Life Is A Game: My TEDx Talk

Steve Kamb's talk at TEDX
Who’s that goober with the goofy grin?

Back in April of 2012, I was invited to speak at TEDxEmory in Atlanta, GA.

Given the opportunity to discuss whatever I wanted, I decided that I wanted to share the story of Nerd Fitness and my Epic Quest of Awesome: how I went from living vicariously through video game characters and exploring virtual lands to living vicariously through myself and going on quests around the world.

Here is my 14-minute talk: I hope you enjoy it!

TEDxEmory Talk – Steve Kamb

Answers to questions you might have

A few extra thoughts on the talk, including some questions you might have:

Are you making that up, or did your computer seriously blow up? Yup. No joke: the motherboard fried while on a raid in EverQuest 2 back in December of 2008. I had owned the domain for two years at that point, and had done absolutely nothing with it. When my computer broke and I couldn’t afford to fix it, I told myself that I couldn’t play EverQuest again until I made my first dollar online with Nerd Fitness.

Just 18 months later, I launched the Rebel Fitness Guide, walked up the hill in my neighborhood to my friend Joe’s place (the same Joe who is now a video game developer), where he had a congratulatory shot, beer, and an EverQuest 2 install disc waiting for me!

How did you afford to do all of this? This has been a constant question along my journey – people see all of the cool stuff I’ve done and then say “well that’s great, but what about the rest of us?” Here’s the thing: I am the rest of you!

I wasn’t making much money in my previous job when I decided I wanted to live a life of epic exploration and adventure (thanks for the idea Tim Ferriss), so I worked ever day to build that life. I knew I needed location independence, so I started the process of building a business that would allow me to work from anywhere – it was a three year process from the initial concept to “freedom,” honing my skills, improving my writing, helping people get healthy in unique ways.

I drastically cut expenses so that I could focus on spending money on experiences rather than on stuff. That shirt I’m wearing in the performance?  I bought it six years ago for $20 off a bargain rack in Macy’s.  I own ONE pair of jeans.  I have four pairs of shoes: flip flops, sneakers, dress shoes, and Vibrams.  For my birthday this year, I asked my mom to send me some old clothes from my closet back home.  I only buy new things when I break, wear out, or lose old things.

On top of that, I took some RANDOM side jobs just to make ends meet. I spent two nights from  2 a.m. – 5 a.m. painting the sound stage floor for Drake’s music video. Not even kidding. I’ve lugged heavy equipment around concert venues, taken on crappy part-time work, helped friends with projects, and more.  I did whatever I had to just to stay afloat while building the life I wanted.

Decide what’s important to you! If you want to start traveling, exploring, and leveling up yourself in real life, then you will need to make sacrifices on where you spend your money. Although Nerd Fitness is now doing well and I am financially stable, I still practice frugality whenever possible so that I can spend money on trips, classes, and experiences.

For more specific advice, here’s how I traveled around the world for $418, and here’s how I lived like James Bond for a weekend while MAKING money on the experience.

If you’re looking to start your own business, read the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.  Buy it and read it ASAP.  You can thank me later.

What if I’m not that adventurous and I don’t want to travel?  That’s more than okay. I decided my video game needed to be an adventure game because that’s the type of life I wanted to live. Your game might might have completely different levels, quests, goals, and missions. That’s awesome! What’s important is that you decide what type of game you want to want play, what type of character you’d like to become, and what steps you can take each day to get a little bit closer.

What if I have a family, mortgage, and a full-time job?  Take care of your family, but it doesn’t mean you can’t travel.  You can apply the same tactics I’ve learned traveling the world to hack your next family vacation.  Stop spending money on junk, and save mercilessly so that you can take trips.  I know PLENTY of people who work full time jobs and use their vacation days to go on adventures.  If you’re truly in a crappy situation with your job, find another one! Hit reset!

Do you still play games? I’ve found that it is more fun and rewarding to level up myself, rather than a character.

