Title: Level Up Your Life
Author: Steve Kamb
Received for review from Audible
Summary (from Goodreads)
Level Up Your Life uses the principles of video games, movies, television, comic books, and pop culture to teach you how to transform your life in extraordinary ways and collect real-world experiences that are just as amazing and fulfilling as the adventures of comic book heroes and video game characters. Learn how to design your own personal Epic Quest of Awesome through advice on health, fitness, travel, and finance.
Despite being a big believer in taking control of your own destiny and helping yourself to a better life, I’ve always been cautious of ‘self help’ books. A lot of them seem to promise quick riches, instant happiness and other things that don’t exist for the most part. I don’t like the idea of people profiting from selling very improbable dreams to people who are potentially vulnerable – on the poverty line, depressed or just naive.
But this dude runs a website called Nerd Fitness. I wanted to like him. His self help book is based on video game principles. He sounds like my kind of guy. So I gave it a go.
My almost instant impression was that Steve Kamb is a believer. He 100% believes in his product and the message he’s selling. And that message isn’t one that you can blog your way to being richer than Richard Branson, or that if you eat kale you won’t be depressed any more. His message is a simple one – you can be better than you are if you’re prepared to work at it. And his ‘Level Up Your Life’ system provides a framework to help with that.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very nerdy. Kamb constantly references the hero’s journey (which appealed to my writer side) and game mechanics of MMORPGs. Which, if Dungeon and Dragons makes you pull a face and turn away… yeah, don’t buy this book. But if you’re like me – the kid who spent hours levelling their characters on Final Fantasy in order to beat the optional bosses, the adult who still knows what traits are boosted by high willpower rank – then you’ll find yourself right at home with Kamb and his rebellion.
Kamb’s ideas are much about emulating the heroes of your childhood favourite games and films, but they’re backed by some sound scientific principle – namely the science of addiction. Helpful video here if you’re not familiar with the concept, but basically, its about the way our brains are programmed to respond in certain ways, and by exploiting those traits, video games – particularly mobile games – can make the player addicted. But if you take those principles and use them to get your brain addicted to something positive, you can ‘hack’ your brain and make self-improvement a lot more fun. You’ll be on your way to being Lara Croft in no time.
The audiobook is very easy to listen too. I did wonder if this sort of thing would be better digested as written word, but for someone who’s busy, doesn’t necessarily have the time to sit down and dedicate to reading (a lot of the people who Kamb is targeting, the ‘I don’t have time for that’ crew) the audiobook is perfect. And because the book isn’t front loaded with a lot of heavy science, it’s not difficult to follow. With the Audible App breaking the audio down into chapters, it’s easy to go back and re-listen to whatever you need to focus on in particular, as well.
Kamb talks a lot about his website Nerd Fitness, and how you can join the ‘rebellion’ there. He doesn’t mention that it costs $99 to gain full access to the site (though, that is a one time fee for lifetime membership, which I think is incredibly reasonable compared to other subscription sites). There is a free portion, on which you can create your character and record your ‘quests’ and life goals, but to have the full Level Up experience you would need membership.
However, as just a book on it’s own, there’s more than enough helpful advice, inspiration and framework for the nerd in want of self improvement to go it alone. So, if you have a dream and feel in the need of a kick in the butt, or just feel stuck in a rut and not sure how to help yourself, I’d recommend Level Up Your Life. It’s certainly inspired me.