Life is a Game: A Major Epic Quest Update (Plus, a Request!)

As kids we have all sorts of dreams and fantasies…defeating the dragon, visiting far off lands, going on grand adventures.

As adults, we continue to dream, but more often than not, we never act.

This was me, five and a half years ago when I started Nerd Fitness with the tagline “Level Up Your Life.”

Having never traveled outside of North America, and being generally risk averse, a picky eater, and quite shy…I decided to turn life into a giant video game.

I wanted to prove that any regular Joe Steve could improve their life by applying game mechanics to it and having fun along the way.

That’s the idea behind my Epic Quest of Awesome, to send myself on epic adventures and challenges, and inspire other desk jockeys to leave our cubicles and create unforgettable experiences.

So, what’s going on with my epic quest these days? I’m glad you asked!

Seeing as I went and had crazy adventures in Croatia this summer – where I completed three quests – I figure today would be a good day to talk about my making a game of life, how it works, and what’s next for me.

On top, of that…I have a request for some help on a super secret project I’m working on!

Shall we?

What the hell is an Epic Quest?

Steve Jump
Everybody has a bucket list.  

I did things a bit differently.

Instead of just creating a massive bucket list of things that would never get crossed off, I build my list like a game.

The earth is my video game, and I am the main character. Each quest carried a certain amount of experience points, each continent was a themed video game zone, and I had to progress through levels by completing increasingly challenging missions..

As I read more books, visit more places, and have more experiences, my list and goals are constantly changing.  I kind of think of it like an MMORPG (like World of Warcraft). There are expansion packs, patches, updates, upgrades, nerfing, buffing, Master Quests, and more.

Taking this mindset to heart, here are my five of my favorite quests that I’ve crossed off my list:

1) Exercising Around the World. I’m really proud of how this video turned out, as it took about 150,000 miles of flying and 18 months. I’m sure I could have gotten more views had I just taken a video of a cat wearing a shoebox, but I maintain this experience was worth it 🙂

2) Living like James Bond for a Weekend.  I have an obsession with becoming an international secret agent. Step one was living like James Bond in Monaco, because why the hell not. Believe it or not, I actually MADE money on my weekend!

3) Exploring Machu Picchu. This was my first real adventure outside of the US. Channeling my inner Indiana Jones, I spent a few weeks on the Gringo Trail and ended my trip at the fabled Machu Picchu. I’ll never forget that first moment the sun crested the hills and the clouds parted to reveal these ancient ruins. That was the moment I decided to explore the world.

4) Finding Nemo on the Great Barrier ReefFinding Nemo is one of my favorite Disney movies ever, and Australia was a big stop on the beginning of my world tour. I spent a week getting scuba certified and on my final dive, managed to swim up, over, and around various coral formations until… I ACTUALLY FOUND NEMO!

5) Complete 5 straight muscle ups.  I’ve been working on Muscle Ups ever since completing my first swinging muscle up in March 2012.  Since then, I’ve slowly built up my back muscles, grip strength, forearm strength, and improved my technique.  This was the first time I had EVER tried to do more than one muscle up in a row, and I managed to do 5 straight (while hanging off the boom of a yacht in Croatia).  Not a bad way to cross a goal off my list!

What’s next: A renewed focus

StevePlyoPushUp

As I said before, my Epic Quest has taken less of a priority in my life up since returning from my Around-the-World trip.  

I spent almost all of 2013 and the first half of 2014 focused on growing Nerd Fitness – sure I’ve traveled to visit friends around the country, attended weddings, and spent a few weekends donating money to the great state of Nevada through their lovely casinos – but none of my trips have truly focused on Adventure.

EpicQuestSidebar

I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time to travel, that there were other more important things to do, that things would fall apart the second I stopped working.  Honestly, for the past few years any time I spent NOT working made me feel guilty. 12-14 hour work days flew right by, because pretty much everything I do at Nerd Fitness doesn’t feel like work.

Without realizing it, I had fallen into the old rhythm that I worked so hard to get out of: working all day, not doing new things, and spending my free time and energy on the unimportant.

About five months ago, I decided that I had gotten too far away from the stuff that inspired me to start Nerd Fitness to begin with. I talked about the importance of a work-life balance and focusing on what’s TRULY important…but I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching!

So, I made a decision:  I’ve spent the past eight months building a team at Nerd Fitness to help me keep this place running at top speed and take Nerd Fitness to the…next level (heyo!).

Not surprisingly, once I removed myself as the bottleneck for many of the daily decisions, we got a lot better (and I got a lot less stressed out).

So, I’ve challenged myself to cross off at least one big thing from my list every three months.  My hope is to spend less time on small trips, and instead focus on those big wins.

Here are my big wins for the next few months:

  • Kiteboard certification, most likely in the Dominican Republic.
  • Complete a 60 second freestanding handstand. Held one for 40 seconds the other day!
  • Continue to take weekly violin lessons – (I’m coming for you Promentory!)
  • Start taking voice lessons (October 2014)
  • Reach 250,000 email subscribers on Nerd Fitness.
  • Build a bug-out bag.
  • Start work on learning a third language through iTalki.com (French!).
  • England and Scotland in Spring 2015? MAYBE!

This is in addition to some of my goals and work for Nerd Fitness: publishing two articles a week, launching our first expansion course for the Nerd Fitness Academy (which we’ll announce soon!), getting Camp Nerd Fitness 2015 rockin and rollin, and continuing to work on a few secret projects.

Why Start Your Own Epic Quest

SteveDC

It’s been a shift for me over the years to focus on gathering experience points and experiences rather than possessions.  

