It’s always a pleasure having Steve Kamb on the show. He’s an adventurous guy with big dreams, and he put those dreams to work when he started Nerd Fitness.
Nerd Fitness is a massive online fitness community (they’ve got almost 300,000 members!) that’s helping tons of people lose weight, get in shape, and take charge of their health, all while indulging in their shared love of nerdy fandom.
In this episode, Ryan talks with Steve about his new book, Level Up Your Life, which is all about making adventure a priority so that you can have an awesome life.
Here’s a little snippet of the wisdom Steve shares in this interview:
“If you are truly aiming to grow as a person, learn, or whatever, you need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Steve Kamb is a writer, fitness enthusiast, proud nerd, and the founder and owner of Nerd Fitness. Through his own mistakes over years of trial and error, Steve has found a way to simplify fitness for the average joe. He uses the same principles he’s learned from years of playing video games, and has gamified fitness for his community so that they simply love the process.
Find out more about Steve on his website, or on his Facebook page, and click here to get his new book, Level Up Your Life.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
- (00:50) The bromance between GMB and Nerd Fitness.
- (05:25) Steve’s comic book life
- (06:40) How to manage your time better
“I didn’t just want to build a bucket list. Personally I think bucket lists just suck.”
- (10:11) How to level up your life.
- (12:38) The “progress principle”
- (16:18) Finding happiness and completing your quest
- (18:50) What you can learn from Ninja Warrior
“You can make your game in whatever way you want. You just need to make something and get started moving down that path.”
- (22:39) Why accountability is so damn important
- (24:38) “Screw accountability, cultivate discipline.”
- (34:29)Steve explains becoming anti-fragile
“Imagine if cave men 50,000 years ago were like ‘Oh my God! I didn’t get my Captain Crunch!”
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Ryan: All right we’re recording with Steve Kamb. Hey everybody welcome to this edition of the GMB show. Today’s show we have Steve Kamb. Actually one of my good friends from a couple years ago. We’ve known each other for a quite awhile now. Just a little bit about Steve, he’s the founder of NerdFitness.com, it’s a worldwide fitness community dedicated to helping nerds, desk jockeys, and self aware robots level up their lives. He’s also an author of an upcoming book, Level Up Your Life, that gives people a blueprint for prioritizing adventure, growth, and happiness by turning life into a giant video game. This is going to be the topic of today’s chat. We’re going to talk about how to level up your life. Before that Steve, how are you doing man?
Steve: I’m great. Ryan dude, we were just talking about this before the show, but we met virtually many years ago through a mutual friend, Adam Baker.
Ryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Steve: I think you guys were getting ready to do some thing, and he’s like, “You need to talk to these guys over at Gold Medal bodies.” I was like, “Oh that sounds interesting,” and I think just immediately it clicked. I saw what you were doing and how you were doing it, and I was like, “This is a guy that’s awesome, and I need to talk to.” I got a chance to hang out with Andy in Hawaii, and unfortunately haven’t made it over to Japan yet, but I’ll have to add that to my …
Ryan: But next week thought, right? Next week, for New Year’s right?
Steve: Yeah. Right, I actually I have a flight tomorrow. I didn’t tell you? I’m bringing all of my stuff and moving in.
Steve: So I’ll see you soon. Anyway man, it’s good to see you, it’s good to be able to talk about this stuff. There’s just there is so many overlapping aspects of my philosophy, and your philosophy there’s, I don’t know if there’s an equivalent of a bromance between website, but if it existed I think one would exist between GMB and Nerd Fitness.
Ryan: I think so too. Yeah. Everybody you got to say it is funny how you can meet somebody online, and you guys just click. We never have met in person, which is just hilarious, so we do need to make that happen one of these days.
Steve: Well, we’ve talked enough, and I was saying earlier I feel like I know you 15 seconds at a time everyday, because I watch all your videos in Instagram as I’m trying to do less difficult things, and failing miserably at them in the gym myself, so it’s always fun to watch.
Ryan: Hey listen, go a little bit into your background and depth for us.
Ryan: Let us know, and maybe talk a little bit about all the places you’ve been around the world.
Steve: Yeah absolutely. Seven years ago, or I guess eight years ago, as somebody that had struggled previously with getting fit, and getting healthy, even though I’d been working out relatively consistently. It wasn’t until I fixed my diet and simplified my workout strategy, and really focused on functional type movements. Body weight exercises, and old school bar bell training, things like that, that I finally started to see success. I knew that if I struggled with it for many years before finding that path, there have to be other people out there like myself that also struggled, but didn’t know where to turn, and weren’t sure how to get there. As a proud nerd I thought that there was an opportunity to carve up my own little corner of the internet in which I could help other people not make the mistakes that I made with health and fitness.
