As any video gamer knows, “leveling up” sees your character’s skills and abilities improve incrementally as you progress through a game.
Steve Kamb, founder of popular wellness brand Nerd Fitness, has just released his first book, “Level Up Your Life,” which applies this concept to real life.
Kamb is no stranger to video games. Like nerds everywhere (including yours truly), he turned video games in high school and beyond to fill the gaps of an unfulfilling life with onscreen sword-swinging adventures, particularly through EverQuest. One day, after a particularly intense session, his computer burned out. Without enough money to fix it, Kamb decided it was time to stop living a life of adventure on screen and create one in real life.
That initiative led Kamb to embark on what he calls “an epic quest of awesomeness” in which he traveled the world and filled his time with real-life adventures. It also led to the successful development of the Nerd Fitness website and what Kamb calls The Rebellion, a challenge to nerds (and muggles too) to gamify and level up their lives through fitness.
“Level Up Your Life” sums up the wisdom Kamb gained from his experience and also offers a road map for anyone looking to follow his path.
While you’ve no doubt heard some of the advice in this book before — cut out time- and money- wasting activities, break tasks down into smaller goals, surround yourself with people better than you — Kamb takes a fresh approach to the self-help and fitness category, walking you through the steps needed to make your life more epic in an extremely geek-friendly way.
For example, the journey starts with “leaving the Shire,” which refers to how Frodo and Bilbo had to be brave enough to leave their creature comforts for their “Lord of the Rings” adventure. Indeed, Kamb has a knack for turning fantasy characters like Neo from the “Matrix” movies, Link from the Legend of Zelda video game and Jason Bourne from the eponymous film series into real-life heroes worth emulating.
Other sections in the book focus on creating your own alter-ego aliases complete with their own origin stories; using 20 seconds of courage to enter “beast mode” to turbocharge through a particularly challenging task; and conquering fear like a young Bruce Wayne caught in a blast of bats.
Kamb also encourages readers to pick classes similar to those found in many role-playing games (RPGs) that align with their preferred fitness regimens. Warriors, for example, thrive on lifting heavy things, Monks specialize in martial arts and Druids gravitate toward yoga and meditation. Of course, as in all good RPGs, class mixing is allowed.
Additionally, the book advises beginning the leveling-up process by putting 5 quests in a series of 10 different categories like “physical,” “mental,” “adventure” and “courage.”
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Gaming language also comes into play. Kamb discusses the three classic ways to fail in a video game: attack a bad guy who’s too powerful, attack too many bad guys at once or attack before you’re fully recovered. He then draws real-life parallels to these situations and gives advice on how to avoid them.
Scattered throughout “Level Up Your Life” are two-page spreads of success stories from members of The Rebellion that prove that Kamb’s leveling up philosophy can really work.
In addition personal anecdotes, Kamb pulls in a variety of studies to support his theories, refers to concepts introduced in other popular self-improvement books, and uses quotes throughout to provide focus and encouragement. My favorite, and one I think best encapsulates the book, comes from Albert Einstein: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”