Ditch the Sorting Hat. Choose Your Own Adventure!


Imagine you’ve just arrived as a first-year wizard at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

You’re scared, you’re alone, and you have no clue what’s happening. At your first dinner in the Greart Hall, complete with four incredibly long tables, floating candles, and headless ghosts, you’re sheepishly lead to the front of the room where an oversized hat is placed on your head. You’re told you’re to join one of the four houses.

Whether you’re put in the house of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, you’ll spend the next seven years in that house, living with other members, competing against other houses, and so on. Ultimately, this initial selection is a BIG deal.

But, if we actually think, the Sorting Hat was only part of the equation. The Sorting Hat was seriously considering sticking Harry Potter into Slytherin, but sent him to Gryffindor because that’s what he chose – he wanted to be in the House of his parents. Hermione too, because of her intellect, was well suited for a different House (Ravenclaw). However, valuing friendship and bravery, Hermione also had her say.

When it comes to books like Harry Potter, video games, or real life, our “class” selection is a pretty big deal. It’s easy to end up heading down a certain path, thinking our decision is out of our control – that we fit in to a particular box because we think that’s what we have to do.

But today we’re going to learn from Harry and Hermione and challenge the “Sorting Hat.” Today we’re standing up for ourselves and choosing our own damn adventure.

Avoid the Sorting Hat Trap

Sorting hat table

Maybe you went to college you knew you always had to attend, and majored in what you always thought you were going to study.

Or maybe, after college you took the job that you thought you were supposed to, or that your parents advised you to take, and now you’re known as the “girl that’s really good at sales presentations…” or “great in Excel,” and a decade goes by before realizing the job you’re currently in isn’t anything like what you set out to do.

Once we start doing something, heading down any path – it’s like we end up as characters in The Breakfast Club: the soccer player, the gamer, the powerlifter, the runner, the nerd, the academic, the ____. It’s as if we’ve been permanently sorted into a House at Hogwarts and we’re stuck with it!

We get scared that if we lose the identity that has been chosen for us, we won’t have one; we won’t know who we are anymore, and we’ll be shunned by the group we just left! It all results in us being an outcast because people’s expectations of us will differ from the new reality (or so we think)…so we keep ourselves pigeonholed in that role.

I remember in High School, and I wanted to play basketball. My brother was the captain, my friends all played, I had just grown from 5′ to 5’11” (yay puberty!) and I got cut. I thought to myself, “if I’m not a basketball player with my friends, then what the heck am I?” I felt like a Gryffindor student that got kicked off the quidditch team…lost.

When I started applying for colleges, I was so excited to follow my brother to Duke University, one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. When I got rejected, again I felt like my world was over. “If I’m not the kid that goes to Duke on early acceptance, and the smart kid, what the heck am I? My life is over!”

When I moved to California after college, I took a job in sales because both of my parents were in sales and they were damn good at it. After six months I learned that I was terrible at sales, but continued to force myself down this path because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I cried weekly asking myself why I wasn’t happy and how I could get better at that gig.

In each of the situations above, I had sorted myself into a category, or felt like I had been sorted…and then panicked when I didn’t fit or wanted to get out. It turns out, I was the one doing the sorting, not my family or friends. It was pressure I had been putting on myself: I struggled with losing my identity that I THOUGHT I needed to have, that I thought others had of me.

I turns out, none of those things were true:

Basketball. I actually didn’t like playing basketball, I just played because I had been playing since I was a kid. I didn’t like the coach either! On top of that, I sucked! I was legitimately not good enough. So, I instead got a gym membership and started training, and discovered a love of health and fitness. Heyo, Nerd Fitness! And my friends on the team? They still liked me!

College. I didn’t know much about Duke other than my brother went there. For any number of reasons, many of which were outside of my control, I wasn’t accepted. WHO CARES! Going to another school allowed me to create a new identity: “Steve” instead of “Jack’s Little brother,” I made tremendous friends, and fell in love with Vanderbilt and Nashville, which is where I currently reside.

Sales. I hated sales! I sucked at it! Once I let myself get over that fear and anxiety, I allowed myself to start thinking of things I actually enjoyed. Marketing, community building, and health and fitness. So far, so good.

If we’re not careful, it’s very easy for us to fall into a path we never envisioned (or wanted!) for ourselves, and it’s very tough for us to get out. That path and that training and that attitude can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we spend our time trying to fit more into this path we’re on, rather than asking “do I even belong on this path?”

And this isn’t just a problem in life – this is a HUGE issue in how we go about fitness and health as well.

Maybe you were the “skinny runner” in high school, or the “fat funny guy” in your group of friends. Pretty soon, you had your group of friends and your way of life, right?

Whether in fitness or in life, it’s time to stop sorting ourselves into the house we think we belong to, or forcing ourselves to live up to the expectations we think others have set for us, and instead start doing stuff that we want to do…for OURSELVES.

Choose your Own Adventure

Hogwarts sign

Our Master Wordsmith Taylor was a runner throughout college and for years after. He was intrigued by the idea of strength training while, but never gave it a try.

It wasn’t until a running injury FORCED him to find another form of exercise that he discovered strength training was something he loved…  In his words:

For years I was reluctant to start to strength train because I was ‘the runner.’ I was the nerdy, sci-fi reading, Star Trek watching, guy who couldn’t touch a weight for fear of becoming a meathead. That was THEIR domain.

At the same time I wanted to be stronger and see what my body was capable of…I wanted to be able to carry heavy boxes for friends, maybe even do a pullup, and and develop a part of my body that wasn’t below my waist.

But this seemingly immutable self-identity paralyzed me. In fact, it wasn’t until I found Nerd Fitness that a crazy idea entered my mind: I could be strong AND be a nerd? What a revolutionary idea 🙂

I wasn’t JUST a runner, or a nerd, or anything else. All of that was just an illusion – and I soon discovered that I get to choose what type of hero I want to be.

