Review of The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick (@nerdist)
I’ll be honest, when I first picked up a copy of The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick I was skeptical. In fact, I was probably somewhere beyond skeptical and well into downright convinced that I had nothing to gain from the book. I am a fan of Hardwick’s Nerdist Podcast, but I have never viewed myself as the type of person who is in need of ‘self-help.’ Hardwick divides the book into three sections: Mind, Body, and Time. As you might have surmised, the Mind section is the motivational section, trying to teach you how to get out of your own way so you can do what you want in your life, the Body section is a basic guide to exercise and (some) nutrition, and the Time section is, obviously, about time management. Each of these sections is interspersed with autobiographical bits about Hardwick’s fast success as a host on MTV, his fall into an overweight party guy, and subsequent reemergence as a geek media mogul.
To be sure, The Nerdist Way falls into the category of ‘self-help book.’ The kind of thing you might snicker at as you past in the book store, mulling over what sort of sorry person would turn to a book for motivation. The truth is: A lot of people could probably use some extra motivation and there is no shame in turning to a book, which is great because it is totally not judging you, to give you that extra push. In any case, I listen to Hardwick’s podcast a lot and purchased his book (which was released some six months ago) as much as a sign of support for my enjoyment of his other endeavors (I’ve linked All-Star Bowling on this very blog a couple of times) than it was for any need for help.
The Mind section of The Nerdist Way was, for me, easily the most impressive part of the book. Hardwick’s tone is upbeat, but rarely cloying. Much like in his podcasts, he always strikes me as a genuine guy and I think that helped me get more out of this section. Let’s be honest, this is probably not exactly ground-breaking material. It was, however, for me, motivational and that is probably the standard we should hold this type of book up to. Hardwick is a living example that if you go out and really try to do what you want to, and take some risks, great things could happen to you. He is also a great example that if you sit around and wait for success to find you, it probably won’t. I know people will be quick to point out that Hardwick was already almost-famous when he started The Nerdist podcast and there really is no answer to that, but if you have a project you work on – say – a blog, a podcast, art, film-making, or whatever other creative interest you may have, there is probably a nice little push in this section of the book for you. The neatest concept in the entire book was the idea of a personal character sheet. Giving yourself goals and rewarding yourself with experience for each one. I know there are tons of apps and Web pages that do just this, but my history as a roleplayer makes the idea of a paper character sheet on grid paper more appealing to me. Also, that piece of grid paper will have more customization than any program ever could. I think a lot of people would be amazed if they tried this out how much just that little extra nudge and feeling like, even when you completed a small part of a large project, that you have accomplished something.
The Body section of The Nerdist Way is mostly a breakdown of sample exercise routines mainly aimed at those that try to excuse themselves from exercising because they don’t have time or they don’t know where to start. I’m not a fitness guru, so I’m not in the greatest position to tell you whether or not these are the most effective workouts in the world, but they certainly appear to do what they set out to do, which is give exercise neophytes fast, easy exercise routines to get them on the road to fitness. For those that already have an exercise routine, there probably isn’t much here that you don’t already know. The main thing I got out of the Body section was thinking a little more about varying my workouts and stretching more. It also got me to start taking my multi-vitamins and fish oil again after I had gotten out of the habit, so I guess that’s a win.
Finally, the Time section discusses budgeting, calendaring, and general time management. The information here is good stuff but, if you are already great at scheduling your time, there may not be too much of use of you here. Still, I have been surprised over and over again how little some people manage their money and time, so a reminder that they should be managing those things is likely a good thing.
All of this information is, as previously mentioned, relayed through Hardwick’s experiences. The anecdotes are generally entertaining and, most of all, seem genuine. Hardwick has gone through a lot to get to where he is now and his struggles to figure out who he was and his self-redirection around age 30 definitely help gives hope that it’s never too late to quit doing something you hate to try doing something you love.
The truth is, everyone will probably get something different from The Nerdist Way. When I read it, I had a lot going on in my life. Starting this blog, two children, working two jobs, and working towards a Master’s degree had my head spinning and – at times – I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going with all of it. The Nerdist Way definitely helped me have a frame of mind to push through it and work towards clearly identify my goals. For me, that was worth the cost of admission. The book covers a wide range of topics from exercise, to motivation, to budgeting, and, my guess is, most people will get something out of it if they try to. Does it cover everything? Nope. But, what The Nerdist Way does is provide a self-help book framed with anecdotes from a guy that lived through needing all that advice and came out the other side successful. The Nerdist Way was released on November 1, 2011, and is available in Kindle, iBooks, and Nook eBook formats (I read it on a Nook), hardcover, and, possibly, from a local independent bookseller if such a thing still exists near you.