The One Thing Holding You Back


Nerds tend to be on the smarter side of average.

We spend hours analyzing, comparing, calculating, and digging deeper into many of the choices we make every day.  It’s what makes us nerds! And a lot of the time,  it’s a good thing: we get to make decisions with all sorts of information, leaving us feeling confident that we made the most informed decision possible.

Unfortunately, it can also be an incredibly bad thing.  Nerds can rationalize a million different scenarios in our mind for any decision we make (and we tend to have really overactive imaginations).

It’s this rationalization that we use to convince ourselves not to try at all, because of the million different things that could go wrong:

  • The workout plan could not work, and it means I’m a failure. It probably won’t work.
  • Trying that diet advice might not work for me because it didn’t work for this guy I know.  Why even bother?
  • Walking up to that girl and telling her that I think she’s cute might get me a funny look.  She’ll probably just reject me.
  • Why submit that proposal for a new idea at work. What if it bombs and I get fired?

Think about the last time you talked yourself out of trying something or fully committing to something.

We tell ourselves that it’s not worth the effort because we’re scared of failing, we try it but don’t put the full effort in, or we overanalyze the situation to the point of paralysis…

And thus, we do nothing.

We come up with every possible way it can all go wrong as an excuse for inaction. I’m here to tell you that us nerds have been approaching this all wrong. There’s only one question that really matters:

What if it all goes right?

What if it all goes right?


Over the past few years, I’ve made plenty of drastic changes to my life:

From getting stronger and healthier, changing my diet, building self confidence and self-respect, to quitting an unbelievable day job to focus solely on helping nerds get healthy and exercising around the world.

My life is incredibly different than it was tin 2010. 

I don’t think I’m any different or better or smarter than the average bear; I still have the same thoughts, hopes, and fears as every other nerd out there (What if this fails? What if this doesn’t work? What if things go wrong? What if that person doesn’t want to talk to me?), but I’ve chosen to rewire my brain to compare those fears and anxieties against the alternative:

What if it all goes right?

In observing the successes and “failures” of thousands of people in the Nerd Fitness Community,  I’ve come to learn that Rebels who accept the potential for failure along with the potential for success are the ones that end up changing their lives for the better.

They see somebody like Joe, who lost 130 pounds in 10 months, and say to themselves: “Hey, if he can do it, maybe I can too!” And then they start.

Compare that to somebody who sees Joe’s success story and says: “He’s so lucky, there’s no way I could do that.”  “Probably not real, no way could that happen.” “Why bother? I’ve tried and failed before.” “My situation is different, so it won’t work for me.”

I made a very distinct change with my mindset that got me where I am today: I saw people doing the things that I wanted to be doing and then told myself “if they can do it, so can I.”

Then I worked every day towards achieving my goals.

I understood that small changes can result in monumental results over time (Thanks Optimus Prime!).

Fear redefined

table mountain

“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” – Cheri Huber

You might be thinking: “Okay Steve, you made some changes, blindly ignored fear, and leveled up your life.  Good for you. What about those of us who can’t ignore fear and are in [insert different life scenario here]?”

Believe it or not, I didn’t blindly ignore fear to make these changes.  

I’m naturally a very risk averse person and would much rather sit on my couch and play video games than take chances.  However, I still choose to do things that scare me because I know it makes me a better person.  I also have a lot of help from my wildcard.

So how did I overcome these hurdles and destroy fear?

By defining it.

This philosophy from Tim Ferris (one of my Yodas) really helped me define my fears and overcome them.  It’s absolutely worth five minutes of your time to watch and try: 

Tim Ferris – Practical Pessimism Video

And it make sense; it turns out there’s actually an evolutionary reason we tend to overvalue negativity:  way back in the day, it was better to lose the meal than get eaten yourself, right?

Unfortunately, that “feature” from our brain has become more of a “bug” in the 21st century, as it keeps us complacent.

Don’t worry about trying to ignore your fear.

Define it.

First, determine the “worst possible scenario” for the decision you’re debating over and how you could get back on your feet should things go wrong. More often than not, you’ll realize that the “worst case” is really only a 4 or 5 on a “oh crap” scale…and the “best case” is a completely life changing “10.”

