Steve Kamb, Founder of NerdFitness.com
The Hero’s Journey of Steve Kamb
How the Nerd Fitness founder created a forum that helps geeks everywhere wake up happy and go to bed proud.
Like most superheroes, an inopportune call to action from an oppressive force set Steve Kamb on a quest that led him to not only change his own life, but also the lives of those around him.
For Kamb, it was a call from his boss telling him he was late.
As a construction equipment salesman, Kamb made decent money, but he hated the job and it took an immense toll on his personal well-being. He remembers receiving that phone call from his boss at 7:03 a.m.—the work day started at 7.
And that was it. He quit his job and moved across the country to begin what, by most standards, was a dream job. Kamb wrote cool marketing pieces for music festivals and then went along on the chartered concerts to make sure that everyone had an awesome time. He worked with a great group of people and genuinely enjoyed going to work. But heroes aren’t happy simply helping themselves—there must be a city to save.
And one day, after the motherboard of his computer literally went up in smoke, Steve Kamb pulled himself away from his online game of choice, EverQuest, to begin a new quest. He would go on to build a community that served a very specific subset of a counterculture—nerds who want to get in shape.
A New Quest Begins
Since childhood, Kamb has escaped into books, movies, and video games. As an adult, he found himself wondering how he could harness the power of game mechanics and behavioral psychology to make the kind of changes in life that we never seem to get to on our own. So he did what any right-minded nerd would do, and Googled it.
What he found was a sea of sites offering 30-day cleanses and crazy supplement regimens. Sites that promised secret weight loss plans and quick fixes. But nothing that fit with his life. That was when he knew that Nerd Fitness was going to be something different. He would offer simple, unbiased information for people who spend most of their lives sitting in front of glowing screens, but still want to be fit.
Nerd Fitness started as a blog, where Kamb wrote long-form posts packed with actionable content that his readers could immediately implement. By harnessing the power of the games that “kept him prisoner,” he applied all of the positive aspects of gaming—hanging out with friends, strategizing, teamwork, completing missions, personal achievement, and competition—to developing personal health habits.
The response was amazing. When Kamb released his first e-book, just 30 days after quitting his marketing job, the sales blew him away. There were people who wrote to him to say that they had purchased the book simply as a way to support him and his mission.
The tide had turned. Kamb traded in his video game addiction for an addiction to building something enduring: a community that came to be know as The Rebellion.
Building a Rebellion
The Nerd Fitness message boards became the brand’s greatest asset. Instead of spreading his message thin by attempting to create a presence across multiple social media outlets, in addition to his own site, Kamb applied laser-focus on building a community in his forums.
His goal was to create a space that was rocking at just the right moments and reduce the risk that each new member would walk in on an empty room. When that happens, it’s like a party in which tons of people show up, but all do so 10 minutes apart, he says. Each new partier thinks they are the only one there and they quickly leave because nothing is happening. The place is empty.
To prevent this from happening at his own shindig, Kamb invited 15 to 20 beta testers into the community. These participants were excited to be a part of building something epic and actively posted great content. By the time the official release came, the party was already in full swing.
To keep the party rocking, Kamb routinely polls the cubicle dwellers and average Joes and Jills to find out what they want. Everything from the name of the group down to its very identity reflects the wants and needs of the members. He is extremely purposeful in the language, images and terms he uses throughout the site. It is never we or I and always us and our.
Nerd Fitness Manifesto
Kamb’s goal has never been mass appeal. Instead he has dedicated the site to being a place where a very specific group could get exactly what it needs. It is all about the community—not him, not the general populace, just those who love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and also want to get fit.
The Rebellion has established 11 rules that include: “We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going;” and “When you join, you’re in for life;” and “We train with conviction and intelligence.” To keep the forums pure, Kamb recruited a few super-members to act as moderators, and they are not afraid to throw someone out for crushing the vibe of the group. In this quest, there is no room for haters.
Creating a Hero’s Journey
Every great story has a hero’s journey and Kamb’s is no different. By day he was a marketing assistant and by night, the operator of Nerd Fitness. His adventure has taken him from selling everything he owns and backpacking through several countries to writing a book, Level Up Your Life, that he hopes will do for many what Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek did for him (“it was like discovering The Matrix”).
He wants to “wake up excited and go to bed proud” and help others to achieve the same. Being healthy and fit is all part of that goal. Channeling the obsessive traits that led to hours in front of EverQuest, he has learned that video games can be an inspiration to live a better life. He teaches others how to prioritize their actions to cross off big goals while focusing on happiness, growth, and challenge.
He encourages those starting their own entrepreneurial quests to pick a path that truly excites them and “dump their existence into it,” all while having fun and being unique. It worked for him.
