Become Your Own Hero: A Review of Level Up Your Life


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(Photo: levelupyourlife.com)

Have you ever turned a corner in life and known immediately it was changed from that point forward? Mostly we can look back in retrospect and pick out the moments when something important happened that altered our lives. It’s always easiest to do after the fact but then there are those instances when we know instantly that we’ve opened a new door in life and it’s leading us down an uncharted path.

The minute I began reading Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life I knew I had reached a turning point. I’ve read, or listened to, my share of Self-Help or Personal Development books in the past. Not to mention all the videos you can find on YouTube in all its free glory. This book is the Neo of all PD books. (mmhhmm…it’s, it’s the one, you know like the Matrix. What? You haven’t seen the matrix? Go watch it and then come back.)

As a young man I scoffed at such books labeling them, garbage that only weak people needed. (Have I mentioned I was the worst at 20 years old? Oh, I was the worst.) I imagine many people were or currently are in that mindset and think they have all the answers already. But we all grow wiser with age, as they say, and it’s true. We reach the beginning of adulthood thinking we are indestructible and we’ve learned everything we possibly need to know for the remainder of our lives. The truth is we are consummate learners when we are given the chance. Combine that with the willingness and the ability to accept and be flexible to change and we have no limits.

The process of life is change. It is happening all around us every second of the day and there is nothing we can do to stop change from happening. Life is change and resisting it is to resist life. In my humble opinion the best we can hope for is to direct the changes in our life where we want them to go and allow and adjust for the times when it goes off course.

I am Steve. Both 33-year-olds (Happy Birthday Steve) raised in small towns in the Northeast by loving middle class families. We were both involved in numerous activities as kids/teenagers and we only seem to differ in our academic ambition (he was 2nd in his class in high school and I was average, yup, the 50th percentile exactly.) Perhaps my lack of drive and his abundance could account for his eventual early successes and my only newly realized passion to persevere but that is neither here nor there. Although, my lack of effort in school and his integrity to achieve did not separate us from sharing the problem we both faced in college; we had no clue what to be when we grew up. We both just settled for our majors and spent our college years having fun as often as possible outside of class graduating no closer to any definitive plans for the future.

This is where our similarities end. Steve made the smart move to a secure job out of college (although he hated it) and I drifted to Las Vegas with no direction in site. We both have always had the adventurer’s spirit but both fear the unknown and find it hard to step out of our comfort zones on occasion. His adventurous spirit led him to quit his secure job and move across the country and mine found me working on a cruise ship in Hawaii. Steve worked at a job he loved, albeit briefly, in his new home but eventually left and developed the now wildly successful nerdfitness.com and the beginning of his life’s adventure is history. What should have been the beginning of an adventure for me subsided when I fell into a comfort rut which I stayed in for the last eleven years, until recently.

If you have followed my blog so far you might know I’ve only recently begun writing again after years of fear and insecurity clouding my dreams and “life getting in the way.” Is that an accurate way to describe life? Is life something that gets in the way of the things you really want to do? Hell no, life is the way. It’s not getting in the way. When we say something like that we’re referring to the grind that is surviving in today’s world. Working for pay that isn’t sustainable, most often in jobs we hate and never feeling like we can get ahead or are making an impact. We focus so much on just paying the bills and “staying afloat” and spend free time recovering or wallowing that we let time pass us by, not life. Life is happening and it is our choice how we fill in the time while it does, happen.

Now I know you’re already saying the words that I, myself, have said many times before. Steve addresses these same excuses in his book: no time, no money, my job, too old, lack of opportunities, and the call to be more realistic. These are major concerns and they should not be discounted but they also should not get in the way of living life. The problem most of us face is fear to step out of our comfort zones (or “hobbit holes” like Steve calls them) and take a chance doing something we know won’t be regretted. It’s a pretty well known fact in this day and age that when people lie on their deathbeds it is the things they didn’t do in life they regret, not the things they did do.

