ambition mixed with humility is an unbeatable combo. Strive to become the humblest person in the entire freaking universe.

24. Watch 10 hours of K-Beauty how-to videos on YouTube and master an outlandish Korean beauty trend. Aim for the Holy Grail: “glass skin.”

25. Refer to your raincoat as “The Cloak of Destiny.”

26. Read Gary Shteyngart’s “Lake Success,” the American novel of the moment that critics are calling the new “Bonfire of the Vanities.” No time? Leave a copy conspicuously on your desk.

27. Go beyond two-dimensional lawn signs this midterm election season and install political lawn statues instead.

28. Be grateful while you’re still alive.

29. Remove the word “just” from your vocabulary. It makes you sound wishy-washy, and its Scrabble tiles score more in “justice” or “jujitsu.”

30. Change your name to Odin, but let people call you “Odie.” Though truly awesome, thou hast also a playful side.

31. Have a friend interview your kids on the things they like most about being in your family. Eavesdrop (their answers might surprise you). Adjust your strategy accordingly but not high-calorically.

32. Plan to wet your feet in three different oceans, seas or rivers in 2019. If pressed for time, just visit Pittsburgh, where three rivers helpfully converge.

33. If you haven’t already, adapt the silent horror classic “Nosferatu” into a musical called “Nosferatu!”—one so jaunty it earns that exclamation point.

34. Change your motion-detecting outdoor light to red. It’ll scare the heck out of interlopers and wow your neighbors.

35. Ponder the value of persistence as Sarah Manguso did in her book “300 Arguments,” writing: “I wish I could ask the future whether I should give up or keep trying. Then again, what if trying, even in the face of certain failure feels as good as accomplishing. What if it’s even better?”

36. Write and publish “300 Counterarguments.”

37. Teach your dog to play “near-death experience.” Playing dead is for losers.

38. Consider this fun fact: An emotion commonly reported by people whose efforts end in worst-case scenarios is relief. Now take more risks.

39. Go Medieval on your home security detail by building a moat. Fill it with Evian.

40. Organize your computer’s desktop or stop watching “Hoarders” and feeling superior.

41. Got intuition? Nothing hones this quality so much as traveling solo (sans spouse, friend, or even a favorite child). Siri’s off-limits too. Try a week in a foreign land, depending only on your gut. Do not intuitively get arrested.

42. Tweet exclusively in iambic pentameter.

43. Become a regular at your local rock climbing gym. The crossover business-benefits are endless: greater stamina, higher confidence, firm chalky handshakes.

44. Carving a jack-o’-lantern? Aim for a Mona Lisa smile.

45. The only way to permanently silence your self-righteous marathon-running friends, besides fleeing the country, is doing a triathlon. Do what you must.

46. Ask for two raises, one for you and one for your self-defeating alter-ego.

47. Embed iris reticulata bulbs in your front garden. These are small purple irises that will bloom right through the snow—way before daffodils. Plant at least 50.

48. Start the Warby Parker of something. Anything. Get very rich.

49. Expand your domestic staff by employing a chauffeur for your tandem bicycle.

50. When you go to sleep, aspire to have a “lucid dream,” in which you’re conscious you’re dreaming and can control the dream world. This may be your only chance to tickle Lord Voldemort until he pleads for mercy.

51. Purchase season tickets to the opera, and a case of sugar-free Red Bull at Costco. Swear to your partner that these two acquisitions are unrelated.

52. Instead of petty power-tripping, indulge in consequential power-tripping.

53. Use 10.4% of your brain.

54. Get to inbox negative 10, which is the new inbox zero. How it works: You must have 10 emails drafted and ready to go on Monday morning and no unanswered mail.

53. Use 10.4% of your brain.
53. Use 10.4% of your brain. Illustration: Steve Scott

55. One-up that friend who has a personal chef by hiring an overly personal chef.

56. Put out a separate Halloween bowl for parents filled with vintage candy. Razzles, anyone?

57. Learn to make your own pasta. Give up all other pasta until you do so. The weight you lose will more than make up for the frustration of never acing the perfect penne.

58. Apply for most-favored-nation status.

59. Play a game of telepathic charades. No talking, no moving, just uncomfortable eye contact.

60. Put a scoop of Moon Juice’s much-hyped adaptogen-rich Brain Dust in every beverage you drink. Be more judicious with the Sex Dust.