Also do it in a way that was exciting to me, and that was writing about my favorite games, and books, and movies, and things that I loved that made me who I was. Also I also put a focus on health and fitness. I Googled nerd and fitness and nothing popped up, and ended up purchasing the domain, got a basic personal trainer certification, learned as much as I could about health and fitness, and over a course of about two years or so, slowly built it up from a small individual blog into a message board community, and then from there it’s evolved even further into this now worldwide community of people helping each other. Once I turned Nerd Fitness into my full time gig, for awhile there I was living this duel existence. By day I was a marketing assistant in job, and by night I was rebel leader of Nerd Fitness writing articles and things.
Then suddenly, Nerd Fitness became the day job, and was like, “Hmm, Nerd Fitness is a day job. What’s my alter ego?” Well it’s like, my alter ego should be doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do. Now that I’ve built this life that has prioritized things that are important to me, like what does superhero version of Steve look like? It was somebody that challenged himself physically, mentally, and liked to travel, learned new skill both mental and physical, volunteered his time, helped other people, became financially independent, et cetera. I started to put together this list of things that were important to me in improving my life and improving the lives of others, but I didn’t want to just build a bucket list. Personally I think bucket lists suck, and everybody just throws a bunch of stuff on it, but never makes any progress towards completing them.
Instead I thought back to all of my favorite games, and books, and movies, and the game mechanics as to why I got so addicted to them. Instead of creating a bucket list, I instead decided to turn my life into a video game. Which I called My Epic Quest of Awesome. I then turned the world into this video game world where each content was a different zone, and I had missions based on difficulty, and different challenges, and boss battles, and things like that. Then I went all in on this idea, and sold all of my stuff, and proceeded to run Nerd Fitness from my laptop, and spent all of 2011, and half of 2012 building the business while staying in cheap hostiles, and living on people’s couches.
Jumping around the world, I got a chance to do some pretty cool things. I flew a stunt plane in New Zealand, skydived, bungee jumped, got scuba certified, and found Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef. Went to Angkor Wat in in Cambodia, hiked up the Great Wall of China, and spend a weekend living like James Bond in Monaco. Tracked animals through South Africa. Went to October Fest in Germany, and Carnival in Brazil. In addition to that over the past year while writing this book, I actually learned to play the violin, and volunteered each week at children’s hospital where I live.
I wanted to prove to people with my big trip that if a risk adverse, shy nerd can do something as crazy as this, then there have to be adventures that you’re probably putting off in your own life, that if you put certain systems in place, you can do relatively cheaply, and actually pull of and give yourself some great memories to live by. Then I think it was also important for me to show I’ve learned to play an instrument while also writing a book, and running a company. I was like, if somebody … Everybody was like, “Oh man, I wish I could play the guitar, I wish I could play the piano, and I wish I could learn how to speak a language. I wanted to write a book, blah, blah, blah.” Everybody says these things every January first. They have these goals that are very nebulous, and they never follow through on.
Here’s an exact example that I am going to consistently call back to as I’m writing this book, about how I learned to play an instrument. Here are stories of other people that have learned to do these other things, so if you’re somebody that works a regular job. You have responsibilities, you have kids, whatever it is, but there are things you’ve always wanted to do. You need to start deliberately putting steps in place, and applying these game mechanics, behavioral psychology type things that I pulled straight out of my favorite comic books, and games, and movies, and apply those things to your life. If you put this system in place, you can start relying on motivation, and you can actually pull these things off and get it done. That was the genesis and ultimate creation of Nerd Fitness, and now something that I’m so proud of, and really happy with how it turned out, but this book Level Up Your Life, which I just … Man, I had so much fun writing it, and I’m actually in this, the microphone is currently sitting on a stack of my books.
Ryan: Yes, I love it.
Steve: It serves a duel purpose. It not only is it a great book to read, but buy a bunch of them and you can stack variously and use it as a microphone stand too.
Ryan: I got to tell you, you had the privilege of obviously being able to read your book before it’s out. Thank you so much for doing that, and as I was talking about before the interview. I wanted to make sure that I had the time to sit down and read it from cover to cover in one sitting. It was so easy to do. The reason why is because it was exciting. Listening to your stories about where you started, and how you got to where you are right now. Not only just doing that, and being able to do that because you’re single, and because you’re still young, or things like that. Give examples of people who are just like me. Family, kids, run a business, whatever, who can also do this, and you lay it out for everybody. You make it exciting, and I really like this concept of leveling up your life.
If we can quickly just talk about, for those of you who aren’t into the gaming thing. I’m not into games, but I was reading the book, and I was like, “Holy crap, this is really fun,” and I get it. Even though I’m not a gamer, it was like every single person who reads this will be like, “That makes sense. It’s a lot of fun.” If you can talk a little bit about Leveling Up Your Life. What do you mean when you say this?
