Who You Were, Who You Are

Today, you’re going to learn valuable life lessons from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, Pixar’s Brave, and Nintendo’s Donkey Kong.

Who you were doesn’t need to be who you are.

These three characters spent most of their lives living life in a certain way:

  • Wreck-It Ralph is a video game character whose job it is to be the bad guy. Ralph wrecks things just so that the hero, Fix-It Felix, can drop in to save the day.
  • In Bravea princess named Merida spends her whole life learning everything there is to know about being a queen, so that her arranged marriage goes off without a hitch and an ancient tradition continues.
  • Our pal Donkey Kong has to constantly kidnap the princess, so that Mario can come rescue her.

Life gets interesting when this guy, gal, and ape decide that they’re tired of how things are going and want to make changes.  Not surprisingly, they all hit a number of snags along the way attempting to change their fate – however they each found solace in taking greater control of their own destinies.

I want you to do the same.

Who you were

For thirty years, Wreck-It Ralph was the bad guy.

Day after day, he would do his darndest to rip countless buildings apart, Rampage-style.  And he was really good at it!

Ralph was a nice enough fellow and just wanted to hang out the good guys after work ended.  Unfortunately, because he was only ever known for being a bad guy, Ralph faced a tremendous amount of resistance and ridicule when he tried to change the status quo.  He was good at being a bad guy, and thus struggled to shed his image of the “bad guy that’s also a BAD guy.”

After thirty years, Ralph finally decided that enough is enough. Throwing caution into the wind, Ralph sets out on a journey of self-discovery, attempting to remake his image from who he was into who wants to be, and earn the respect of his friends and co-workers.

Up until yesterday, you were somebody too.

Every decision you made up until that point made you who you were:

What you ate
If you exercised
What made you happy
Where you worked
Who you hung out with

Like Ralph, you were somebody yesterday.  You’re known to your friends, family, and coworkers as that person.  

Like, Ralph, you can decide to be somebody else today, even if it means getting funny looks or “that doesn’t sound like you” and “why bother changing” comments from people who don’t believe that you can change.  Prove them wrong!

Decide who you want to be

For more than a decade, Donkey Kong was just a bad guy too.

It was his job to kidnap the princess, climb atop a platform, and sit there like a chump to wait until Mario climbed up and kicked his ass! Like Wreck-It Ralph, Donkey Kong did his job to the best of his ability, because he didn’t know any better.  He was great at being a bad guy!

Then one day, he decided he was tired of waiting around for his ass to get kicked.

So he expanded his horizons, went on his own adventures, and learned new skills.  Donkey Kong pushed through the adversity and went on to have a wildly successful career, from adventuring and go-kart racing, to golfing and tennis…heck, he even went on to become a popular bongo player.  Sure, he had more success in some areas than others, but he continually reinvented himself despite his troubled past.

Who you were yesterday doesn’t control who you want to be today. Like we’ve learned from the Rules of the Rebellion, “We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.”

Starting RIGHT NOW, you get to decide what you want to be when you grow up.  I don’t care if you’re 65 years old and 400 pounds, you can decide you want to be whatever the heck you want, right now.

  • Want to try parkour? Go for it.
  • Want to become a great cook?  Start by cooking your first meal.
  • Want to become a kick-ass yoga fan?  Go do a downward dog!
If Donkey Kong can play golf, drive a go-kart, and play the bongos, you can become whatever you want.

Be true to yourself

brave poster

In Pixar’s Brave, Merida is absolutely terrified at the thought of going through an arranged marriage and becoming a boring queen stuck in a chair all day making decisions.

She would much rather saddle up her beloved horse, grab her trusty bow and arrow, and go on awesome adventures around the picturesque Scottish countryside.  In order to “change her fate” (must be read in a Scottish accent), Merida sets out to change her mother’s mind.

Merida realizes that the way it’s always been done simply isn’t right for her. Merida didn’t know it, but she was simply following rule nine of the Rebellion, question everything.

Conventional wisdom be damned, Merida knew that society’s notions of who she should be just wasn’t right for her.

  • Two thirds of Americans these days are overweight – do you really want to be like everybody else?
  • Most people chase quick fixes, fad diets, crappy “health meals”, and then abandon their goals just as soon as they start them.  You care what those people think about you?  Let them think you’re weird and boring with your “diet and exercise.”
  • If a dad is obese, the likelihood that his children will be obese by age 9 increases by over 1000% than if the kid had healthy parents.  Yup, that’s Three zeroes.  If you want a better life for your children, start by breaking tradition and taking care of yourself.

