Book Review: Level Up Your Life
Life is a game, or it should be. Steve Kamb, a self-proclaimed nerd and gamer, wrote a book to show you how to turn your life into an adventure game. This book is Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story*. This book really resonated with me, and I am sure a number of my friends will find it as interesting. I discovered this book listening to a podcast.
This book is many things. Throughout the book, Kamb tells his story about his desire to transform his life into something more rewarding. The book is also a business card for his business: NerdFitness, which is his spin on getting in shape. Nerdfitness has a community of followers who participate in quests and challenges to level up their fitness life. The book is also a how-to guide for building a set of quests to live your life with more purpose.
Kamb has broken his book into six major parts with 23 chapters. The book is 288 pages long and written in a conversational storytelling manner. The major sections included:
- The Call to Adventure
- The Hero’s Journey
- Crossing the Threshold – Design Your Game
- Leveling Up – Advance in the Game of Life
- Mastering Ordeals – Activate Beast Mode
- The Road Back-Continue? Or Game Over?
Throughout the book, Kamb drew inspiration from video games, movies, and adventure books. Each chapter began with a quote from one of these resources. Kamb would illustrate a point by using an example from one of these resources. Also, throughout the book, Kamb would write about quests and adventures his NerdFitness community would participate in and their results.
In the first chapter, Kamb outlined his life and the decisions that caused him to take a different approach to life.
“My game would be called ‘The Epic Quest of Awesome.’ With this game, I drew inspiration from all of my favorite movies, video games, and books. I developed a system that allowed me to gain experience points, accomplish quests, complete missions, and literally level up my life.”
Quests are built around things that would challenge Kamb. The questing level was based on the level of difficulty with each level becoming more challenging. For example, starting at a Level 0 for playing guitar, in other words, not playing a note to a Level 30 or 40, where you are playing with friends in a pub. Kamb had developed quests in a number of different areas:
- Physical – “Completing a handstand push-up or learning a martial art”
- Mental – “Learning a new musical instrument or language”
- Leaving comfort zone – Eating exotic foods or traveling to a new country
- Financial independence – building a business or paying off debt
- Helping others – Volunteering or donating.
Kamb also developed travel zones similar to World of Warcraft. Often, quests tied learning something new with travel to a new place. For example, attending a cooking class in a foreign country. He developed a system to keep tabs on experience points so that he could level up. For me, I always enjoyed the “Ding!” of leveling up in World of Warcraft.
This book focused on developing and achieving goals. Kamb just added a level of fun. He stressed that we need to transform our desire to do something into action. We need to move beyond continuous research… Stop collecting underpants!
Here are some of the sections that I really enjoyed:
- Discussion of the hero’s journey. Kamb outlined the hero’s journey and made connections to everyday life.
- Managing excuses for not adventuring. Kamb looked out and addressed the common excuses for not adventuring: no time, no money, my job won’t allow it, too old, don’t have same opportunities as others, and life isn’t a game. The last one saddens me.
- Exploring game mechanics. Games typically have essential elements called game mechanics that keep you involved in a game. These include a story, a character, ways to level up, a reward system, a world to explore, and a way to develop skill.
- Developing the rules of the game. Kamb provided guidance for building your character, designing quests and missions, level structure, and rewards. He provided examples that he uses as well as a method for tracking progress. While designing quests, he recommended these categories:
- Physical quests
- Mental quests
- Fun quests
- Work quests
- Adventure quests
- Courage quests
- Freedom quests
- Master quests
- Gratitude quests
- Legacy quests
- Ways to negotiate obstacles. Kamb addressed strategies for eliminating bad habits and strengthening healthy habits. One of his primary interests is fitness. A large part of the book focused on fitness, Nerdfitness, and quests related to fitness. In the later part of the book, he referenced the fictional character, Jason Bourne. I was so intrigued by the references, I watched Bourne Identity last night. Kamb included a fitness routine along with nutrition guidelines.
- Questing is not necessary a solo activity. Kamb noted that many popular video games relied on a team to accomplish the mission. He wrote about what made a good team. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Surround yourself with people better than you.
- Overcoming fear. Leaving your comfort zone is tough. Kamb provided some strategies for handling fear as you adventure forth.
- Travel adventures. Kamb gave some useful ideas for traveling on a budget. He offered tips for planning and executing an adventure. Sometimes the adventure does not have to be far from home. What about a quest to explore the top 10 recommended sites in your town.
- Share what you discovered. I really appreciated that Kamb believed that adventurers should share the lessons of their journey. Through this blog and a couple of others, I have tried to do exactly that. Help someone on their journey.
As someone who likes to game and tries to make life a little more fun, this was an enjoyable read. I am confident a number of my friends will also enjoy Level Up Your Life. If you are looking to add a little more fun in your life and to do things that are out of your comfort zone, this book will show you a way to do exactly that.
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