Three Steps for Going from Super-Focused to Super-Fit
It’s no secret that gamers are obsessive; just like entrepreneurs, they can become intently focused on success while the rest of the world fades into the background. However, that focus is probably on building your business and defeating virtual overlords and not so much on personal health.
Here are three steps from the leader of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion that could change all of that:
- Diet is 80% to 90% of the battle. The way you fuel your body is vital. If you want to see any significant changes you simply must change the way you eat.
- Pick an activity that excites you. So many use the excuse that they don’t have time to exercise, yet they find time each day to pore over Facebook posts and watch hours of television. The truth is that, for them, exercise is not a priority. Find an activity that makes it easy for you to put moving at the top of your to-do list.
- Get strong. Strength training teaches us so much about our bodies. Steve channels Henry Rollins’ essay The Iron and The Soul: “The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver…two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”
- How to start a multi-million dollar business in the online fitness industry
- Strategies on writing successful articles to target a specific market of readers and culture
- Not only the importance of an engaged community but the secrets to building one
- Ideas on how to start on writing and publishing your own self-help book
- Important health tips for the busy entrepreneur
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Steve Kamb
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” My name is Nathan Chan and I’m your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. Today as guest we have Steve Kamb from nerdfitness.com and I’m really, really excited to share this episode with you. But before I talk about Steve, I just want to let you guys know what’s up in my world, I don’t know if you’ll find this interesting, I just sometimes I think it’s important to use this podcast as a guesser, a moment in time which I can reflect on one day. And yeah, I’m feeling a little stressed out at the moment and I’ve got a lot on my plate. Right now, this is probably the hardest I’ve ever worked. We’ve got a lot going on. The team’s growing really fast, the biz is growing quite fast now. So for me it’s just I really wanna capitalize on that. And I guess ever since I went to The States that was such a game changer, I have very big ambitions on growth which is contributing to that. So I’m very aggressive on growth now, I’m a bit of a growth junkie you could say. So yeah, that’s it.
In my world we’re preparing for these big launch for our Instagram course. If you do wanna know more about it please do sign up at I guess, go to foundrmag.com/free and you can get our free guide on…it’s a really epic guide on how to get your first 10k followers on Instagram and step by step, it’s really cool. It’s been downloaded close to 100,000 times, it’s very well received. So if you’re wanna know more about that Instagram course that we’re launching and the cool stuff we’re doing there by all means please do download that free guide. So yeah guys, that’s enough about me. A lot on my plate but it’s all good, it’s all well and you know, it’s quality problem to have. I’m having a ton of fun. So, yeah.
Look, about today’s guest, his name is Steve Kamb and he runs a company called nerdfitness.com. And I was really excited to speak with Steve because he’s recently launched a book and that book is called, “Level Up Your Life.” And it’s a guide on how to unlock adventure and happiness by becoming the hero of your own story. And what’s really cool about Steve is he’s just a really nice lovely guy, really he’s built an amazing supportive community at nerdfitness.com and I’ve always being really, really impressed with how he build this community and movement. And that’s what we talk about a lot you know, how can you create a, you know, what he calls a rebellion. And you know, we talk about all sorts of things around how he build these business, they do…I think it was around a couple million a year at least and he just built his business around his passion you know. He’s quite confident when he says he’s a nerd, he loves “Harry Potter,” he loves playing video games and yeah, he just really owns his story. So a lot to take away from this one, really, really interesting. He has a ton of gold, I know I say this all the time but we only post podcasts episodes that share the gold. So that’s it from me guys. Now, let’s jump into the show.
I’m going to ask the first question I ask every one of our guests and that is how did you get your job?
Steve: I build my job. My name is Steve and I’m a nerd, I like to say. I also like to pick up heavy things and stay fit. So seven, wow yeah, seven years ago I had an idea to start a community and blogging business I guess, around this idea of average Jackson Jills and you know, cubicle dwellers, and people that would consider themselves nerdy. I wanted to create a community and a home for those people to get honest real advice about getting fit. I googled nerd and fitness and nothing popped up. So I bought nerdfitness.com and started writing articles and that was the beginning of what is now a worldwide community of people from all walks of life that are helping each other as we say, Level Up Their Lives.
Nathan: Yeah. Well, that’s amazing man. I’m curious when it came to Nerd Fitness and creating these blog and community seven years ago, what was the plan? Like did you have a full time job at the time? Like what…
Steve: Sure. I would love to tell you that I had everything all out but I definitely did not. At the time when I first purchased the website, I was a full time construction equipment salesman. I was quite terrible at my job and very mismatched for the position. So as a result of it I wasn’t very good and I was miserable. And I remember one particular day my boss called me at 07:05 in the morning and told me that I should have already left my apartment and was wondering why I hadn’t left. They had just installed GPS tracking devices on our trucks and my boss could see where I was parked at any time in the day and told me that I was five minutes late from starting my sales calls in the morning. And that’s when I knew that something had to change and that was no way for me to live the next 40 years of my life. So while on a lunch break I stumbled across, I went to a bookstore and stumbled across Tim Ferriss’, “Four Hour Work Week,” which I’m sure many people have as well. Just a phenomenal book that really kind of made me feel like a Neo discovering The Matrix for the first time. Like there’s this whole new world of online industry and small businesses that I was just completely unaware of until that book came around.