Suddenly, that “terrifying” decision becomes MUCH easier.

How to Accomplish Anything

Mountain Climber

James Altucher, one of the ONLY “self-help” bloggers I read consistently, put out a fantastic article that I think should be required reading: “Nobody told him he couldn’t do it.” 

He talked about is process for accomplishing anything, and broke it down into three simple steps.  I want to talk about those three steps and how they apply to Nerd Fitness, health, wellness, and success:

1) Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it.  If you see somebody who has accomplished something you want to do, or see a skill you’d like to learn, don’t spend time focusing on telling yourself that you can’t do it.  Making up excuses for yourself like, “but I don’t have time,” is a big fat lie. “I’m too old” is absolutely not true.  I’ve seen drastic transformations from single mothers, 80 year old men, people who work three jobs, that travel, and so on.  Stop using excuses as a crutch and start telling yourself “I can do this.”  Be your own biggest fan.

2) Surround yourself with supportive people. Negative people suck.  They make you second guess yourself, they drag you down rather than pick you up, and say things like “I told you so” rather than “keep going.”  The less time you spend with these people and the more time you can spend with people who are supportive, the greater chance you’ll have for success.  They say, “you are the average of the 5 people you associate the most with.”  If you don’t have positive people in your life, I have about 16,000+ online friends that would love to support you.

3) Make it fun. Whatever you’re working towards, whether it’s weight loss, building a new habit, getting big and strong, or trying to build your own business on the side…have fun with it.  We have a finite amount of time on this planet…might as well enjoy it, eh?  If you HAVE to work on something that’s not fun, make sure it’s for a purpose: maybe because doing this un-fun thing is taking you one step closer towards the life you actually want.  So, find a way to show yourself that you are progressing, share your successes – no matter how small, and be proud of yourself for improving.

No matter what you want, find a way to get a little bit better at it each day.  Contact one successful person who has done what you want to do and ask for advice.  Take one step towards that business idea you have.  Plan that one trip you always wanted to take. Make one change to your diet. Do one more rep or run for one more minute.

Remember my friend Saint?  After getting in incredible shape, he started wondering what else was possible. About a year ago he told me he was going to learn app development for the hell of it (nobody told him he couldn’t, so he did). We partnered up to create Paleo Central. During development, he worked his day job, commuting three hours every day, and then came home and worked every night on the app.

Since launching Paleo Central back in December, the app has been a tremendous success, and Saint started calculating his options for further improving his life.  The potential for awesome outweighed the temporary setbacks of making a change, so Saint recently quit his day job and has gone into business for himself as a full-time app developer (with clients lining up to hire him). I can almost see the grin on his face through Gchat when we talk every morning.  Not bad for a year of hustle.

[PS: If you are looking for an App Developer, let me know and I can put you in touch with Saint. I cannot recommend him highly enough.] 

Advanced tactic: If you know the thing you are meant to do but you can’t get yourself to commit to doing it, try burning the ships so you’re left without any other option but to succeed. (I booked my Round the World trip before I had a chance to talk myself out of it!)

There’s only one way to find out

red pill blue pill

Yeah, things might go wrong. Things might not work out.

On the other hand…

  • The workout plan COULD work, and six months from now you’re a complete different person. It worked for these people.
  • Trying that diet advice COULD work, and you could be in the best shape of your life. It worked for Saint.
  • Walking up to that woman/dude and asking them out could lead to a date/love of your life.  Only one way to know for sure, right?
  • That proposal could change the company’s trajectory, along with your own trajectory. Fortune favors the bold.
  • That app/company/idea COULD work, and you could spend the rest of your life building your own future instead of asking for permission.

Nobody can predict the future, but one thing is for certain when you look fear in the eye and bravely continue.

Regardless of the outcome, you eliminate the ABSOLUTE WORST CASE SCENARIO: regret.  You don’t have to spend the rest of your day/week/month/life wondering: “What if I had tried?”

I’d love to hear from you.  What have you held yourself back from trying due to fear? What’s the worst that can happen if it goes wrong (and how can you fix it), and what’s the best that can happen if it all goes right?

There’s only one way to find out…



photo source: Scale, Happy owl, Table Mountain Clouds, Mountain Climber, Red Pill Blue Pill

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