The Nerdist Way

Originally posted on 10-3-12 and moved here for mobile viewing.

Chris Hardwick was right. It’s working.

I picked up Chris Hardwick’s book The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) after a 3-month hold from my local library. It wasn’t that I was cheap or lazy, more like treading a river of medical challenge and debt after I flipped my canoe over and watched my cooler and gear go floating away. Ok, metaphorically. I finally admitted I could no longer fake keeping a job and spent a year at home trying to convince myself I could hold it together while I watched my life crumble away.

Quick note on medical challenges- your doctor is not there to hand your life back to you. I clearly wasn’t going to snap back and realized I need to form a team. At my request, my doctor referred me to a psychologist in the building, and out of very real desperation I found a good chiropractor who actually uses assessment and progression tools to design a 3-month program. I spent another year pursuing the overall ultimate goals of being able to walk without meds and take care of myself without assistance, and also to learn to communicate better so neither my time nor my doctors’ times would be wasted, which is really easy to do when you’re as socially deficit as I am.

I was able to get only so far with that and stalled out. I had been living with (and up to the point of quitting work had been able to successfully hide) several spinal injuries and severe fibromyalgia on top of occipital nerve damage and all the glorious anxiety Asperger’s brings when my world toppled. I reached a functioning-around-the-house point and hit a brick wall. I kept treading that dang river thinking I couldn’t last and would eventually let go and float away with the metaphorical cooler. My ultimate goals turned into ultimate irony as I went through another incredibly long and stupid illness and started developing allergies left and right to all kinds of medications. I wound up having to get off them *anyway* and fly solo.

It’s a hard thing facing a dark life of pain and dysfunction while you sit home alone all day, day after day, way out of town and not much more distraction than a television set and a computer. Fortunately, the library sent me an email saying The Nerdist Way was ready for pickup…

I have to admit, at that point, I didn’t envision that book meaning much more to me than a little light entertainment from the Web Soup guy on G4. I didn’t know another soul who watched G4, but that channel had become a staple, a lifeline back to the real world full of busy people doing cool things- E3, Comic Con, gaming, mocking the lesser brained. Web Soup was something Scott would watch with me after work, except he had to close his eyes during the Things You Can’t Unsee segments. Booya!

Chris had me at the loving dedication. He owned me with the introduction. But the rest of the book is changing my life.

He figured it out. Chris Hardwick actually figured out how to bridge the yawning chasm between getting completely stuck in a robotic logic loop and stepping back into a linear forward progression. My whole life had stalled out, kind of like a huge writer’s block. No more good ideas were coming to me, I couldn’t solve my problems from where I was stuck. I basically had full blown *life block*. I thought I would be stuck in a semi functional disability state forever. The doctors couldn’t do anything else for me unless I opted for spinal surgeries. The psychologist helped me tread water to a metaphorical rock, but I was still stuck on the river without a metaphorical canoe to paddle. The chiropractor could only do so much, the rest is up to me. But what do I do? How do I start?

The first chapter was about what an awesome brain I have. I know! I really do have an awesome brain! But it’s stuck! What do I do, Chris?

And Chris said, Design your game and RPG your life.

 photo shock.gif You mean, actually do all the FUN stuff I love so much? But, but, that’s… a waste of time! (So many people have told me that.) No, it’s not! Chris said. Then he said a lot of cool stuff about how I’m a natural gamer, and I believe him, because it’s TRUE. It’s like he was reading my mind. I got spooky arm hair bumps. (I really did.) He even told me to inventory my weapons. *wow* No one has ever swooned the evil villain in me before. But Chris KNOWS. He UNDERSTANDS.

So I started floating around the house feeling really good about myself for the first time in several years. So I’m a dysfunctional crip, so what, I can FIX THIS. Chris actually broke it down into cheerful cheesy little steps and had me following the trail like a leprechaun following little golden cheerios.

You did what he said? ME TOO! Yes, I actually went out and bought some really cool spirals and colored pens and stickers! And footies, because footies are cool, too.

Scott says they’re labels. He prints tape that ships nationwide, and he is really old school about the product. I nyahed him and pointed to the word “stickers” on the package, right next to the word “autocollants”. They’re funner if they’re stickers, so that’s what I got.

That was the beginning of a complete turnaround. I know, sounds ludicrous, right? I didn’t really believe it at first, either. I was just grabbing onto the permission someone had finally given me to love the nerdy self that I am. But it wasn’t long before I realized I actually was doing it, making decisions and finding more metaphorical rocks to step over to get out of that river. Why even worry about where I’ll get another metaphorical canoe when I can rewrite my game and *fly* to where I want to go?

I set all new goals. I want to get off disability, and I want to do it my way. Maybe I can’t go back to a regular job, but I can create and do my own work. And everything I do now is work. What I do with my time IS my job. And I really really love my job.