So I bought nerdfitness.com and proceeded to do absolutely nothing with it for about a year and a half because I was so afraid to start and worried that nobody would take me seriously. Because fitness up to that point was just a hobby for me. So I actually ended up quitting that first day job and moved across-country to Atlanta, Georgia where I took a job for half of the money that I was making previously but it was a job working for a company that I truly loved and was inspiring to me. So I went to work for them and while I was working for them finally worked up the courage to start writing articles. And up to that point that was literally the extent of my business plan and strategy was, start writing articles and figure the rest out later.
Nathan: Got you. And when it comes to writing articles, were you writing articles around what is good for like nerdy people to I guess, and I don’t even really like the word nerd because I consider myself a bit of a nerd too, but I find it interesting that you proudly say that and I think that’s cool. Because sometimes people don’t like to identify themselves as a nerd, you know what I mean?
Steve: Sure, yeah. I wanted to re-frame kind of how that was defined. I guess now thanks to the success and popularity of Star Wars and Marvel movies and the ability to play you know, video games at any age is now totally accepted. Seven or eight years ago when I started this I wasn’t like, oh I’m gonna capitalize on the popularity of nerd culture, I was like I build computers, and I love playing video games, and I read you know, two books a week, and love fantasy, and things of that nature and I just, I don’t know. I proudly say and have said since that day that like, hell yeah I’m a nerd. Like I’m a nerd in these particular ways and I think being nerdy is not necessarily like you have to have glasses and a pocket protector, like that’s an old stereotype that doesn’t exist. I think more importantly it just means you care about stuff to an extent that you’re passionate about it. It might be collecting something, or digging into research on a particular topic, or getting really good or really fired up about a particular idea or a game or something like that. So I look at nerd as an endearing quality and something that anybody should be proud of if they consider themselves nerdy for some reason.
Nathan: Okay. So what kind of content did you write about? You just wrote about fitness stuff when you first started like?
Steve: Yeah. It was, I don’t know. I was so sick of what I found online when it came to health and fitness advice. Every website that I found tended to have advertisements covering the whole thing, advertising some sort of supplement or weight loss machine, or super-secret workout plan, and really just predatory sales tactics and just a lot of things that really turned me off. And I knew as somebody that had struggled to get in shape, not necessarily struggled to lose weight but for me it was struggling to get healthy and stronger and happier. I couldn’t find a home for myself and I was like, I just want actual information, like somebody just give it to me straight and how can I get in shape while still finding the time and being able to enjoy the things that make me who I am. And when I didn’t find that I set out to create it myself and that’s what Nerd Fitness was. It was super simple, no nonsense, unbiased health and fitness information from the perspective of somebody that spent most of his time in a desk chair or sitting on a couch playing video games but still wanted to get fit. So it was workouts, and diet advice, and you know, motivation, and habit building articles that tended to tie in a nerdy metaphor or nerdy reference or used the reasons why we get addicted to video games and use those same kind of behavioral psychology mechanics to encourage and inspire other people to get off their butts and start doing stuff.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s awesome. Because I think it is a problem that needs to be solved, right?
Steve: Absolutely. I mean, I think we’re finally starting to turn a corner only within the past maybe a year or two but for a long time I mean the upward trend on obesity, heart disease, just everything was, I think up until a few years it was like…today’s generation is the first generation that is expected to live a shorter life span than the previous one. It’s like up until now it had been going the other direction and now like this really ugly trend is we’re eating ourselves to death, we’re sitting and kind of like miserably living our existences away and I wanted to stop that. I think it’s really great to be a nerd but unfortunately lots of nerds like myself have very addictive personalities and when you combine that with an unhealthy or unhappy existence that can result in food addiction, video game addiction, whatever it is you name it. So I set out to kind of re-frame my you know, it wasn’t too bad, but my addiction to specific types of video games and re-framed my life around using those same mechanics to get addicted to leveling up myself personally in real life and found that I was way more fulfilling, made me feel happier, healthier, and actually made me kind of feel proud of what I accomplished at the end of the day.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s funny you say that around you know, having an addictive personality because I remember, and this is funny I’ve never talked about this before, like when I was a lot younger, I’m 28 now, when I was like 17 I used to be super, super addicted to this one computer game called Counter-Strike, did you ever played that man?
