In my nearly six years of writing for Nerd Fitness, I’ve come to a big realization that has guided my daily decision making process.
Books, games, movies, and our own experiences are a chance to do one of two things: temporarily escape our own existences, or get inspired to improve ourselves in real life.
These decisions start innocently at an early age.
As kids, we use those books, games, and moves as both a fun escape and inspiration. When our parents asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and we mentioned things like: “I’m gonna be strong like Popeye!” or “I’m going to travel like Dora!” – the response was always “you can be whatever you want, you can do anything!”
I remember playing Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as a kid; I would go out into my backyard, imagine it was the Lost Woods, picture myself as Link, and feel like the fate of Hyrule was truly in my hands. It was a great mixture of imagination AND adventure.
Then, something happens: we grow up.
We stop thinking of what’s possible and instead think of what’s rational, responsible, and realistic. Anything outside of the norm (which is bizarre term) is an opportunity to be judged by our peers, our family, our friends.
And damnit, we’re busy! We tell ourselves that we can’t do the things we want to do. We tell ourselves we don’t have the time, money, or the genetic gifts to accomplish our goals.
Those games and books and movies that used to provide a chance for our imaginations to run wild and inspire us to LIVE our fantasies are just a chance to escape a dull existence.
In fact, I was in trouble of getting caught in this cycle until deciding to flip reality on its head. This was the subject of my 2012 TEDx Talk.
Luckily, I found my way out, and now I’m a part of a group of folks that have found their way out too: The Nerd Fitness Rebellion. We love these games, books and movies – but they’re used as inspiration, rather than escape.
Remember, we are presented with two choices as Nerds and Rebels:
We can daydream about becoming Superman, the man of steel, or we can find a way to get stronger.
We can wish that we could run like the Flash, or we can work on getting faster.
We can lie awake imagining life as Indiana Jones, or we could set aside five dollars today for that trip.
We can be jealous of Tony Stark’s Ironman suit, or we can decide to rebuild ourselves.
We can admire the honor of Captain America, or we find a way to embody his spirit.
We can watch in awe as Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow moves gracefully through any environment, or we can start to train like him.
We can complain that we don’t look like that other person at the the gym, or we can make the comparison to ourselves from yesterday.
Every time we make a decision to get lost instead of inspired, we are telling ourselves “imagination land is better than reality.”
We choose to remain trapped in the Matrix – trapped in our own dream, like Cobb in Inception.
In The Two Towers, when Aragorn asks Eowyn what she fears, her reply is perfect:
“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”
Nerd Fitness is a community of Rebels who know this all too well, and have chosen to break free of that cage.
We’ve chosen to be unplugged from the Matrix.
We use our characters as inspiration for what is possible. We use those books and movies as blueprints to start planning our own adventure.
And then we get off our asses, step outside our hobbit holes, and see where the road takes us.
What character or story have you used as an escape in the past? How did you turn it, or plan to turn it, into your inspiration?
PS: Nerd Fitness was featured in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. If you happen to be a new reader thanks to that article, welcome to the Rebellion! We’re glad to have you 🙂
photo source: @ambrgarnr: Don’t Escape, Get Inspired