Steve: Yeah, and the book is packed full of nerdy metaphors, and analogies, and things like that. I think the leveling up aspect is quite universal, and what it really draws upon is this concept of the progress principal. The progress principal was based in behavioral psychology, pub med studies, et cetera. It’s this idea that we as humans actually enjoy making progress more than we do the end goal. It’s why video games become so addicting. Why it’s such a challenge for many people to get themselves to stay the course when it comes to losing weight, and getting stronger, or getting more fit. The progress principal as it applies to a video game is the idea that everybody starts at level one, and that is very simple. When you move form level one you move on to level two, and then when you get to level two you earn a new sword, or a shield, and that sword allows you to kill a bigger bad guy, and that bad guy gets you to level four. Once you get to level four they give you a key that let’s you go explore this new place.
In a game like World of Warcraft, or really any game, there’s every single thing that you do they show you in some graphical way, or audible way, or something that you’re character is now better and stronger, or closer to be getting better and stronger than you were prior to taking that action. Which is so freaking addicting. As a nerd that has an addictive personality, I’ve dumped hundreds of hours into role playing games that allowed me to level up a very weak scrawny character to become this epic bad ass. I started to think if I can get addicted to that in a game, why don’t I get addicted to that in real life? Then I found the studies on the progress principal, and started to think for anybody who’s trying to get in shape. It’s like, “I have to go run on a treadmill, and eat broccoli and chicken. This sucks,” and you get through a week of it. You’re like, “That was miserable, and horrible, and I hate it, and I don’t look any different, and this is blah.”
When you don’t get to see that progress it’s very difficult to stay motivated on making improvements. I was like, “Why don’t we just implement this idea of progress principal, and video game mechanics into real life.” For example I encourage people through Nerd Fitness. You’re not just going to the gym to lose weight. You’re going to the gym to improve upon something that you were not able to do last time. When you’re picking up weights that very simple. It’s like, if you can put more weight on the bar, then you did a week ago, you have gained plus one strength, and now you have completed your quest to slay the gym demon, or the dead lift challenge, or whatever it may be. It’s this idea of incorporating things like that. The way I found that motivated me was actually leveling up my life by creating myself as as character, and then assigning experience points to my different quests and missions. As I crossed those things off I would gain experience and actually level up.
I did that very pen and paper type, in a very pen and paper, old school D&D type way. Where I just wrote down points, and found some fun in that. Thankfully through this book, and with Nerd Fitness being able to grow the way that it has, we’ve actually been able to build an entire character creation system through Nerd Fitness, that when this book is out, you’ll be able to go to LevelUpYourLife.com, or NerdFitness.com, create your own Nerd Fitness avatar, create your back story. Pick which video game archetype you most resonate with, and then create your epic quest list of missions and quests, categorized. Assign experience point values to them based on difficulty, and as you cross these things off, watch the experience bar fill up, and watch yourself level up. It seems so arbitrary, but it is so satisfying to see a leveling, and I figured if it got me hooked to a game. Why don’t I get hooked on doing that in real life? It’s been awesome, now I’m hooked on …
Ryan: A life.
Steve: …Leveling myself up.
Ryan: Yeah life right?
Steve: It’s cool. It’s so much, it’s fun. What can I do in the gym. How much better am I going to get at this instrument? Where can I go visit, and what kind of crazy adventure can I get myself into, or how can I improve somebody else’s life, or become financially independent? Like you said, I got a chance to share some great stories throughout the book of men and women, young and old, kids, no kids. That have created alter ego version of themselves as well, and leveled up in very unique ways without having to be the 20 something that sold everything and traveled around the world. You can do that too, but here are some people that are construction workers, and IT salesman, and teachers, and retired firefighters that are single parents, or happily married with three kids.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Steve: I love sharing the stories to show you can make your game in whatever way that you want. You just need to make something, and then get started moving down that path.
Ryan: That was a big point. That’s what I really loved, the big thing is there is you have got to get started. You look at you’ve got level one, and then you’ve got level three, but in between what are you going to be doing? Well you’ve got to do it. Going back to the idea of the quest. I like how you did this, because it wasn’t just simply a task that you have to do. You look at it as you’re going somewhere. This is your journey, but the important things are what do you do along the way in order to make sure that you’re leveling up to get there? The way you broke it down that way, I love that. In that way it’s got that fun involved. This is something of course too that you talk a lot about is, you’ve got to enjoy the process. I think the way that we move towards happiness. We don’t want to move towards crappiness.
Ryan: Going back here, and looking a little bit about the different kinds of quests, and how to create happiness is something that you wrote in your book that I really liked that you wrote. “Time spend daily hopefully in a job that challenges us, but also in our after hour hobbies is what can help lead us towards happiness.” Something that that alter ego that you talk about, during the day you can be working in this particular job, and maybe it’s not the ultimate job that you want, but making sure that you are being challenged within that job. Then in the evening, then you can have your quests, and you can focus on this. Similar to what you were doing, well exactly what you were doing. Where you were working a different job.