Steve: Oh yeah, absolutely. You can run faster if you’re holding the knife, absolutely. Like there’s all sorts of things you need to know.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. That was the best game.
Steve: It’s a great game.
Nathan: Yeah, I was super obsessed with that man. Like I used to play it all the time in high school. It’s crazy. Like and it’s just such a great feeling. Like it is bad though. I remember like that was all I could think about, I couldn’t wait to get home from school just to game and play it with my friends yeah.
Steve: That was my existence except it was with a game called World of Warcraft. game before World of Warcraft which was EverQuest and you know, different companies but very similar in how they’re designed in that it’s online game that is persistently occurring and you build up a character that can take months and years to do and life became the boring thing that I had to endure every day until I could go home and sit at my computer and play to these games. So very similar to you being hooked on Counter-Strike you know, I started to like analyze the games that kept me prisoner and be like, okay why are these games so addicting to me, what makes them so amazing. And for you Counter-Strike is probably like I get to hang out with friends, we get to strategize, and do teamwork, and complete missions, and I get to see myself improve on a regular basis. There’s this aspect of competition so like I try to take those things and boil them down to their base level of whatever it is that targets those you know, those parts of our brains and like let’s start applying those things to real life and see what can happen. And but yeah, I was very much the same way. I was addicted to EverQuest and EverQuest to just 40 plus hours a week probably I would imagine in addition to a full time job.
Nathan: Yeah. So like when it came to start to build your business man, how did you balance it all? Because as a game I think like for me I have that addictive personality where I can only focus on one thing at a time. So and just get…like it’s almost like an obsession. Like how did you build your business? Because you have a very successful business fast forward to now you know, seven years back fast forward to now you know, Nerd Fitness is a multi-million dollar company and you have eight full-time stuff, is that correct?
Steve: That is correct yeah.
Nathan: Yeah. So like how did you do that? Like let’s go through some of that stuff man, because I know that you’ve built up this amazing community and I know there’s a lot we can draw from your community, like building experiences and the things you are doing to foster your community but yeah man. Like first of all how did you get that focus?
Steve: Well, yeah. So what’s funny is there’s a big part of this book that I just written called “Level Up Your Life” and I talk about this idea of the hero’s journey. Every great story in history follows the same path and a big aspect of this journey is a “call to action.” Either an action is forced upon the main character or the main character takes action. And for me on my particular journey I had purchased nerdfitness.com and I couldn’t get myself to stop playing EverQuest. I was like, oh I have to do this other thing and I couldn’t get myself to focus on the idea of turning this into a business. I was still working a full time job trying to write articles for Nerd Fitness but more and more time got sucked into EverQuest. And I kid you not there was one day where the computer that I had built, the fans on it burned out and my motherboard in the computer fried and I didn’t have the money to fix it and that was the only way that I could play EverQuest. So I told myself that moment I was like, you cannot play a single minute of an online game until you make your first dollar with Nerd Fitness as a company. So that was my call to action. All of a sudden like the spell had been broken because I was literally unable to play this game anymore. I was like, okay man it’s time to retake your life and start focusing on Nerd Fitness.
So I started live this dual existence as like you know, like I’m big fan of obviously superheroes but I saw like my day job I was a marketing assistant at a company and by night I was a, you know, I was running nerdfitness.com. I was publishing free articles every day and connecting with readers via email and so on and so forth. And after about, I wanna say 10 months, I got better at writing, I changed my writing style to more what it looks like today but long form articles and Lego photos and tons of personality. We then added message boards and gave the community a way to interact with each other and that was a big turning point for me.
It shifted it from me running a blog and interacting one on one with community members and giving them an opportunity to interact with each other. So we had these message boards, we came up with a name for our community, and I say we meaning like I crowd sourced what I thought our community should be called and I asked them, I said, “Do you guys wanna build an empire or do you wanna start a rebellion?” And the community overwhelmingly came back in and said, we wanna start a rebellion. And I just, as a fan of Star Wars I saw the rebel alliance colors being gray and red and black so overnight I changed the color scheme for Nerd Fitness from I think was like just basic blue and white to the Nerd Fitness logo which is red these days, black and grey. Our community then became called the rebellion. We had a list of rules that we stood for. We recruited members to our rebellion. It shifted it from Steve handing out information to a community of people around the world that were helping each other.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. And what happened next?