Just because you’re predispositioned or “destined” to head down a certain path does NOT mean you have to.  Sure, it’s going to be challenging as hell to change your routine and WHO you are, especially when you go against the grain, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

  • Ignore the naysayers and make your own destiny –  You might have friends and family who tell you they don’t want you to change. They’d rather you stay unhealthy and unsuccessful so they feel better about not improving their own lives! So screw em! Nod politely, smile, and then go about your business of living a better life.
  • Retrain yourself –  Going against the grain means you’ll struggle to build those old habits and build new ones.  It’s a challenge, but it’s doable.  
  • Patience is crucial –  Do not expect overnight success.  Don’t forget, it took you years and years (or decades and decades) to get you to where you are currently.  It could take years and years before you reach your new “fate,” so don’t chase quick fixes and “too good to be true” products and services.
“If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?”  You do, so do it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As I learned from Brave: “There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that our destiny, but I know better.  Our fate lives within us.”

Change your fate, friend!

  • Change your mindset today, right this instant.  Determine your level 50 (who you want to be) and then start working every day towards that goal.  The more specific you can be about the new YOU, the easier it will be to identify the steps and processes that need to happen to get you there!  And then take it one day, one step at a time.
  • If you’ve been the skinny weak guy/girl your entire life, there’s no reason you can’t change your mindset today and start training like a superhero.
  • If you’re in a job or career that you dislike, there is NO reason you can’t pick a new field that actually interests you. And then take the initiative to get a job you’re actually excited about each morning!
  • If you’re in an unfulfilling relationship, you have the ability to find somebody that makes you happy and treats you with respect.

If you don’t like your situation, shut up and change it! 

Yep, it might require you hitting the reset button and starting all over.  It might require you to find a few new friends who aren’t only interested in hanging out with you when you eat too much and don’t exercise. You have only one quarter, one play-through of life (sorry, no Konami code)  – it’s up to you to play it to the best of your ability.

So, I don’t want to know who you were.

I want to know who you are and what you want to be.

I’m Steve, and I want to put a dent in the universe by helping Nerd Fitness become the go-to name in helping people get healthy worldwide.

Your turn.


PS – Thanks to all that participated in the November Morning Mile Challenge! We’re gonna keep the good times going in a new tab in the same document.  Simply click on the December tab at the bottom, add your name, and commit to walking a mile each morning!


Photo: Ralph big armsWreck-It Ralph, New Donkey Kong, Old Donkey Kong, Brave

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37 thoughts on “Who You Were, Who You Are

  1. The Dent is going well!

    Who I am is a guy who lost 5 stone at the peak of weight loss and then hit the gym, got married in America & had job worries. Consequently I’ve recently gone up in weight a bit and the gym has tapered off.

    However, I decided today to get back on track with food & the gym and eventually that ‘just one pull-up’ will be mine!

    Thanks for the article, great timing for me personally!

  2. Who I am was the girl who was always going to do it “someday.” Someday I’ll start jogging, someday I’ll join a gym, someday I’ll start swimming again, someday this and someday that. I sat around and wrote about women who had amazing adventures, and went to dance class once or twice a week to “stay fit” even though I kept gaining weight.
    A couple months ago, I decided…nope. I got off the couch and had an adventure of my own. I upped my dancing – both more often and more intense. I started crossfit. I come into work every morning aching all over, but able to brag about how much I’ve done.

  3. I’m that guy that never cared about anything. People would constantly be at my throat about weight control. I never cared while i was a bit younger in my teens. But now, its been a month and a half since I found Nerd Fitness and turned my life around. I am now eating and exercising the right way as taught by you and Mark Sisson as well. My level 50 is to get down to 190 lbs of lean muscle and be able to do things that I couldn’t even do as a child. Also I’m moving to California in about a year and I just love the beach ha ha.

  4. “Patience is crucial – Do not expect overnight success. Don’t forget, it took you years and years (or decades and decades) to get you to where you are currently. It could take years and years before you reach your new “fate,” so don’t chase quick fixes and “too good to be true” products and services.” This.

    I switched doctors a while back after my old doctor seemed to think my newly diagnosed Hashimoto’s Disease (thyroid) was no biggie. My new Naturopath is great, I went in to get my blood work done the other day (every 4-6 months, forever) and told her of my changes-mostly Paleo diet, walking 1.5-2 miles every day, strength training 3-4 days a week. She was impressed and made it a point to weigh me “As a baseline for the next YEAR.” It really struck me then (not in a bad way) that this was a big change for me, it’s going to take a lot of time. My doctor is awesome and realizes this. Not come back in 2 months, and we’ll see where you are, but lets see where you are in a year.
    Also, thanks Nerd Fitness for making this feel do-able, not easy, but I feel like I can do this.

  5. Thanks for this post Steve! I was having a hard time staying committed the last few days. But you’re right it took me a long time to get where I am and by dang I can make the changes to be a new me!! I am grateful for your positive attitude on the days when I’m struggling. It’s not about the weight loss, I just want to be healthy again! Thanks for the challenge to keep me going!

  6. Sometimes things just fall into place.

    Recently had a mental shift and have been thinking about change.