Ryan: Then in the evening working towards Nerd Fitness. Talk a little bit about looking at quests, and some of the challenges that you faced, and what you did to complete your quests. Because let’s be honest, a lot of people they’ll start off on this quest, and they’ll have that notion of, “Oh yeah, I want to get here.” In the very beginning, the honeymoon period it’s all nice, and everything, but after a couple weeks it starts to get there. This is perfect timing because in January everybody is like, “I’m going to go back to the gym, and blah.” They don’t get…
Steve: This is the year.
Ryan: This is it.
Steve: No, right.
Ryan: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what did you do in order to help keep yourself on track and progressing throughout your journey?
Steve: Oh man, there are so many things I want to talk about right there. I’m going to talk about all of them simultaneously. As you can tell I’m just very excited about pretty much everything. The, oh and I have the quote. The thing that I think love the most about what you were just saying, specifically when you were talking about the journey, and the thing that people hopefully find satisfaction through their jobs. If they don’t they need to find it in their after hours work until they can find it through their job. I think no better story exemplifies or personifies, whichever word is more grammatically correct there, that is the TV show Ninja Warrior.
Ryan: Oh yeah, yeah.
Steve: As they call it in Japan Sasuke.
Ryan: Sasuke yeah.
Steve: I’ve been watching Sasuke when it was on G4 as far back as 2006 I think. Watching the Japanese version of it with American subtitles. The thing I love so much about this show, and anybody that’s not familiar with it … Although I’m guessing if they’re listening to this they probably are … It’s this phenomenal obstacle course that people have to move through. It’s got four different stages, AKA four different levels, that increase in difficulty, and you cannot make it to the next level until you complete the previous one. Through thousands of competitors only a handful of people have ever completed the entire mission, completed all four levels. The thing I love the most about it, is one there’s a sense of comradory. It’s like this team, although it’s solo …
Ryan: It’s individual, yeah it’s individual but …
Steve: It’s individual but everybody is cheering for everybody else. My favorite guy Makoto Nagano is a fisherman.
Ryan: Called the fisherman. Yeah.
Steve: The fisherman. I love that he’s a fisherman, but he trains on his boat. Then the most recent guy that won, what was his name, like Yuuji Urushihara, I can’t remember his name specifically. He was a shoes salesman.
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Steve: He won the Japanese version of Ninja Warrior and he was shoe salesmen. The he also did this thing on the side. Just recently they’ve now done American Ninja Warrior, and they finally crowned their first American Ninja Warrior champion. The guy that won, he’s a busboy. How freaking cool is that. I don’t care what you do, or how you spend your time. We all got to pay the bills. We all have responsibilities, but how you spend your time if you attack that time with the right … I hate to use the word passion, because passion is like, people are just like just follow your passion, and build a business around that. It’s like, well not really. Get good at something. I love Cal Newport’s philosophy on this author who talks about like so good they can’t ignore you.
Ryan: I was just talking with Andy the other day about that.
Steve: It was so good, yeah. What I’ve found is when anybody makes quests, and missions, and it’s really fun to dream big, and come up with these great ideas. I have no problem with that. I think naïve optimism often time is really helpful. Naïve optimism got me to start a fitness blog in the middle of an industry that was so saturated with fitness. I didn’t know any better. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll just start a blog, and figure out a way to be different and make it work.” Anyways, I think naïve optimism needs to be combined with just killer focus. That focus does not come from being motivated to be focused. It doesn’t come from being inspired to be focused. It comes from being freaking disciplined and building your environment around you. Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. Where the default activity is progress.
Everybody just, the saying that I continually to go back to is I only write when I’m motivated to write. Fortunately I get motivated to write every morning at 9:00 am. If you only did things when you were motivated to do it, if I only went to the gym when I was like, “I’m excited to go to the gym.” It wouldn’t happen. Now I’m at the point where I’m excited about these things. For those first six, twelve months of you doing something that is a new habit, a new challenging activity, you need to build systems around you so that those things become the default activity. You need to introduce some accountability, so that if you don’t do it there’s a negative consequence.
You need to introduce some positive reward. I don’t mean you get a whole chocolate cake when you run two miles. I mean, if you can complete a new habit for a total of 28 days, maybe you buy a new set of running shoes. If you work on your handstand following a GMB program for a certain amount of time, then you can go out and purchase a set of rings, and rings run through you guys. It’s rewarding yourself with things that reward you back. Which is a concept that I learned very much from a video game.
Ryan: What I also love, just what you’re saying too, going to Nerd Fitness on the forums. You’ve got it setup exactly like that. You find your group, and accountability. Where you’ve got people all Nerd Fitness in the forums are helping one another. Let’s be honest, when you have those shitty days where you really don’t want to do it, at least you step up. My Judo coach way back when, and I still use this for all my trainers, and everybody. Just show up, and step on the mat. You’ve got to have that discipline to actually do that. Like what you said, it’s accountability. If you’re telling somebody you’re going to do it, and you don’t do it.