Steve: After it became a community I realized that my excitement for Nerd Fitness was something that wasn’t gonna be contained. I had truly become addicted to the idea of building something and I love the idea of being in charge of my own time in my own…becoming my own boss. So after a year and a half I felt like I had built up enough of an audience at Nerd Fitness where I actually went and quit the day job even though I hadn’t made any money yet which is quite terrifying. I remind you my day job was awesome. I was the marketing…I worked in the marketing department of a company that chartered floating music festivals. So my job was to write fun marketing content for music festivals and then I would go on these cruise ships with 30 to 40 bands in the Caribbean and make sure everybody had fun. So I had to walk into an office and say, “I no longer want to hang out with rock stars in the Caribbean, instead I want to hang out with out of unhealthy nerds online and hope that someday I can turn this into an actual business.” Everybody thought I was crazy but there was something there, I knew it. I had helped people get fit, people that were part of the community were really excited about it.
So when I quit I posted a blog post that said, “Hey guys. I’m officially making Nerd Fitness my full time job. I realize I haven’t made any money with it yet but this is what I’m meant to do. Just something about this feels right to me so one month from now I’m gonna put up my first e-book. It’s gonna be available for like 30 bucks or 40 bucks. It’s gonna come with a lifetime money back guarantee but it’s gonna have fitness plans and diet advice and everything nice and neatly packaged into you know, a beautifully designed PDF and I’d love you to check it out. If I sell enough of them that I can keep focusing on Nerd Fitness and if I don’t sell enough of them, that’s okay, I’ll figure out a different way to monetize this community and I’ll pick up odd jobs you know, being a bar back, or a waiter, or a production assistant, or something along those lines.” So I spent the next month terrified and staid up far too late and got up far too early every day, and worked on this e-book and put it out. Ended up selling way more copies of it than I expected to and had many people that purchased it that said things like, “Hey man, I don’t even need this, I just wanna support what you’re doing,” which was really pretty powerful and really just I think I started crying, to be honest with you. Just like this thing that I had dedicated every night and every morning to for a year and a half or maybe two years. It was kind of a validation that what I was doing was working and that I had a viable business idea as well.
So as soon as I put that first e-book out things have just been slowly building from there. I put a second e-book out six months later and actually before I put the second e-book out I sold everything I owned and ended up running the business while living out of a backpack and traveled to 20 plus countries over the next 18 months. So I became, as Tim Ferriss described in his book, like a little digital nomad. I run Nerd Fitness by day and flew to a new country and crossed something epic off of my big bucket list and built the community, added more e-books, slowly built things up from there, added some part time help here and there. And then just recently over the past two years things have kind of exploded, actually up to eight full time team members now bringing on a ninth and we live in eight different states. So everything we do is digitally focused you know, virtual but it’s been pretty cool. Now, I wake up and work on things that I’m excited abou.t I’ve created jobs for people that are really passionate about what we’re trying to do at Nerd Fitness and we have a community of people that are just really excited to be a part of it too.
Nathan: Yeah wow. And I’m curious around what are the products? Like what products do you have out there right now?
Steve: Sure. At the moment we have just two main products, excuse me. We have what’s called the Nerd Fitness Academy that is an online training course of sorts that allows you to create a character. There are missions and quests for you to complete that allow you to actually level up as you are getting healthier and that has workout plans and diet advice. So it’s an updated, upgraded version of those old e-books that I had. And then about six months ago we put out Nerd Fitness yoga which is a series of fitness, you know, yoga videos starring myself and two other people from the Nerd Fitness community, one person that’s on team Nerd Fitness and another yoga instructor that has been in the community for many years. And that was you know, those videos can be downloaded to any device, streamed from anywhere on any medium you choose. So those are the two main products. We also have what’s called Camp Nerd Fitness which is an in person event that takes place once a year. We’ve done two of them so far. The first year we had 150 people. Second one last year we had 300 people, and this upcoming year we’re looking to do 400 people.
It’s a long weekend in the mountains of Georgia at this beautiful corporate retreat with rock climbing walls, waterfalls. We bring in 15 instructors that teach everything from yoga to parkour or power-lifting to martial arts, to sword fighting, to cooking. And then there’s video game competitions, and costume parties, and who can solve a Rubik’s Cube the fastest. So it’s become this great celebration of the Nerd Fitness community and the Nerd Fitness rebellion. And then most recently I just wrote a book called “Level Up Your Life” that I’m excited to share with the world very soon too.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So man, before we talk a little bit about your book which I’m really excited about and excited to read it myself, I’d really like to know how you’ve really fostered this community because that’s not easy, right?
Steve: Again, I wish I could tell you. Looking back now I’m like, “Oh and I did this, this happened and at this inflection point this happened.” Honestly I think it started with making sure I was appealing to the right kind of people. If you go to Nerd Fitness right now, I think if you click on About one of the first links you’ll see is a link to the rules of the rebellion. And it’s a list of 10 or 11 “rules” that we as a community stand for. And you know, it’s things like we don’t care where you came from only where you’re going. So I don’t care if you’re 400 pounds or the next Olympic gold athlete, all we care about is are you better today than you were yesterday. And if you join, you join for life so Nerd Fitness doesn’t believe in half an hour or I’m sorry, you know, 30-day cleanses and detoxes and whatever.
