Choose by Your Concern
He's amusing – and confusing – millions of people around the world, but internet sensation JP Sears likes it that way.
On one hand the American is a headband-wearing, namaste'ing yoga tragic who has attracted a cult-like Facebook and YouTube following for his Ultra Spiritual comedy video series.
At Sears' last count, the series had garnered about 100 million views via Facebook, and another 30 million or so on YouTube.
His videos on conundrums facing the modern-day hippie, such as "How to take photos on Instagram", and "How to become gluten intolerant" have earned him something of a cult following.
J.P. Sears is confusing and entertaining audiences and followers, while making a real profit.
Sears' most popular video, "If meat eaters acted like vegans", went viral, and has been seen about 64 million times across his social media platforms – and at least 60 million times beyond that.
But the 35-year-old also runs his own serious life coaching and "emotional healing" business, with no shortage of clients paying $US200 for a one-hour Skype session.
So is he the real deal, or just having a laugh? Sears happily admits many people are "terribly confused". "It amuses me. I think as a society, we love to categorize people, including me – I'm guilty of it," he says.
J.P Sears' "Ultra Spiritual" videos went viral. "People ask: 'Are you sincere, or are you humorous?' My answer is 'Yes, I'm both'. It's like asking, 'do
you have a right hand or do you have a left hand?' " The back-story is that Sears has been involved in coaching for about 15 years.
He says his clients often come to him with similar issues: they might feel stuck in their career, relationship or in reoccurring patterns. They might also be facing grief, depression or sadness.
"I really teach what I need to learn," says Sears, who jokes: "Years ago I was just deluded enough to project that upon other people."
He was already creating serious videos, when he decided to start making funny videos about 18 months ago. The first, "How to be ultra spiritual", went gangbusters without him even trying.
"Someone just stole it off my YouTube channel and uploaded it to their Facebook page. It was getting millions of views," says Sears.
He likes to think that his humorous videos come with a deeper message, but says he had no real plan in mind.
"I wanted to do it because it was a creative tickle that I wanted to itch. It became a very nice bonus that the world received it well."
He used to run serious client sessions – he has clients everywhere from Australia, to the US, UK and Canada – up to six days a week.
But the unexpected success of his new videos has turned his one-man business into a speeding train that he's struggling to keep up with. Sears has since cut back his client sessions to three days a week, and taken on a manager and an assistant.
He's also been snapped up by a book publisher, and has partnered with a production company to create a TV series that he hopes to sell to a network.
"The funny videos have created worlds unto themselves," says Sears. "I also get tons and tons of speaking engagement bookings where I'm in character, doing comedy," he says.
In Australia, that's included the Byron Spirit Festival (he notes there "are some incredibly delightful, weird people" in Byron), and the Wired for Wonder event in Sydney and Melbourne this November.
Business is booming in many different facets for Sears, who now makes almost a full-time living through his YouTube earnings alone.
But it has to be asked, are his videos essentially, well, just a piss-take of his own life and career?
"Everything that I parody in the videos is a part of my life – either now or in the past," he says.
So, is he a vegan? "I eat a vegan diet, but also I eat a meat-eater diet," he deadpans.
As for life coaching, and the skepticism many people feel towards the industry, Sears takes no offence.
"I do believe people are skeptical of life coaches, and I advise a healthy skepticism of life coaching," he says.
"It doesn't ever mean that this person is going to be a good fit to help you in your life. And there's no guarantee this life coach has their life together."
Instead, he advises hiring a life coach based on your connection with them.
In Australia, life coaching is undoubtedly a growing industry – but it's still an unregulated one. As such, it's virtually impossible to quantify how many people are calling themselves a life coach, or what level of training they've had.
But arguably, there's no one here quite like JP Sears, who says he'll keep making his comedy videos – "probably until the internet goes out of business, or I'm abducted by aliens – whatever happens first".
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