Something that I know you did was, what was it? If you didn’t write an article then you gave your assistant 500 bucks, and said for every time that … Is it Blood Plus article was late they would have donate 50 bucks to what is that church? That horrible …
Steve: The Westboro Baptist Church.
Ryan: Yes, yes.
Steve: I was like, this is I can either just write the freaking article that will in turn make my business better, and my life better, or my hard earned money is going to be donated to a cause that I am staunchly opposed to. I should probably just write the freaking article.
Ryan: Yeah, and you do it. It’s that discipline. Yeah in the beginning there are some things where you’re going to have to trick yourself in order to do it, but like you say, once you get to that point where you realize, “Oh man, I love doing this.” It’s that passion, yeah I get that, but the thing is like I said before with GMB I started it with passion, and I still have that passion, but there’s some days where it’s really cold, like right now. I don’t want to go, and I don’t want to workout, but you understand too that it’s bigger than just us.
Ryan: It’s for other people, for the people you love, and just like the heroes journey. It’s beyond just us.
Steve: It’s bigger than you, yeah.
Ryan: It is.
Steve: It’s cool.
Ryan: It is very cool.
Steve: I love thinking of life that way. You’re right man [crosstalk 00:24:45]
Ryan: Go ahead, I’m sorry. Go ahead, go ahead.
Steve: I was going to say, you’re so right, and I found it very much, and I know you have as well, but I think those negative, some accountability and reward systems are really helpful to start. The quote that heard was just screw motivation, cultivate discipline. I heard that read that on the internet somewhere, and just fell in love with it, and I learned it took me a few months to build a habit to do certain things. I had to get myself to build a habit to write every morning 500 words to write this book. I have to train four days a week, even though I wasn’t interested in it. After I got beyond that it kicks in. The feeling of chalk in my hands before I do a muscle up, or that fraction of a second when I’m balancing upside down in a handstand, and the way my body shakes after setting a new PR in a dead lift.
Never would I have thought that those were … I find time and time again through Nerd Fitness, people telling me when did this happen, but I actually look forward to exercising now. These were people that would never ever, ever have said that until they built systems and put their life …
Steve: …Put these game mechanics into their lives to get them to cultivate that discipline, and not rely on will power to get them to finally start making this progress. I love to be able to share stuff like that. Because if it can work for these people that were 400 pounds, chain smoking, and miserable. If they can now, somebody that wants to run a marathon, and sew their own costumes, and travel and stuff. It’s anybody can do this stuff, you just have to put a plan in place that doesn’t make you rely on motivation. Because motivation is fleeting.
Ryan: Let’s go a little bit deeper just in case.
Steve: Yeah, I’m in for all of it.
Ryan: Let’s talk about [crosstalk 00:26:30] We’re talking about the journey, but that doesn’t really mean that we play… The journey is ours.
Ryan: We don’t play this game alone. We need to create a group that can support us, and we have people that can help us. In Nerd Fitness, and obviously you talk about this in your book. You’ve got basically there’s four groups. I’m just going to list them off here. You’ve got the Jedi Master, you’ve got he fellow Jedi, you’ve got the Padawan, and you’ve got the wild card. Can you talk a little bit about those four.
Ryan: I love this because I’m kind of like, “Yeah, yeah.”
Steve: I firmly believe that we are influenced more by the people around us than we probably realize. Very much like we’re influenced by the environment around us, we’re influenced the people that are around us. In any video game, it’s so simple. You’re like, okay you have two options. Group A is a group of people that are a higher level than you that are bad asses at this game, and you get to group up with them, and you get to go explore way cooler places, and kill way bigger bad guys, and advance way further, way faster, or you could be the best person in this other group. Who kind of suck, they’re disappointing, you’re not going to be able to explore much. One of them is going to flake out on you, and blah, blah, blah. You’re like I’m playing a game, that’s an obvious answer. I want to be with the group that makes me better, and level. Nobody does that in life. Excuse me, very few people.
Ryan: Very few people, yeah.
Steve: We surround our self with people that question our every move. That when you tell them you’re focused on something, they’re like, “Why did you, that’s stupid,” or, “Why would you do that,” or, “Oh it must be nice to be you, but I’m too busy doing this other thing.” People that don’t matter, and it’s very frustrating I think. I, like any rational responsible nerd, took the same reasons why I loved grouping up with certain people in games, and well how can I look forward to that in real life?