Like we want permanent lifestyle changes that allow you to be healthy for the next 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 years. So when we created a list of rules some of them are slightly more you know, it’s gonna be controversial than others, not truly controversial but we let people know like, hey if you don’t line up with these 10 rules like that’s okay but this isn’t the community for you. We have our message board community with tons of moderators and they gladly kick out people that do not line up or that are not providing a supportive environment for their fellow members. So we let people know, hey we’d love to have you if this lines up with you, if it doesn’t that’s quite all right but this probably isn’t the home for you.
So you know, I get emails all the time for people saying like I wish you wrote about this or you should change your perspective on this, and why don’t you include this type of people. And to them I say like, “I appreciate your comment. However, we are who we are and this is what we stand for and sounds like this is not the place for you. So I wish you the best of luck in whatever community you end up in and kind of go from there.” So we don’t try to appeal to everybody. I think the nerdy language, and this idea of gamification of life, and all the metaphors I use, and the photos, and random asides I put in the articles like probably turned off quite a few people and I’m okay with that. I know it’s not for everybody but those that it is for and those that read all 10 rules of the rebellion and say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes they feel so much more attached to it. And I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from people that say like I feel like I found my new home and that makes me happier than anything. You know, this is tough. If you happen to be the…you know, if you consider yourself a nerd you probably…you know, or maybe the activities that you get excited about are not activities that anybody would deem popular.
And then on top of that you happen to be the only person in your nerdy group of friends that is interested in getting fit like you feel like you’re alone on an island or to use the dirty rules that are the nerdy metaphors that we use, like you feel like an X-Men you know, you’re like Wolverine before you discover that there is this underground society of mutants that you can hang out with. Like you’re not alone. And when people find Nerd Fitness they’re like, oh man I can tell people that I’m excited about Harry Potter and The Hunger Games but I also want to eat better and I can talk freely about both of those subjects and get supported for them. So from day one I just, I wanted to recruit the right type of people. I was proud and confident enough to turn down people that were not a good fit, even if they yelled at me, even if they told me I’m losing out on business or whatever. And then I just I wanted to recruit the right kind of people that would help me moderate, and foster, and grow the community too.
So as the community grew we identified members of the message boards that were active posters, that were very supportive of others and move them into moderator roles, give them special privileges, try to give them special recognition, and truly champion them as leaders of the community. And I’ve just continually tried to go out of my way and say like guys this is your community, I’m just a small part of it, what else do you need, what software do we need to purchase, what sort of content should we be running, how do you feel about the direction of this and really trying to give ownership to everybody that happens to be a part of the community. And give them a chance to have their voice heard, to help them shape the future of our path to world domination and give them a voice.
Nathan: You know, this is awesome and I’m learning things too because we’re trying really hard to foster the founder community at the moment. We’re working on a whole ton of cool stuff to connect everyone together. And you know, if somebody you know, is working on, I guess connecting their community, and building their tribe, and having a home for that tribe, do you recommend forums, Facebook groups, like what should people be doing? What are your thoughts?
Steve: Sure. Well, when I started I think we started with just forums because I saw that, I felt that forums were the most applicable to the nerd community. What I think a lot of people tend to do especially if they’re starting out and it’s only them, is they try to be anywhere and everywhere so they have a Facebook group, and forums, and they’re all over Twitter, and Instagram, and blog posts, and they answer or whatever. And because they’re so scattered and the community is so scattered it doesn’t looked like very much is happening. So when I started the forums at Nerd Fitness I was terrified of re-launching them and you know, kind of the equivalent of a party where one person shows up every 10 minutes but because they don’t see anybody there they leave and then the next person shows up 10 minutes later doesn’t see anybody they leave.
I wanted the party to be rocking by the time people showed up. So I announced to my community that, “Hey I’m gonna add this new feature to my website, I’m looking for people to apply to be a beta tester to help me test this out. You’re gonna be part of something from the ground floor, you’re gonna help me shape the future of it so on and so forth.” And I got 15, 20, 25 people that applied and offered to start posting their workouts, and asking questions, and sharing things on these message boards and because they were brand new and the forums were brand new, people didn’t care that there was nothing there. They were excited at the idea of populating it and working with me to create this thing.