I realized it was important to dump my time and money into adventures rather than spending all day on my couch gaming (though I still play plenty of games!), to remind myself how amazing it is to be alive rather than living vicariously through somebody else.

To borrow from the Most Interesting Man in the World, I wanted to start living vicariously through myself.

I want to encourage you to get started with your own Epic Quest, and hope you will consider the 3 most important lessons I’ve learned from my quest over the last few years:

1) More stuff won’t make you happier.  In 2011, I sold everything I owned and lived out of a backpack for two years. I didn’t own a TV, I didn’t own any video game systems, and own much of anything… And I couldn’t have been happier. My time went into meeting new people, doing more things, or just relaxing and enjoying the day.

Now that I live in Nashville and have a proper HQ, I have to constantly remind myself that more isn’t better. Stuff is far too easy to collect, and incredibly difficult to get rid of. Unfortunately, this means more money spent on things (and maintaining those things), and less spent on adventures and experiences.

Now that I have some of those luxuries that I didn’t have while traveling, things aren’t necessarily better for me, there’s just more space for me to fill up with more stuff!  Don’t fall into this trap 🙂

2) There’s always stuff to be done.  For the past 18 months, I’ve crossed very little off my Epic Quest List. I blamed it on Nerd Fitness getting too busy (a great problem to have), but the reality was because I stopped making adventure a focus and priority in my life. I constantly told myself there’s too much work to be done, and I can get to it when things get less busy. This trap can be equally ensnaring!.

I’ve recently reestablished priorities in my life, reminding myself that it’s these very adventures, experiences, and challenges that provide me with motivation and ideas for Nerd Fitness.

3) Things generally work out.  I’ve been stranded in foreign countries with no phone, spent time in back alleys in third world countries, and entered countries late at night with no place to sleep (nor knowledge of the current language!).  EVERY SINGLE TIME, things have worked out.  With few exceptions, I have only encountered nice people who are willing to help.

Yes, there’s always the occasional attempt to scam tourists, and certain parts of cities that should be avoided (which is true here in the US), but my experience across 20+ countries has been overwhelmingly positive.

Don’t let your negativity bias (like the news) scare you into not having adventures and trying new things. You’re probably more likely to die driving to work than you are flying to a foreign country and traveling. Be smart, use common sense, and do some basic research before you enter a country.

Don’t let your fears throw you off!

Approach your adventures with an open mind, and remember that no trip or new experience will be without its hiccups. Lean in and enjoy the ride. Tomorrow is no guarantee!

How To build Your Own Epic Quest

skyrim

As previously stated, my goal with my Epic Quest of Awesome is to inspire you to get started with your own, and provide you with all of the inspiration (and examples) you need to get started!

So, here is a step by step guide to building your own epic quest:

1) Decide what type of game you want to play – I’m a fan of Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, Uncharted, and Assassin’s Creed. Thus, the game I decided to build was an globe-trotting action-adventure game!  For you, it might be a dancing game, or a cooking game, or a language learning game, or NES Track and Field (remember that gem!?). It’s your world, and thus your game to build.

2) Identify a list things you’d like to accomplish – These can be goals that aren’t related, or goals that increase in challenge as you go. The important thing is to spend 15 minutes or so writing down all the stuff you want to do.  BE SPECIFIC (“Learn to speak French in 6 months” vs “learn a new language”, “run the Boston marathon” vs “run more.”)

3) Place them in order of difficulty if possible – Most people build bucket lists, very few people actually cross things off of them. It’s VERY easy to get overwhelmed, and spend more time adding things to the list than completing them. So, if you’re the type of person that struggles to actually complete adventures.

4) Surround yourself with people doing awesome things – If there’s a particular goal I want to accomplish but appears too challenging, I find people who are already doing what I want to do, or have done what I want to do, in the way I want to do it. Make your list public, and add due dates to the things you want to accomplish, and give yourself a chance to succeed.  We have a community of people doing awesome things if you need support 🙂

5) Pick one thing on the list, and get started. Today.  Once you’ve built your own list, I want you to pick ONE thing on your list (preferably the easiest thing), and do ONE concrete specific thing today to get you closer to completing that item.  Here’s step-by-step instruction on how to actually cross stuff off your list.

Have you started your own epic quest?

quest map

I have a favor to ask.

I know we have people reading this article that have been reading Nerd Fitness since Day 1, while others have just discovered the site (and thus My Epic Quest) today.

I’m working on a super secret project, and I need your help.  If you are somebody that has developed your own Epic Quest of Awesome, or used the idea of gamification to level up in your real life thanks to Nerd Fitness, I want to hear from you.

Have you gamified your weight loss and can now do things you haven’t done before?

Have you drawn inspiration from your favorite game/movie/book and used those things to learn a new skill or try a new class/activity? 

Have you made adventure/travel a bigger part of your life and visited new locations?

Have you gamified life or your passions in a way other than just adventure? How?

IF SO! Can you please fill out the following survey and tell me about your adventures/successes?  The more unique/creative, the better!

Tell us about your Epic Quest here!

Due to the number of responses I won’t be able to respond to all of them (but I will read all of them for sure!), but I’ll be reaching out to a handful of people with unique “life” games to hear more.

Make sure you put your email address so I can contact you!

Even if this is your first exposure to the concept of an Epic Quest of Awesome, I want to hear from you too!

What’s one quest on your own epic quest list, and what’s one concrete step you’re taking TODAY to get closer to completing that adventure?

Leave a comment and let me know!

-Steve

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photo source: imNicholas: skyrim, Brian Matis: Map

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