Being a huge Star Wars fan, I thought of what that group looks like. To me, like you said it was the Jedi Master, it is somebody that is further ahead of you, on the path that you are trying to go. I think a mistake many people make is they are trying to get in shape, and they read muscle and fitness magazine, and it’s like the way that Chris Even, or Hugh Jackman got in shape for Wolverine. They try to follow Wolverine’s workout plan, and two months later they’re like, “Why don’t I look like Wolverine?” It’s like well, you don’t have millions of dollars, and amazing genetics, and two nutritionist …
Ryan: And a masseuse.
Steve: …And a trainer, and a masseuse, and your life is not dependent on you looking like Wolverine. However, if you were to learn from somebody that is also a single parent, or also a 55-year-old retired person, that has had success in the way that you want to, you can learn from that person. They are a little bit further ahead. You can follow their path, and they can help you get from level one, to two, to three, to four. Because they are two steps ahead of you. In addition to that you need to have your fellow Jedi. The people that are in your Jedi council, people that are going through the same crap you’re going through. If you’re building a business, if you’re writing a book, if you are training handstands. It’s other people that are struggling with life in the same way that you are, and they help keep you accountable. They’re other people that are at that same place, and you guys lean on each other. You’re both in the trenches fighting together against a common goal. You’re working, and helping, and improving, and supporting each other.
Then we have the, your Padawan that’s the person that you’re training, and this was very important for me when I started Nerd Fitness. If you go to Nerd Fitness’s about page it still says I am not a fitness expert. I’ve dedicated my life to this, and I read health and fitness, and pub med studies, and have gone to seminars and training for seven years. I’ve been into fitness for far longer than that, but I still don’t consider myself an expert. However when I started if I was on a scale of one to ten, let’s say I was a three as far as knowledge goes, I could still help the ones and twos, and by helping the people that were behind me it caused me to think about how I was teaching, caused me to want to research and learn more, and that moved me from a three to a four, to a five, to a six.
Now I’d probably put myself at an eight or a nine I guess maybe. As far as health and fitness stuff goes, but I still don’t consider myself an expert. I’m a student first and foremost, but I am training, and helping other people that are further behind me. I guess this book, if I’m the Jedi Master this book is for my Padawan, the people that I’m training. Then last by not least you have the wild card, and this one might be my favorite. Wild card, I guess the scoundrel, the rouge, it’s the Han Solo of the group I guess. It’s the guy who puts you in, or gets you out of situations that you never would have got yourself into or out of to begin with.
As a risk adverse, shy, nerd that felt more comfortable in my hobbit hole, you need that friend to give you the nudge out the door. You need that friend that gets you to do the things that maybe make you slightly uncomfortable, but are good for you. It might be traveling to a new place, approaching somebody you’re afraid to talk to. Signing you up for a competition or a fight, or something that you know you’re ready for, but you’re too afraid to do it. You need that wild card that jumps in there says all right let’s go, and you have to close your eyes and say, “Okay, let’s do it.”
My friend Cash is my wild card. I’ve known Cash since first grade, and he and I were sitting around a few months after I quit my day job. He was like, “Man, we should go to Peru.” I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” He would come to visit when I was living in Atlanta, and then he was like, “Are you serious?” I was like, “Wait? Are you serious? Uh-oh, I think we both said yeah, let’s look into it.” Sure enough they had this super cheap flights to Peru two weeks later, and that was my first time ever traveling outside of North America. It was terrifying to me.
All you read about on the internet is how dangerous it is to travel, and everything is a terror alert red, and blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda. What I found, thanks to me traveling with my wild card buddy, was everybody was so nice. I couldn’t of had more fun, and it’s what gave me the confidence to then book my crazy around the world trip, on which Cash came and visited, and hung out with me in a few different [crosstalk 00:33:08] We met up in Thailand, Germany, Brazil, and in South Africa.
Steve: He’s a pilot, so he can hop on any plane.
Ryan: Oh, cool. Yeah.
Steve: He could hop on, and I got a chance to be the best man at his wedding about a year ago, and it was fun to share some of, not all of, the stories we had traveling. Just some of the stories in my speech. I think everybody needs that person in their life that push. What I found, and I talk about this in the book. If you’re truly aiming to grow as a person, or learn, or whatever. You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Steve: Growth happens outside of that comfort zone. If Bilbo never left the Shire, then The Hobbit would have been a very boring book. If Frodo never took the ring, who knows what would have happened? It would have been a very … Jeez, who knows? In all these instances these people all have somebody else that gives them that nudge out the door, that mini call to action, and it ends up putting them in certain situations, where they’re like, “Er, oh, okay I’m going to do it anyway,” and sure enough every time you’re like, “I’m so glad I did that, and I’m thankful that somebody was nice enough to be a jerk, and push me down the path that I knew I needed to go down, but couldn’t get myself to do it.”
Ryan: Speaking of call to action. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, becoming better at what you’re doing. Something in your book you also talk about is how we can become more anti-fragile with things. You reference Jason Bourne, which is think is awesome, because I love Jason Bourne.