So then when we finally launched it, AKA, we opened the doors to this party there were already people in there having a great time and because everybody showed up they saw the people there they stuck around. Which then reinforced this idea that, hey man this is a pretty cool place where I can get good advice I should stick around too. So it kind of became like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So we’ve seen great success recently with Facebook groups or you know, Facebook page and things like that. I think something that a lot of people probably don’t truly think about is regardless of what kind of business you’re running, like for Nerd Fitness we’re of fitness website. I tell people they should train and eat more vegetables. Like it’s not rocket science. It’s similar information when you break it down to its base level that you can get anywhere else. I think the reason Nerd Fitness works is I’ve tried to create an experience for people, from the language that I use to the terms that we are as a community, to the types of pictures that we use and how we refer to us. It’s not me and my but it’s us and our. I’m sure you’ve noticed that throughout this interview, like that’s how I truly feel, like it’s our community. And when I say us I don’t mean it’s not just me, even when I started there were other people reading and other people contributing.
I think if you can give your community a name, and create an identity for it, and truly crowd source the community to ask them what those ideals and things that you’re gonna stand for, and be around and encourage them to invite their friends that line up with those things, you’re gonna be far more likely to get that engaged group of people that you’re interested in. Instead of what most people do is they you know, they slap up a Facebook post and say like oh you know, like this if you agree on this or leave a comment if you this. You know, and it’s very fake and not genuine. I think when you start with a genuine behavior of I’m trying to help people and we’re trying to recruit the right kind of people, every decision can be shaped off of that.
Nathan: You know, that was gold man. Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s a lot of stuff people can take away when it comes to I guess fostering and building the community. So let’s switch gears and talk about your book, “Live Up your Life.” Like what was the basis of wanting to write this book?
Steve: You know, when I stumbled across Tim Ferriss’ “Four Hour Work Week,” back in 2007 it changed my life. And like I said, like it was discovering The Matrix for the first time for me. It revealed this whole new world of living that I was unfamiliar with up until that point. And I hope this book is kind of paying that forward and somebody down the road walks into a bookstore, sees it on the shelf, is unfamiliar with me and my work but the cover jumps out at them, they pick it up, they read the first page, and they’re hooked, and by the end of the book they now have confidence and excitement to kind of restructure how they live their lives. And it’s called “Level Up Your Life” but it’s truly the idea that video games, life, the things that we used to love as kids can be used as education and inspiration, not just an escape to help us live a better life.
It’s a personal development book for people that don’t like personal development. It’s grounded in behavioral psychology and PubMed studies and teaching people how to prioritize the things that are important to them to finally start crossing those big goals off their list, be and get in shape, travel, learn an instrument, learn a new language, anything along those lines. It’s a book that I wish I had found earlier in my 20s that to my knowledge didn’t exist and now I’m hopeful that other people that might consider themselves nerdy, that are kind of drifting through their lives and not sure of where to go or what is gonna drive them forward.
It’s a fun way to look at how you spend your time, how you structure your goals, how you attack every day in order to do the things that are most important to us. And I think those boil down to you know, happiness and happiness growth and challenge. Like doing things that challenge you, you are growing in an activity or a skill that you’re excited about, and you wake up excited, and go to bed proud. And the book tries to provide a blueprint with step by step instructions and nerdy metaphors and inspiration from some of my favorite characters and to encourage people how to do the same things.
Nathan: Yeah, awesome. And I really like what you doing Steve in the sense that, like I said, it is a massive problem that you know, people that are nerdy or you know, like playing video games, or reading comics, or watching movies, or whatever all the time, sometimes your fitness can be neglected. And I have to ask you, like what are like you know, we have to work towards wrapping up but like what are your top three action items for people that just wanna get in better shape but have that obsessive type personality, whether it’s you know, playing games, whether that’s with your business?
Steve: Sure. Great question. Well, and I know you know how important this stuff is as Richard Branson says, you know, what’s the most important thing an entrepreneur can do to be successful and he says, “Work out.” And I truly believe that me making fitness a focal point for myself has helped me so much more than anything else I’ve done in regards to the business I’m trying to build. It’s taught me how to prioritize my time better, it’s taught me you know, the importance of sleep and how to…the confidence built from getting stronger and fitter and feeling better about myself that truly carries over to every other aspect of your life.
So for somebody that is an entrepreneur or wanna be entrepreneur and they know they need to get fit but they can’t get themselves to do so, the three things that I would say, one, understand that diet is 80% to 90% of the battle. And very few people wanna hear that. They wanna know that they can run for five minutes and then go eat whatever they want and call it a workout and they’ll be fine. How we fuel our bodies is so freaking important and for anybody that’s trying to lose weight, gain muscle, whatever it is diet is 80% to 90% of the battle. And because we don’t promote quick cleanses or quick fixes, I encourage people to make small changes like you know, eating more vegetable…eating one more vegetable this week than you did last week, drinking one less soda.
This really comes down to minimizing sugar, increasing vegetables, chopping out processed foods and attacking this with the right mentality and that’s slow, small, steady changes. Things that you can live with permanently instead of massive sweeping overhaul changes that are too difficult or too difficult to stick with. So step one, address your diet because that’s 90% of the battle.