Chapter by chapter, months after that book went back to the library, I’ve been following the same path Chris laid out. The guy said some magical things about his anxiety that suddenly made my anxiety ok. (I showed his book to my psychologist at that point, and he wrote down the title.) Then Chris said magical stuff about body building. Wait, whaaa? Nerds and evil villains need core strength and getting a personal trainer is cool?

You would be surprised how easy it is to get into physical therapy and actually have a one on one person to get you started. If your health care package (insurance, medicare, whatever) has PT in the plan, I highly recommend taking advantage of it. Chris is right, there is nothing like a real person with a real schedule taking an interest in how you properly move and function and improve several times a week for a month. I’ve gotten some really useful tips and instructions on how to get more accomplished at home. And after PT it was much easier to continue with a related fitness center than to simply join a gym. My therapist took me on a tour of the fitness center to get me started, and I’m thrilled I have a good reason to get out of the house now. Far too long the reasons have been tinged with negative connections to my limitations, now the reason is because I’m getting BETTER.

Sitting around waiting for everything to magically fix itself while I heal from illness and injury just doesn’t work. What I had been missing was how to make a Plan. I know what I want, I just didn’t know how to go about getting it, or how to ask for help beyond the basics. And how can a person ask for help without being able to clearly state what their needs really are? Chris broke it down into nerd speak, and it all made sense where other self help attempts have failed.

From my private blog on Sunday, February 19, 2012

“If you can develop the ability to get through stuff that you don’t feel like doing and come out of it stronger, how could you not become a force of nature?” –Chris Hardwick

Two things are super impressing me about Chris Hardwick’s books. 1) His wicked anxiety attacks are worse than mine ever were. And 2) he lived with excruciating pain from a spinal injury incurred in his lower back during an accident. He KNOWS the hell I’ve lived through. And his brain works like MINE. He says us nerds all use our brains the same way, and our biggest obstacle (our nerdism) is also our biggest asset, but we have to retrain our brains. I’ve already come to some of the same conclusions as he has about things in life, getting through stuff, but he has such a gift for organizing and saying it succinctly. Wow.

So I have some direction now. I never meant to be reading a self help book especially tailored to *moi*, it was pure accident because I had no clue what this book was, but I don’t feel so chumpy about feeling stalled out now. All I have to do is turn my horizon a little bit and get a different view and then work on incremental changes again. Which I am very familiar with, especially with the xanax taper and weight loss, but just didn’t see a direction to go in this time.

That was not quite 8 months ago. In 8 months I have accomplished more than in the last 5 years. There is a lot more in that book, and every bit of it is doing me good. It is really hard to find your motivation and keep up momentum when you are so way down you cling to a metaphorical rock, but Chris got my attention and teased me right out of that funk, and now watch me fly…

I just want to say, Thank you, Chris Hardwick, for writing The Nerdist Way. You have done for me what no other person on this planet could do when I needed it the most. I have a way to deal now, I have a direction, and my brain thanks you for getting me off its metaphorical butt.


:edit: 10-25-12 Ok, here is new stuff. I’m noticing noobs at the fitness center diving in without any guidance, and I just wanna say ~please~ don’t do like this chick in an excerpt from my private blog last week- again, please be warned it’s a private blog for a *reason*-

“I did the recumbent nustep machine two days in a row since I was in town both days, and boy can I feel it in my thighs. That machine looks like a waste of time, especially on as low a setting as I have it, but it really does make your muscles work, even if you can’t feel it at the time. ‘Low impact’. Yeah, I’m on the brink of a low impact charley horse in my thigh, whee. Fun with fibro. There was a big chick beside me on a recumbent elliptical who was pedaling like a bat outa hell, her fat was flapping madly in the breeze, and then she moved to other machines and worked the crap out like get the hell outa my body ye globular lipid demons, and a tech even came over and cautioned her to slow down. Bet she’s feeling it *now*… Bet she can’t even move this morning. Bet she hates exercise and hates the world and seethes right over to a carb load to justify all the suffering she’s going through today.”

THAT is why it’s important to start with a personal trainer, like Chris says. I haven’t seen that woman again, and it’s possible she really did hurt herself, she was practically Jackie Chan all over those machines. That is NOT how you tackle getting your stuff back in order. Follow Chris’s advice, incremental steps, take your time, the goal is future self having mobility, not becoming a barbie or a dude. I can’t say enough how motivating that part of the book was for me, because *nothing* else I’ve ever read has kept me at it this long. CHRIS KNOWS. Trust the Nerdist, the Nerdist is good. And he says it so nerdily cool, even if you don’t do it, at least just read it.

Like this post? This story continues at Team Nerd. Click the pic to get the book.

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