Ryan: Just shift the chat just a little bit, and tell me a little bit about becoming anti-fragile, and how we can become more like Jason Bourne.
Steve: Absolutely. I discovered anti-fragile through a mutual friend of our, Anthony Michael.
Ryan: Anthony, yeah.
Steve: It’s a concept, going by the author Nassim Taleb, and he wrote a phenomenal book about it that was just …
Ryan: It’s a great book.
Steve: It’s like this great mental model that as soon as I read it, I was like this makes so much freaking sense to me. It’s the idea that in life things exist in three types of states. You have things that are fragile, and fragile you hold something up from a certain height, and you drop it and it breaks. Everybody assumes the opposite of fragile is robust, or sturdy, strong, whatever. You drop something from the same height, and it doesn’t break. It just stays where it is. That is not the opposite of fragile. The opposite of fragile is anti-fragile. You drop something from a certain height and it gets stronger.
Ryan: Stronger, yeah.
Steve: It actually thrives on chaos. It thrives on disruption, and for the longest time I thought we humans were fragile. Actually I found out a few years ago that two of my vertebra don’t line up. My L4 and L5 are pretty mismatched, I have a genetic condition. I just walked through life, and this is many years after starting Nerd Fitness. I stopped dead lifting, I stopped squatting, I stopped doing a lot of things, because I just felt like I needed to wrap myself in a handle with care stuff. I felt truly fragile. It wasn’t until I discovered this concept that I learned that we humans are anti-fragile. Not only when you introduce chaos do we get stronger, but if you don’t introduce chaos we get weaker. It’s the use it or lose it. Use it or lose it is truly, I don’t think anybody portrayed that any better than the Pixar move Wall-E.
Steve: In Wall-E it takes place in the future and humans have become so pampered, that they can’t … They’re just gelatinous shapes that sit in a chair, and zero chaos has been introduced to their environment. As a result they become soft, and weak, and they can’t take care of themselves. The second any chaos is introduced they’re screwed. Their chair falls over, and they’re like well that’s pretty much it. I am no longer able to do anything. Instead we need to introduce this concept of chaos, and introducing the right amount of chaos is beneficial. It’s the idea of every time you pick up weights, you’re body, your muscles break down, but then they rebuild themselves stronger. It’s the idea behind introducing portions of a virus into your system so that your body learns how to fight against the virus, and builds up a resistance to it AKA … What’s the world I’m looking for here?
Steve: Inoculation, sure, vaccinations, et cetera.
Ryan: Vaccinations, yeah.
Steve: In the movie The Princess Bride switching the cups around, and he’s like, “Ha, you just drank the poison,” and then the guy falls over. He’s like the poison was in. He’s like no I put poison in both cups. I’ve just been slowly building up a tolerance to it over many, many years.
Ryan: There’s a lot of people over here in Japan who are like that. When they go drinking. They just built up to, and you’re just like wow. Anyway go ahead, sorry.
Steve: This idea of being anti-fragile I immediately resonated with it when it came to building muscle, and structuring my environment in a way so that creature comforts, you have to introduce some chaos here and there. I loved applying it to also how I trained, and how I ate. Because when I spent a year living out of my backpack and traveling, I didn’t have access to a gym. I wasn’t eating six square meals a day out of perfectly proportioned Tupperware container, and…
Ryan: That’s how I eat all the time. [crosstalk 00:39:05]
Steve: Yeah, so it’s this idea that we humans are anti-fragile, and you need to build systems around you that are anti-fragile, that are prepared for chaos. For me when it came to training, that was like okay if I’m now Jason Bourne, how would he interact with the environment? Well, he doesn’t go to the gym, he doesn’t go to Planet Fitness four days a week, and do bicep curls, and then left glut squeezes, and then right calf raises and whatever. Every part of his body works together building him up to become more anti-fragile. Which means he has to put himself in real world chaotic situations, AKA doing a lot of what you guys do a GMB, functional movement, mobility stuff, body weight training. All of these things that can be done anywhere, anytime without the necessarily the need of a gym membership. Because you’re preparing your body to run away from the next assassin, the next government agency that’s trying to take you down, whatever. You need to build a workout plan that can withstand chaos, and can be completed anywhere throughout the world. You need to build a routine that that can be complete.
All of these things tie into you looking at life as introducing more chaos, and then the same thing applies to diet. You’re not eating six square meals a day. It’s applying maybe some intermittent fasting, and eating mostly foods that have survived the test of time. AKA foods that have become anti-fragile, like meat and mostly vegetables, and fruits and nuts. Things that have existed for a long time. They have survived many, many years of chaos, and challenges, and struggled, and have grown, and thrived, and survived through that. Eat those foods, and not the super fragile things. AKA, foods that are in bags and boxes, and whatever.