    This is very timely.


  7. I’m the guy whose cholesterol is now at 150 (after measuring 264 a month earlier). I’m the guy who got through Thanksgiving without gaining a single pound of the 12 I just lost. I’m the guy who still finds it too easy to skip a workout after work. I’m the guy who is looking at his before and after pictures over the last two months and is as convinced as ever that I choose what I want to become. What I want is simple: To live each day enjoying all that being alive has to offer – including the many adventures that come from being healthy and in shape.

  8. I was miserable but now I’m happy!
    I went from being an 83kg skinnyfat guy to an very lean 58kg (im 5’5″) in a year and a half. For the past 2 months I have been bulking (first time in my life I’m trying to gain weight, I never thought I would see myself worrying about not getting enough calories). I now weigh 65kg.

  9. I was the girl who lived in the library 24 7 and put aside healthy eating habits because I thought they would cut into my study time.

    NOPE, ever since May I’ve allowed myself every sunday to prep healthy meals and snacks for the rest of the week! Added that to my weekly routine of yoga and cardio, and have lost 30 lbs the natural way. Feels amazing to be here.

  10. what an incredible post! seriously it’s creepy how good the timing of the article was for me!

  11. So true! 10 years ago, I was a homeless teenager and high school drop out whose calories mostly came from vodka. Now I’m a Crossfitt-ing, roller derby-playing healthy lady with a full scholarship to USC. And all I did was say, “You know, I want to be THIS person – even if it takes me 10 years.” Ok, it was a littler harder than that, but, you know, baby steps. Thanks for the blog; what a great reminder.

    (and, now, only about 1% of my monthly caloric intake comes from vodka. ;p

  12. Who I am: Obese biology nerd who has a bit of obsession with all things bread and sugar. I’ve never been truly healthy. But I don’t hate who I am – I like me. My husband is divorcing me because we’re going to be living 10 hours’ drive from one another.
    Who I’m on the road to meet: Healthily proportioned Biology nerd with a PhD, a normal relationship with food that’s good for me, with a side order of kung fu and someone who appreciates me just as much as I appreciate me!

    I am unabashedly excited about meeting Future Me. I get closer every single day!

  13. eight months ago I , at 37 years old and 262 lbs., decided to race in the Las Vegas half marathon. Last night I earned that medal.

  14. NF has been pretty tame lately IMO. Don’t get me wrong, I still go back to the “World’s Quickest Advice Column”, “How to live like James Bond for a Weekend”, etc–great posts–it’s just that the constant rehashing the same advice repackaged in the newest semi-nerdy movies, etc is getting really old. Not to mention I feel like, as a reader, you’re starting to seem like a little bit too much of a “seller” rather than a “partner” (the app you’re selling is a prime example–yes it’s simple, but do I really need to pay 99 cents for it? It’s completely barebones and a google search does the same thing).

    I’d be interested in what new things you’ve learned recently, and what new things you’ve done. I used to be so impatient for the next NF post to land in my inbox. It could be that I’ve “outgrown” NF but I still look at your list of goals (Epic Quest?) every time I get down about my job or where I’m going. Maybe I’ve moved onto guys like Tim Ferriss (I know you’re a fan) who constantly show me new things and help me learn, but I really hope you come back and appeal to people who feel like me. I hope you (and the community) don’t take this as a jab, but rather some constructive feedback from a longtime fan.

  15. h – as good as this post was, it’s your comment that has made me finally sit up and say ‘no more excuses!’. Thank you for sharing.

  16. This blog is a business, if they don’t advertise SOME they aren’t going to make any money. I can see where you’re coming from on the tameness of the articles, but they’re still really good. I’d say this is the best one there’s been in a while.

  17. I’d like to see some more articles about how actors in nerdy movies prepared for their roles. How did Anne Hathaway train to be Catwoman?