61. They say a cluttered workspace equals a cluttered mind. Clean up both by committing to a chore chart and/or aggressive brain surgery.

62. Take a coding class. Make a website humble-bragging about your ability to make a website.

63. Buy an article of clothing you normally wouldn’t. Wear it out of the store.

64. Plant an American Redbud tree this fall. Nothing competes with those purple flowers against dark bark in spring.

65. Write a manifesto.

66. Instead of whipping out your phone the second your partner heads to the bathroom, sit for a second and contemplate your place in the universe. Have you achieved oneness? Okay, now you can Tweet about it.

67. Learn to jazz whistle.

68. Paint one of your rooms, including ceiling and moldings, in a deep-colored lacquer. Your entry is a showy place to try this.

69. Your 2018 Halloween costume: the Terracotta Soldiers of Qin Shi Huang. All of them.

70. For balance and perspective, endeavor to make your least favorite employee your new favorite. Oh well, you tried.

71. Commit to wearing garments made of recycled materials, such as Everlane’s just launched ReNew “Long Puffer” jacket, fabricated from 60 plastic bottles.

98. Hop up Mount Everest.
98. Hop up Mount Everest. Illustration: Steve Scott

72. Outgive someone generous.

73. Speak loudly into your Amazon device: “Hey, Alexa! I’ll be the one answering the questions from now on!”

74. Remember your worst subject in school? Take an adult class and conquer it. This time don’t get in trouble for doodling unicorn battles in your notebook.

75. Surprise your dinner guests with that rare delicacy, macaroni and head cheese.

76. Two truths about successful people are that they: 1) read a lot and 2) take vacations. Plan your next vacation by envisioning your ideal place to vanquish your reading list.

77. Start a high-intensity gym regimen, alternating hammer curls and burpees. Toss in a couple CrossFit classes. Wear loosefitting clothing in public. In a few months, host a biceps-reveal party.

78. Keep track of every TV show you watch in a year. If you’re too embarrassed to write a show down, perhaps you can stop watching that one.

79. Teach a millennial a thing or two about computers—like how to turn them off.

80. Prepare Beef Wellington: seared filet of beef, truffled mushroom duxelles and foie gras in a perfect pastry crust, with a Madeira glaze.

81. Embrace manifest destiny. Annex your next-door neighbor’s toolshed.

82. Meditate for hours without thinking about how weird your tongue feels against your teeth.

83. Writing exercise: Have a long, hard think about the taste of water. Now put it into words.

84. Name the indecision currently haunting you. Rosa Parks said, “To diminish fear, make up your mind.” So do.

85. Start reading “The Brothers Karamazov” without telling anyone. It is Fyodor’s and your dirty little secret.

86. Try things upside down: Peel bananas from the other end, sleep in your bed with your head at the foot and pour milk before your cereal. See if life is better this way.

87. Michael Franco, a top Manhattan real-estate broker, evaluates his frequent vacations as either greedy or generous. For him, a successful vacation is one that gives back more than it takes. Revisit your travel to-do list and cross off the greedier destinations.

88. Ask yourself whether the following quote fills you with eagerness or regret: “A year from now, you might wish you had started today.”

89. Join the After-Dinner Coffee Achievers.

90. Drive a Maxivan.

91. Change out your weed-pocked grass lawn for one of Roman chamomile (yes, it smells great, with flowers like mini-daisies). Never mow again.

92. Instead of a yard sale, market your garage as an avant-garde gallery and add two extra zeros to every item you’re selling. Even that broken Flowbee.

93. Make polenta with absolutely no lumps. The key: Pour slowly, and whisk as if you’re absolutely furious with the polenta.

94. Don’t be afraid to steal fashion tips from your fictional heroes: James Bond’s fine tailoring, Donald Duck’s thrifty no-pants fashion savvy.

95. Be confident that you are more than your job title. You are also your social security number, your shoe size and numerous mushy organs.

96. Learn Latin—in Rome.

97. Empty your Evian moat and refill it with Voss. Artesian water is slightly more ambitious than natural spring water.

98. Hop up Mount Everest.

99. Marcus Aurelius turned long, taxing military campaigns into opportunities for self-reflection. Bring that same productive spirit to your next Shake Shack line.

100. If you’re in the wrong job, be smart enough to walk away from it. And creative enough to get the video of your stunt to go viral.

101. On Nov. 4, set your clocks 23 hours ahead. You don’t do backwards.

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