Level Up Your Life provides its reader with a plan toward reaching goals and self-fulfillment like I have never come across before. With his concept of applying the standard incentives of most role-playing games both live action (Dungeons & Dragons) and video games (Assassins Creed to name one of many) Steve has literally made achieving goals a mission you complete in your own game: life.

Not a gamer? Neither am I, in fact for a 33-year-old male in the United States I’m probably of the minority when it comes to that. However, the concept Steve uses still struck a chord with me. It didn’t hurt that he is a fan of, to name a few, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, and superheroes, although my allegiances lie closer to Peter Parker than Steve Rogers but at least we’re routing for the same team. He doesn’t just shamelessly reference classic nerd bait either, he manages to tie in the journey most of our favorite characters go through to real life and delivers a fresh look at being the “hero of our own stories.”

Granted, I’m Steve’s target audience but if you dig deeper into the members of the, appropriately named, Rebellion (the community of folks leveling up their lives one quest at a time) you’ll find men and women in their 20’s through their 70’s in different parts of the world with a wide variety of socioeconomic, cultural, and educational backgrounds. This is a testament to the idea Steve has laid out. Or it could just be there are nerds in all walks of life and either way it doesn’t matter. With the help of his book and nerdfitness.com folks are getting themselves physically and mentally in shape and stepping out into the world taking control of their lives and becoming the heroes they’ve always wanted to be; their own.

So where does that leave me? Here I am at this corner I’ve just turned entering a new path in my game of life.

Personally, I have been dedicated to my health and fitness for close to nine years. It’s something that came easy to me having been an athlete as a kid and being blessed with a good metabolism. I am grateful for my advantage in this aspect of life, as I know it is difficult for so many people and can be taken for granted sometimes by people that come by it easier. However, were I excel in one area I more than make up for by lacking in another.

Steve’s focus is primarily with helping people get in shape and healthy but this book deals with more than just that. I have had the difficulty of applying myself in life and pushing myself out of other comfort zones. I have allowed my fears to guide me for the past decade and it has been a struggle to find my way. Many books, videos, lectures, pieces of advice, and internal reflections before Level Up Your Life have lead me to a point where picking up this book made an undeniable and eternal impact. I have taken Steve’s concepts and through levelupyourlife.com created a profile where I now create new quests for myself to accomplish to finally find peace and enjoyment in my life. (That’s right! Leave it to a nerd to write a self help book about turning your life into a game and make it interactive through a website where you can play your life’s game.)

Since beginning this I have found myself happier in all other areas of my life as well. I entered to run in the Maui Marathon coming up in October. I have never attempted a challenge like this before but have wanted to for many years. By using the “20 seconds of courage” method Steve borrowed from the movie We Bought a Zoo (Not the best Matte Damon flick but Steve mentions Jason Bourne at length so we’ll let it side) I signed up for the marathon without backing out and finding reason why I couldn’t. Now I’m on a training plan to get me race ready in a little under 17 weeks.

I made a quest to make a living as a writer and laid out steps to build my way to accomplishing that as well. I made other quests as well. I want to learn new languages and travel to the areas where it is spoken and speak it. I want to hike both the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. I want to bungee jump and sky dive. My adventurer’s spirit has returned and I won’t let it leave this time. It is and has always been who I am.

Now, I know I will stumble and have to overcome obstacles but that makes life exciting and loving the struggle, even when I want to hate it, keeps a smile on my face.

I highly recommend this book to any nerd or non-nerd. (I hate labels by the way so anyone could benefit from reading this book. Are you anyone? Great! Check it out then.) Whether you’re looking to change your life or not, it’s an interesting read. The intensity and passion Steve possesses is evident in his writing. His company is still growing so he is still grounded, yet optimistic and he is completely relatable which leaves me and people like me with hope for our own journeys.

If you can relate to anything I’ve said or just want an easy read with tons of pop culture references then head over to levelupyourlife.com and take a look at what it offers and I promise you’ll be buying it before the day is over.

Life is already a game we all play. Maybe it’s time we play it by our own rules.

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