Secondly, I would say you need to pick an activity that you get excited about. When people tell me they don’t like to exercise, they don’t have time to exercise, what they’re saying is exercise is not a priority for me. And when you re-frame things like that and say, “It’s not a priority for me,” then everything else I’m choosing to do today is a priority. That includes staying up too late watching TV, playing too many video games, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook every day and anything of that nature. So once you kind of understand that it’s what you say or do or what you do is a priority not just what you say is a priority, you can kind of combine that with picking an activity that you’re actually excited about. You don’t need to run on a treadmill. You don’t need to go to a gym. You can get in shape with parkour or gymnastics, Ultimate Frisbee, live action, role playing, yoga, dance, Zumba. Anything else in between playing like rec soccer, rec kickball, rugby, whatever it may be. Find something that you’re excited about and make it a regularly schedule part of what you do.
And then lastly, get strong. Man, nothing beats strength as far as I’m concerned when it comes to getting healthy. It can be as simple as push-ups, squats and pull-ups. They can be done throughout the day, getting up from your desk, in between writing blog posts, or in between meetings, and calls, and things like that. But I think strength training teaches us so much about who we are as a person. There’s a great article by Henry Rollins called “The Iron and The Soul.” And in it he talks about friends come and go and your coworkers might, you know, might feed you lies about, “Oh you’re great,” and, “Oh you’re this and that,” but the iron never lies. And by that he means 200 pounds is gonna be 200 pounds and if you can’t pick it up then you have work to do. You can’t lie your way through that, you can’t have somebody who’s a yes man, tell you that you can do it, you gotta pick it up or if you can’t do a pull up then eventually that’s something you need to work towards.
So to wrap all that up it’s diet is 80% to 90% of the battle. The next small portion of it is doing things that bring you excitement and happiness that get your heart pumping. And lastly, get strong.
Nathan: Awesome. I love it. That was awesome Steve. Before we wrap there just is there anything else that you would like to share, where’s the best place our audience can find you? This has been an amazing chat. We’ve talked about community fitness and I guess really building a business around your passions and what you deem to be important, whether that’s something extremely, obscure or not.
Steve: Yeah. I think that honestly helped me. I was very fortunate that I was too naive or ignorant to realize how oversaturated the online fitness market was when I started. I didn’t know any better. So I was like, I’ll just start a fitness blog. There’s like a bazillion of those but I didn’t know any better. I did know that I didn’t want to write for everybody, I wanted to write to my people, my tribe and that’s why it was Nerd Fitness. And I mean, now we have people like that seems like a very small group of people, we’re closing in on 300,000 email subscribers on Nerd Fitness and growing like crazy. It’s so much fun to watch it happen but it started with one subscriber.
And I knew from the first moment that I got an email from a reader that said, “Hey man this website has really helped me lose weight and I feel great about it and I’m gonna continue reading.” When I got that first email from some random stranger I was like, “Okay, if I can get one, it’s just a matter of scale. It might take me 5 or 10 years but the feeling I’m getting from helping these people help themselves is too great.” So for anybody out there that’s interested in kind of following in these footsteps, I encourage you to pick something you’re truly excited about that you’re going to dump every waking hour of your existence into, understand that it’s going to take a lot of time, don’t try to cater to everybody and if you’re not sure what your thing is yet just pick something that you know that you’re good at that helps make other people’s lives better.
For me it was health and fitness. For anybody else it could be a wide variety of things. But you know, have fun, be unique. And I think Nerd Fitness stands out because I try to do things differently than every other fitness site out there and as a result of that it’s become a breath of fresh air for many people that have come to the site after being jaded and spit out of so many other fitness sites or trying so many crappy fitness products. So I’m proud of who we are and what I’ve been able to build as a company. The crazy scary fun part is I think we’re just getting started. Like it’s where we’re going and where I think we can go as a community is limitless just because it’s a great group of people that just want to help each other get fit, and live better, and support each other doing so.
So I’m excited to be a small part of the Nerd Fitness rebellion, excited to work alongside the people that I’ve been able to hire. And I mean, I just get to do fun stuff every day. Like it’s truly, truly great and really excited about it. So as far as where you can find more about me, I tell the rest of my kind of autobiographical story in this book “Level Up Your Life.” I share stories of 13 other people that have transformed their lives and they come from all walks of lives which is fun. And then you can also find us, just more information or join the rebellion for free at nerdfitness.com.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, thank you so much for your time Steve. That was amazing man.
Steve: Thank you very much for the opportunity and if anybody needs to chat or has any questions on any of this stuff just hit me up, I’m on Twitter @Stevekamb and on Instagram @Stevekamb too where I share some either stupid photos or fun you know, physical fitness photos too of me trying to do some crazy things on gymnastic rings and barbell training.
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- Check out Steve’s book: Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story
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