The best part of this giant game of life that we are playing is that WE are the hero, and we get to play the game how we want. What you classified yourself as yesterday doesn’t mean you need to classify yourself as the same thing today.

On top of that, we often classify ourselves, and we expect others have these same expectations of us, when in reality it’s all in our mind. We get to determine who we are, and what we want to become.

If we want to change how we train or what we want to accomplish, then we can do that.

If we want to shed the “fat funny guy” tag and instead just become the “funny guy,” we can! If you’re sick of “you’re pretty [fast/quick/flexible]…for a big person,” you can change that.

If we want to mix up our career, there’s nothing stopping us. After all, as Stephen Kellogg says, It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.

When Harry encountered the Sorting hat, the hat was fairly insistent on placing him in Slytherin…and yet Harry fought for, and ended up, in Griffyndor. He chose his own adventure…and I want you to do the same.

The path you’re on


Our whole goal with Nerd Fitness is to remove every barrier, physical and mental, that exists between the current YOU and the YOU that you want to be:

  • You can train in a way that interests you and makes you happy.
  • You can look in the mirror with pride and confidence.
  • You start choosing adventure over the safety confines of your hobbit hole.

If we’re not careful we can end up blindly following down the path we’re currently on, because we THINK we’re supposed to be on it. Before we know it, we’re living a life we never wanted to live.

There may be no literal “Sorting Hat” in our lives, but through our parents, friends, peers, tv, movies, and every other influence in society, there surely is a “Sorting Hat” in our minds.

Last week, there was a post from a 46-year old guy on Reddit that absolutely blew my mind; he reflected back on the past 26 years of his life, and realized he opted for the safe track he was supposed to be on.  This is an absolute MUST-READ.

Listen – you might have always been the “skinny guy” or maybe you were always the “big” one in your group. Thousands and thousands of Rebels have broken free of their old identities and chosen their OWN fate. If they can do it, so can you.

I saw the path I was on, and decided that I didn’t want that path anymore, so I created my own.

It turns out the only regret I have about making those changes is that I didn’t listen to myself sooner. I wanted to choose my own adventure, and after ignoring that path for years and years, I did.

Choose your own class and own adventure

Garden of Forking Paths

Earlier this week, we started a new Six Week Challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards (now ~30,000 people strong).

In it, we encourage people to join a guild, select some challenges, and begin (or continue) your journey. We understand the importance of getting started and picking a class to begin your training.

Heck, our Nerd Fitness Academy allows us to pick a class based on our preferred training style and actually complete quests to earn experience points and level up.

However, we’re also aware that most of us don’t fit perfectly into a particular category.

I know I don’t fit into one or the other! The bottom half of me would be a Warrior: heavy squats and deadlifts, while the top half of me would be an Assassin: gymnastics, handstands, and bodyweight exercises. On top of that, I’m trying to be a druid and learn meditation and created a bard class for my musical passions. You can follow how THIS is going if you want! Yay accountability.

We have people that have started as Warriors and have transitioned into Scouts for a challenge or two!  For example, Stacdogi is taking swimming lessons and goes on runs with her dog now. Though if you see this dog, you’ll see why you couldn’t say no.

Every time I start a new challenge, my goals vary. It might be gaining weight, or getting more flexible, or getting stronger. Sometimes I feel like an assassin, or a ranger, or a warrior. It’s always changing.

So, I want you to stop sorting yourself into a path and blindly following it. Instead of perpetually moving forward with your head down and your eyes closed, choose your own adventure. This applies to not only your training, but even your life decisions.

If you want to change paths, climb different ladders, or play entirely different games, you have the power to do so. Identities are things we often forget to make for ourselves. We have that power. You have that power. And only you.

Audit Your Path


Your mission today is to take 10 minutes and reflect on the path you’re on. Are you blindly reading the book in order? Making decisions based on what you think somebody like you is supposed to do?

Or are you choosing your own adventure?

  • Are you a yogi that always wanted to try strength training, but is using your “yogi” identity to rationalize staying in your corner of the gym?
  • Are you a lifter who is afraid to incorporate cardio (in the form of sports or steady state) because the brofessor told you that’s how it’s done?
  • Are you a girl who can’t possibly lift weights, because girls don’t do that? Don’t wanna get bulky!
  • Are you a runner who only has ever known running, and is using your “runner” identity to stay in your lane?

Don’t wait for a major life event to think critically about what YOU want. Train for you from the get go.  Ask yourself: is staying on this track the best way to make you happy, build your confidence, and improve your health?

Build your class around YOU, not the other way around.  

Question everything means everything – especially your own BS!

YOUR MISSION: Spend 10 minutes auditing your path, both for life and for training:

  • What does your current path and class dictate how you’ll spend your day? Are you happy with the Sorting Hat?
  • What would somebody (you) who is CHOOSING their own adventure do instead?
  • If you have recently rejected the Sorting Hat and switched things up, please share with us!

We rebelled against the Empire for a reason. To think for ourselves. So THINK for yourself. You don’t have to “be” anything – a powerlifter, runner, or even a nerd. Just be you.

Let me know how you plan on branching out and forging a new path. Be specific, and share your story!


PS: Don’t forget, next week we’ll be opening up a small number of early-bird spots for Camp Nerd Fitness 2015, along with full details of the event (which will be taking place in Georgia Sept 30-Oct 4th, 2015).  Sign up for the interest list to get early access, as spots are sure to go fast!


photo source: Peter Asquith: stone path, Bart Everson: Fork Path, Denise PS: Sorting Hat, Andy Castro: Hogwarts Sign, Sarah Ross: Scarf, viviandgnuyen_: sorting hat

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