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


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.


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 (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


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


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!



photo source: imNicholas: skyrim, Brian Matis: Map

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

  1. If you are hosting any events in Scotland I am so going to it! Going to America is just something I don’t want to do as I have my Game Plan which is focusing on the East of the World rather than West.
    Looking forward to you super secret post!

  2. Love the video! Much better than a cat in a shoe box or whatever. Good luck with accomplishing your next bunch of goals – they sound fantastic. (If you need help with French, I’m on iTalki and I speak it;) Thanks for the fantastic inspiration to get going and excitify life. (Assassins Creed is great. I really need to play tonight…)

  3. Did I just use fantastic twice? Oops. That’s what happens when you don’t read over your posts. Well, just goes to show my über-enthusiasm!

  4. I’m a huge fan of epic quests. I recently began two journeys (rather late at 25). To get into WWE and to obtain a black belt in BJJ. These journeys have already led me to unique places and pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

  5. Awesome post. I think when you run an awesome, exciting business it’s easy to stop being well-rounded. But, a big part of your appeal is having so many cool diverse interests.

  6. In June I went on a semi-awesome quest to see America by train (I didn’t make it all the way due to my health, but I’m challenging myself to a rematch next year), and when I got back I wrote a book about it that I’m publishing later this week.

    My next big project is getting rid of 50% of my stuff and launching an Etsy store for geek-themed jewelry. After that, I’m working on losing weight and saving money so that I can live and travel in a vintage trailer for a year.

    Thanks for everything you do! Nerd Fitness always inspires me to get up and do something.

  7. Steve!

    How did you do the James Bond Secret agent mission in Monaco in real time and make money? I’m so curious as I have this on my list of things to do going forward.

  8. One of my current quests is to be able to do a muscle-up. I’ve been doing 20 pull-ups a day (plus more when I go to the gym) in order to get there.

    Since Dakao told me I should get up to doing 4×20’s, though, I’m taking the inspiration from him and this post and upping my daily pull-up total to 40. Change is made in HabitRPG and the pull-up bar is back on the door frame. 20 more to go today!

  9. Weee! Come visit us in Scotland! One my big milestones on my epic quest of awesome is to sing at the Edinburgh Jazz Bar, but I’m scared to death. If you come to Scotland, I’ll definitely have to get started on it and invite you ^_^ greatest motivation! Thank you for another inspiring post!

  10. It’s so great to hear updates on your Epic Quest! They’re super inspiring and always get me thinkng about what I’m doing to “level up” my life today. I’m currently working on staying the night in all 50 states and just booked two more trips to east coast! I’ll be knocking out 6 more states with these and will only have 6 more to go

  11. Reading this made me remember how much I loved your post about “leaning in”…and I’m off to make myself a new wallpaper for my iphone to remind myself daily! Especially as nerds it’s our tendency to lean away and close ourselves off, but like you said, when you do end up in those situations, 99.5% of the time it turns out JUST FINE, and I know this, but definitely need a reminder.

  12. Your posts are always perfectly timed. Over the weekend I came up with my own epic quest with some inspiration from yours Steve! A few items on mine include doing a strict pullup by the end of the year, competing in my first powerlifting competition in 2015, pay off my remaining student loans by end of 2015 (about 30k) as well as TONS of traveling, which I think I will begin by visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 🙂

  13. You’re really a huge inspiration, Steve. I too had been living a hedonistic life and still spend some of my time unwisely but…I’ll be damned if I let life pass me by. I may have a wife, 4 year old son and another baby on the way — but we can’t let our limits….limit us. The moment we start allowing circumstance to define us is the day we die and resign to a life of mediocrity.

    I’ve never learned French properly and it’s led me to not finding any employment. The economy is bad and somedays it does feel hopeless being on social assistance trying to pay the bills — but I refuse to give in and let life hold me down any longer. Letting my circumstances define me has held me back in life and made me stagnant for too long.

    I have dreams, goals and things I want to accomplish in life and they’re things I want to accomplish with my family and show my children that the world is theirs for the picking — all they need to do is reach, strain and push beyond the point of no-return.

    We all need to go out and capture our dreams instead of waiting around for things to happen.

    Ps: If this comment is a bit all over the place I’m currently shifting from Monophasic to Polyphasic(Everymen) sleep so I’m in the middle of a 24-hour sleepless period leading into starting with 20-minutes naps. I’m tired and wired on coffee at the same time — wow. haha.

  14. Dude! So totally take voice lessons! It changed the way I see (and hear) the world!
    A goal of mine is to perform/record some good music… and videos, and art, and literary things… and have it premiere somewhere official. I’m taking a big step, and a big risk, by investing time and money into gettin’ this junk done!

  15. Wicked man you are such an inspiration I just wish I was younger I would be joining you all.Keep up the great work that you are doing because I know there are thousands of people out there that are being inspired by you.awesome.

