I usually don’t dabble into the self-help genre, but as a fan of the original Nerdist Chris Hardwick, I found it very difficult to resist. For a book that is often found in the humour or comedy section of bookstores and libraries, it has quite the amount of extremely helpful tips and tricks to get “to the next level (in real life)”. What I really enjoy about this book is the informality of language. It is not formal, spitting out statistics and science-y words to explain what is occurring in your brain, or visualize yourself at a calm blue ocean listening to the calming waves. This is a conversation with Hardwick. He doesn’t filter himself (okay maybe a little bit, I don’t know what he really thinks – I like to believe he is a separate person from his Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr). He uses his own personal struggles of alcoholism and insecurity as validity for the effectiveness of his strategies. He treats the book as another means of communication with the nerds in the world who may need advice or just want to know about how he went from his drunken persona as Peter Hardwick to the Nerdist we know and love.
The conversational nature of the book allows the reader to almost become a participant in the book. His voice gives the sense of talking with a friend instead of talking at a total stranger who is practically paying him for his advice. His informality makes it a very easy read and gives the page a light tone to break apart the density and heavy subject matter of life pre-betterment. His background as a comedian definitely has a hand in this. His voice adds a bit more finesse and almost absurdity to the negative situation he put himself through in his 20s. As your friend, he pleads for you to not allow yourself to become Peter Hardwick and to legitimately become the best you can possibly be.
For those who didn’t realize it from the title, this book is directed towards “nerds”. As a nerd himself (c’mon, he calls himself The Nerdist), Hardwick feel he connects with that audience the most and directs his advice towards those who have a similar mentality as him. This allows him to give some pretty specific advice to the reader, such as the acknowledgement of getting into your head too much, or dealing with perfectionism, or anxiety attacks, and he even adds a lot of nerdy references to X-Men, Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Star Wars, etc etc etc for some good measure.
I was able to connect very strongly to the content because I have struggled with a lot of similar obstacles. It was really fun to see references to pop culture items that I am either really into myself or at least understand from being a pop culture reference vacuum. The book is directed towards a certain kind of person (ie. me), but what if someone who is the complete opposite of me reads this book? They would probably hate it, or find the book completely useless. Although the book isn’t very universal or versatile in its audience, I appreciate how in depth Hardwick goes for his reader. Just like the reader chooses what book to read, Hardwick chooses who he wants to be his audience. He wants die-hard nerds to be the ones to read his books because those are the people he connects with the most. They are, in a way, his people.
Hardwick does not spend a lot of time focusing on what I like to call “You have to visualize what you want to be” portion of betterment. This is always the portion of self-help books/articles/tips that often turn me off. In my opinion, it’s a load of bull. Yes, you have to visualize yourself as what you want but that is only like 5-10% of the process. He acknowledges that you can only stay in your head for so long and that there are other parts of your life that need attention for a well-balanced level up. He wants his nerd friends to take care of themselves. He gives suggestions for easy simple workouts (along with illustrations with Simon the Workout Bear) and several of his productivity hacks that he used and still uses that have helped him get up from rock bottom. He stresses the urgency to act now on what you have been given. Look at what you have and where your strengths are. Weigh your strengths however you’d like (scale 1-5, by how much you can bench press, your grades, blah blah) and see what you can do with them. Look for where you can use these strengths to create something or be a part of something. Not only focus on your strengths but DO SOMETHING WITH THEM.
My absolute favourite part of the book is the first few sections, introducing a fun and interesting method to look at your own personal life. Dungeons and Dragons. That’s right – the nerdiest of the nerd, the original RPG. Hardwick asks you to create your own Character Sheet/Tome based on you. Highlight your strengths and your weaknesses, where you want to improve, and even draw yourself either the way you want to be or what you are now (I went with the what I am now route). Throughout the book, there are “Characterize” sections where you are encouraged to write down things about yourself, like your goals, why haven’t you reached them, any projects you want to start, what are your favourite things, and anything about your current self that has contributed to the person you are today. On all of the negative things you have written down about yourself, he asks you to write down things like: “BULLSHIT”, “BOOOOOOOOO”, or “Yo! Wiener! You’re just having a panic attack! Calm your shit!”. Just like in RPGs, the characters can’t just give up because the door is locked. You have to look at what you have on you to figure out a way to get to the next room. It was just like creating a character and their backstory for a good ol’ game of DnD. It felt really silly at first but after a few pages all I can think of is: “Oh that’s a great story for my background” or “It’s necessary to know this about me [the character] in order to know this fact”. Although we’re not fighting orcs or using magical spells, our lives IRL aren’t very different from the characters we create, whether it’s for DnD, a book, a game, a TV show or a movie. We have to be able to think how can I solve this with the knowledge and “weapons” I currently have.
Even if you aren’t looking to “improve” your current lifestyle, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who identifies with the nerd-dom lifestyle, a fan of Chris Hardwick and his Nerdist empire, and those looking for just a fun, lighthearted read about a way to look at life.