  18. I have been reading Nerd Fitness for about 5 months now, and I really feel like i found a great health and fitness blog that resonated with my personality. The articles are funny and charming, they are geeky and reference things that I understand and combine them in a metaphorical conglomeration of awesomeness. Well, today marks an entirely new feeling I get from this blog. Maybe it is because I started Paleo (day 4, going strong) (partially inspired by this blog as well as CrossFit), and my hormones don’t know what to do with themselves, or maybe because I just saw Wreck-it-Ralph, and it all makes so much sense, but I honestly had an emotional reaction to this post. See, a year and a half ago, I was 100 lbs. over weight, and it has taken me almost 2 years to become “someone different”. All the people in my life see me as someone new, made over, healthier, and happier. It’s been a weird journey of highs and lows, mentally defeating days and physically accomplishing days, but all in all, the core of my journey has been about undoing an unhealthy person of the past. My parents both have diabetes, are overweight, suffered from alcoholism for many years, and lived in poverty for my childhood. Becoming someone new has been the theme of my entire life: escaping poverty, getting my graduate degree, having a kick-ass job where I help other kids who are having trouble, but losing the weight and getting healthy has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. I someones still look at myself in the mirror and think : “who are you?”. Everyone benchmarks their identity based on different factors. For a while, for me, it was pounds lost, then it was miles ran, lately its WOD times, or leveling up to level 30 just this morning (on Fitocracy) but the core of all of these segments of life are a reflection how you feel about yourself. Like Ralph, I used to look at myself wondering if I could be something else, someone else, but feeling as if the journey was too hard, and although it was, it feels great to be on the other side (although still challenging myself). Like any archetype similar to this – the phoenix, of sorts. It’s funny, as time has gone on, and my mind and body has changed from lethargic and coasting into a litany of health problems, my previous lifestyle seems so distant from me now, which is a good sign that I won’t go into fatty remission. Also, reading 100 blogs, looking at 100 photos, joining a weight loss program, “watching carbs”, and all the other things that can help with changing ‘who you are’ is unparalleled to thinking and then knowing that you can be someone different, that despite the pain and the work of the effort, you can be someone else, you don’t have to be who you were. Thank you for this blog post, that seemingly summarized many of my thoughts as of late, tied in a fantastic film, and reaffirmed this crazy journey I am on! Rock on, Steve!

  19. This site is lame, every article is the same. Eat paleo (which is just the hipster Atkins and folks yes it is), buy these books that I like and used so now I don’t have to work a real job anymore, I get paid to post the same article with a different character, or game reference. This guy at his heart is a seller he just read start your own business 101 and found his niche putting two and two together that most fat people like games and movies and used that as his get rich idea. Steve didn’t come up with paleo he just gave you a place to feel hip about it, so you don’t fall into doing atkins like your mom or grandma. Even that video he likes the “why you got fat video” was taken from the movie fathead where the guy claims to eat fast food and not gain weight but in reality just eats Atkins and loses it instead, but it’s hilarious that he doesn’t mention that was the reason for his success. The guy in the video was just a morgan spurlock hater and conservative tool bag. He (steve) also isn’t shy about telling you this, we pay for him to live his dream that is why I’m putting to use one thing I did learn from him though I’m using self control to block me from ever coming here and giving this site another hit again.

  20. I can sense where some below comments are getting the feeling of rehashing the same idea over and over again. But in my opinion that’s kind of the point. Reading one post, one time, will give you a sweet burst of motivation, but in the long run, people need a constant reminder of their true potential. Even if Steve is using the same base ideal for his posts, I feel he manages to keep them refreshing and interesting time and time again. His analogies are fresh and nerdy reference much appreciated. Yes, it is a business (let there be ads!) and yes, the general message of ‘you are the master of your own destiny’ is constantly rehashed, however the hard work and thoughtfulness Steve puts in to each and every one of his posts is motivation enough! I, for one, greatly appreciate NerdFitness FOR the fact that the same idea is repeated. Burned in to my brain. How many different ways can I learn that I’m in control? Who knows, but as long as Steve keeps motivating me with these posts, I’m happy.

  21. Kick-ass post. I’ve totally learned to appreciate your attitude as it pertains to making yourself feel better. Do what makes you happy. I think you’re saying “throw out your RULES!” Live day-to-day and do what you want – you’ll be happy and on your way to better health. Thanks for spreadin’ the good word!

  22. I once heard from a friend that if you want to make something you hate into a habit, you have to do it 200 times. It’s not easy to change our old ways even if it’s doable. So how can I motivate myself to change for the better?

  23. I once heard from a friend that if you want to make something you hate into a habit, you have to do it 200 times. It’s not easy to change our old ways even if it’s doable. So how can I motivate myself to change for the better?

  24. Awesome post Steve! I decided to take control of my own future about 18 months ago (at age 58), and have totally changed my lifestyle – and my life! I am eating better, exercising regularly for the first time ever, have lost almost 110 lbs., and have started running, lifting, experiencing new and exciting things, and generally just having a kick-ass time! A great online friend, who just happens to be one of your biggest fans, sent me this link. I just joined your site, and am looking forward to reading more, and becoming even more awesome as I prepare to enter my 60’s!
    Oh, and my name is Steve too!

  25. I used to be the girl that climbed trees, walked everywhere, and who guys looked at sideways for carrying the heavy stuff like TVs and boxes full of books during a move.

    Through years of abusive relationships and poverty I became the woman who ate whatever was cheap and plentiful(rice, potatoes, bread) and had to will or time to exercise.

    I am currently the woman who is taking care of her health by avoiding food sensitivities, taking care of her heart by pursuing only healthy relationships, and starting her journey toward being strong again.

    My Level 50 is here: http://sinnahsaint.blogspot.ca/p/the-me-i-aim-to-be.html

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