  16. You are such a baller. Sometimes it seems to me that there is no way to rearrange my life so I can live it like you do, what with all my bills and student loan debts. ): It’s nice to see you living the dream though! Maybe I’ll get there one day.

  17. Hey Steve! So little back story, I grew up and learned to LOVE the legend of Zelda games. ever since the first one that I played, which was Ocarina of Time, I LOVED the bow and arrow. Since then I have always wanted to learn to use one. I have not done much about it until recently. I was at a friends house and they had one and so I wanted to practice on it and realized that I did not have the muscle for it at all. So when I work out, I have been focusing on those muscles and trying to strengthen them more so that I can start learning archery. My husband also wanted to learn, so its nice because then we can work together on it.

    There is one other thing. If you have played Legend of Zelda, you know its a game full of exploration, and that has been something that I have wanted to do. I want to visit France, Ireland, Germany, Egypt, and many more places but I am terrified of flying. I know I need to get over it, I just dont know how yet. I will be flying to New Jersey (I live in central Illinois) in August (as long as I dont chicken out and drive there), so hopefully that will help me get over my fear. I just dont want it to get in the way of my dreams of traveling.

  18. Don’t know how old you are, Morph, but there are a bunch of us around Nerd Fitness who are over 50…Awesomeness isn’t just for the whippersnappers!

    No matter what your age, don’t let it keep you from going after your dreams!

  19. Hi shadowlion thanks for your comment. I’m hopeing that when Steve comes over to England I can get to me him and some of you guys if you pay a list over as well.
    Awesome dude !

  20. Bonjour Steve,
    Just to motivate you learning french, let me tell you you have at lest one french reader in Paris !

  21. Hey, Steve! You told us to respond to this email, so hopefully you will get this. One thing that I am putting on my epic quest is to study abroad in Africa. I am still in high school, but I will be going off to college next year and I already looked up my College’s study abroad programs and there are two options to study abroad there. I am so freaking excided!!! I can’t wait until this dream becomes a reality.

    I have just barely started nerd fitness, but you have seriously already inspired me a TON!!! I always feel inspired after reading your emails and get high hopes for the future, which is really hard for me to do sometimes. I have always wanted to do things like travel the world and go skydiving and stuff, but never really thought that I could actually integrate that into my life. You make me feel like, after college, I could totally do that stuff!!! I still have to find out what kind of a job could let me incorporate that stuff, because I am still a little bit confused on where I would get a steady income from if I lived my freaking life like that. (I say freaking because I am so freaking excided!!) But I will find a way to make it happen. I always feel so great when looking ahead into the future after reading your emails, because I have always told myself that I will have to settle, or that my life will be really dull, but it doesn’t have to be! Thank you so much for starting Nerd Fitness, because not only do I feel like 20% better about myself (remember I’m new, so that number will defiantly be rising in the future), but I feel like 80% better about my whole life in the future!! THANKS STEVE!!! YOU’RE FLIPPING AWSOME!!!

  22. Thanks for the article Steve, very inspirational!

    I am still quite new to the NF community, so this will be my first epic quest. I decided today that I will be running the Spartan Sprint in July, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada. Today I started preparing for this quest by reaching out on Facebook to see if any of my friends and family would be interested in teaming up with me, and I put together a training plan. After I do the first I would like to go for the Spartan Trifecta, but I believe this is a good starting point. : )

  23. My epic quest: Get through the introductory Crossfit course…while still being able to get out of bed in the morning!

  24. Hey! Love that you’e renewing your efforts on your epic quest!
    So question! what exactly do you mean about a kiteboarding certification? how do you get certified? you mean to be able to teach!? I’m going to the virgin islands this christmas to live on a boat and one of my goals is to learn how to kiteboard!!
    Also! I’m living and studying in Bordeaux right now so if you’re in England/scotland and wanna come over to practice your french lemme know! also available if you need a speaking buddy 😛

    LOVE the Promentory song! learning violin is totally on my list even though i was silly enough to leave my violin in colorado!

    couple of my own epic quest ideas! 🙂
    – climb the water overhangs in the thai islands
    – learn how to kiteboard! (soon!)
    – sail with a crew on a transatlantic voyage
    – tango in buenos aires
    -bike Costa Brava rails to trails
    -become a certified sailing capitain
    -Ski Mont Blanc
    – spend time in the australian outback
    -FINALLY get my black belt in To Shin Do
    – become fluent in a third and fourth language!

    wow! writing this down is liberating! maybe i’ll finally go participate in the forum dedicated to epic quests!

  25. hey Ian! SOrry for the delay on this. If you read the post, you’ll see how I did it. I gambled a few hundred dollars which I had already saved and budgeted for. I used hotel points for the hotel room (thus it was free), and I rented a cheap tux in Nice France next door to Monaco. I ended up winning about $150 or so on the gambling which more than covered the cost of my tux rental and dinner. Cheers!

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