Steve: You’re going to be much more setup to build a body that is prepared for anything that allows you to do everything.
Ryan: No, and I like it because it’s pretty much you and I just about the same.
Steve: You do.
Ryan: Exactly. It’s like, oh I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this particular workout today. Well, that’s perfectly fine, because there’s other options, and we have the ability to do whatever. Oh, I’m not going to be able to eat today. Oh, it’s going to be fine, no problem. Actually probably better for you. Hey grab an apple, whatever, it’s going to be okay.
Steve: It’s going to be okay.
Ryan: Yeah man.
Steve: People are like stock the metabolic fires, and if I miss breakfast then I’m … It’s like, “No, no, no like you’re…” Imagine if cavemen 50,000 years ago where like, “Oh my God I didn’t get my Captain Crunch this morning. How am I ever going to go track down a Saber Tooth Tiger to bring food.”
Ryan: You’re screwed, you’re screwed man. You’re screwed. You’re done. I’ve been screwed for the past two years. Shit, I better go eat breakfast right now.
Steve: Right [crosstalk 00:42:00]
Ryan: It’s so true, and that’s what I love. I think also just re-framing the way you look at things, and the way that you explained it, I like it. Because who doesn’t want to be like Jason Bourne. I think little things like that, and the way that you shape things, and show people that okay it’s not about necessarily a certain diet. It’s not a certain workout. It’s looking at you, and basically what quest are you on, what do you want to become? I’m not saying that we actually want to become Jason Bourne, but as people we love movies, games, and books, and getting into the character of this particular story, or what not, but the story should be about us. We’re the ones who really should be creating the story of our life, and that’s what I really like about this.
Steve: Thank you man.
Ryan: I could talk about this forever, but we need to wrap it up a little.
Steve: You got it.
Ryan: What is the final advise that you can give to my listeners out there?
Steve: Hmm. I think three things come to mind the most, and it’s that we’re creatures of habit, we are products of our environment, and we become the average of the people that we spend most of our time with. If you can start cultivating discipline to build the right habits, and not rely on will power, and not rely on motivation. If you rely on those two things you’re dead in the water. That’s why everybody gives up on their New Years resolution three weeks in. They don’t put a system in place. They don’t structure their environments to do these things right. Just for … My violin is within arms reach of my desk, because when it was nice and neatly put away in the corner, where it looked nice, blah-blah-blah, I never touched it. I had to buy a $10 stand, and put it next to my desk, and now that I look at it every freaking 15 seconds I’m thinking I need to play more violin. If you are somebody that’s, “Oh, I wish I could write a book,” or blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda. Cancel your cable, get rid of your television.
Steve: Unplug your TV, or do something. You might have to get drastic, cancel Netflix. It’s going to be okay. Those shows you can go back and watch them after you do the things that you need to do. I wanted to start Nerd Fitness for so long, but I was so hooked on a video game, that I couldn’t get myself to do it, until my computer exploded, and I couldn’t afford to fix it. Then all my time went into building Nerd Fitness. You have to introduce these limitations, because if you only rely on yourself to say, “I’m not going to eat the cookie in the cabinet up there, and I’m not going to watch the TV over there, and I’m going to do the things that are good for me.” You’re f’ed. You’re screwed.
So cultivate discipline, build habits, and structure your environment to make those things a win, and then surround yourself with people that are your allies. Surround yourself with your fellowship, your Jedi council, your A-Team, your Justice League, whatever you want to call your group of people, but people that are actively also interested in helping you succeed, and are interested in leveling themselves up. You guys can go on quests and missions together, and make each other better, instead of enabling each other to skip workouts, to watch more things, and eat more terrible foods, and do whatever. If this is important to you, and it is for me. We have one life, we have one body. Might as well take care of it, and do all the cool shit that we’ve ever wanted to do now.
Steve: Tomorrow is no guarantee, so you might as well find a way to be happy now, and do something that makes you feel alive, and helps you grow as a person, and maybe helps other people too. [crosstalk 00:45:45] Cultivate discipline, we’re creatures of habit, surround yourself with good people, and we’re products of our environment, so rearrange your environment until it sets you up to win and not fail.
Ryan: Love it, love it. Hey, listen everybody you can find more info about Steve, and his amazing book LevelUpYourLife.com. That’s one, no hyphen or anything in there name. LevelUpYourLife. Also check out NerdFitness.com, you’re going to love it, guarantee you. Steve thanks so much brother. It’s always such a pleasure to talk to you, and we need to catch up man. Looking forward to seeing you next week in Japan.
Steve: You got it, I’m bringing all of my things, so I hope you like off key violin, because I’m pretty good at that.
Ryan: Love it, yeah I’ll get out my violin too, so we can do a little bit of [crosstalk 00:46:36]
Steve: Thanks for the opportunity.
Ryan: All right man, thank you so much. Until next time, level up. Laters.
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