After returning from my 12-month adventure last year, I purchased a PS3 and played through a few games that I had wanted to play: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus.  I purchased Diablo III a few months back but only lasted a few hours before moving on.  I don’t play online multiplayer games anymore, as I know that the graph in my presentation would come true once again: a leveled-up video game character = a decreased character in real life:

Video Games and Real Life Characters

Do you plan on doing more speaking engagements? Yes! Over the past twelve months I’ve been fortunate enough to talk in some pretty cool places, including Google Headquarters in San Fran, Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin, Facebook Headquarters, and now TEDx.

If you happen to work for a company, university, or high school and you’re interested in hiring me to come speak, please check out the Speaking Page I’ve created and email me with the details. I can cover fitness related topics like my Google Talk, business and community building topics for entrepreneurs, or life and motivational topics for students.

Let me know what you’re looking for, and I can tailor the talk based on your specific needs.

Why haven’t you crossed anything off your list in a while? It’s true; for the past few months, I’ve put the Epic Quest of Awesome on hold, not because I can’t travel (I have 900,000 airline miles waiting to be used at this point!), but because I wanted to get to a better place with Nerd Fitness as a business before hitting the road again.

When I travel, it’s very difficult for me to stay on schedule with Nerd Fitness – emails go unanswered, articles get published last minute, days late or not at all, and I come back from my trip exhausted and behind. I can’t fully enjoy myself and “be in the moment” while traveling because I’m constantly working or thinking about all of the work I am missing.

For that reason, I’ve made a very concerted effort lately to level up my business so that I can level up my life worry-free in the near future. I am getting to the point where I am weeks ahead on Nerd Fitness content, so that when I travel or go on adventures, you won’t even know I’m gone!

This fall, I’ll hopefully be traveling with my buddy Cash (my friend since first grade who came met up with me in Peru, Thailand, Cambodia, and South Africa) to Germany for Oktoberfest, followed by a trip to Brazil to check out Christ the Redeemer, surf in Florianopolis, and practice Capoeira. In the meantime, I think I’m going to start learning Portuguese, applying tactics learned from my friend Benny!

I do plan on crossing items off the list again soon, I have just been focusing on leveling up Nerd Fitness so that I can travel stress free.

What game do you want to play?

Steve Kamb and Link

I could talk about this stuff all day long, and oftentimes I do.

I’d love to hear from you, though.

“What kind of game do you want your life to be, and why?”

Good luck.

Game on!




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168 thoughts on “Life Is A Game: My TEDx Talk

  1. Oh my goodness this website is amazing! I really enjoy these posts. From one fitness blogger to another cudos to you guys!

  2. I grew up as a HARDCORE Nintendo fan. I don’t spend much time playing video games anymore as I’m working on securing my future. I can really relate to this!

  3. So well spoken and composed on stage.  You inspire so many people that have similar stories, lost in a virtual world.  It’s refreshing to see someone crawl out of that world and succeed (massively I might add).  So impressed, you are going to change a lot of lives Steve!!

  4.  Nice talk, Steve!
    Also, if you need help from a native Portuguese speaker, look no further 🙂

  5. I love this because I have had an identical story and had nearly the same breakthrough of getting really good at “Life” instead of (coincidentally) EverQuest.  Since then I’ve been all over the world, built several successful businesses in real estate, marketing, and now run a business as a full time “Soul Purpose” coach!

    This stuff works, and if you put as much into ‘real life’ as you do video games, it will blow your mind! 

    Thanks Steve for telling this story, so that I don’t have to!


  6. Hey Steve. Thanks for the talk. I love the site… especially the bodyweight training stuff! When coming up with my own lists I try to bear in mind a quote someone told me from the Dalai Lama once… he says the best way to be happy is to try to make others happy. Just thought I’d share that with all y’all.

  7. Glad I saved this video and finally found time to watch it. Well done! Love how you embrace your inner nerd (it shows) and aren’t afraid to let your excitement for your lifestyle come out (got me excited too). Very inspiring!

  8. I try and live my life this way too. I recently began a journey of health this past year and it has never been better! I conquered a Tough Mudder and I got straight As in grad school (which is the first time that has happened since grade school). All in all I think living a life like a video games makes you work hard because it makes you think you can do anything.

    P.S. my life game of choice would be The Legend of Zelda since I feel like life’s challenges are like tackling the dungeons in the Legend of Zelda.

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