The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) isn’t a new book, but the material in its pages is beyond appropriate for the subject matter and target audience of this blog.

About a month ago, I was headed out of town for the weekend and expecting a long drive. My wife and I have an Audible.com account, and like many of you, we love listening to audio books when we’re going to be spending more than 30 minutes in the car. On a whim, she had picked up a book by Chris Hardwick almost a year ago, but we hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet. Lately, I’ve been on a Nerdist kick (seriously, their podcasts are great), so I suggested we give the book a listen. I hadn’t looked at the cover, hadn’t paid attention to the subtitle, but it was Hardwick and that was good enough for me.

Talk about a fortunate coincidence. This was just after I’d written my first draft of “Going Green in Emerald City”, and a lot of what had been running through my mind lately was thinking about ways to improve myself—mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don’t know if I could have picked a more perfect book, for me, if I’d been given a dozen self-help books with exact details of their contents.

Let’s get this out of the way first: this book is not for everyone. If you’re offended by language, stay away. Otherwise, even if you don’t self-identify as a “nerd,” you’re bound to take something positive away from reading it.

The author, Chris Hardwick, has worn a lot of hats throughout his career. He’s a comedian, and might not be the type of person you would expect to be dishing out life advice. Even he openly admits this. From the book’s introduction:

No, I am not a degree-holding specialist claiming to have all the answers. I’m a Nerdy kid who fucked up a lot and learned through trial and error how to make his brain work FOR him, as opposed to AGIN him.

And he does just that. Hardwick breaks down the average social tendencies, behaviors, and thought processes of today’s nerds, and goes about trying to help the reader understand themselves and how to utilize their “laser brain focus” to better themselves and reach their goals. Again, from the introduction:

This book is a philosophical approach to dealing with various sectors of your life that start at an emotional level: fear, anxiety, focus, physical health, time management.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, but the injection of down-to-earth reality, where Hardwick goes deep into admitting his own mistakes, but also detailing how he resolved those things, as well as tips and tricks he picked up along the way, make it an enjoyable and enlightening read.

The book is divided into three sections, “Mind,” “Body,” and “Time.”

If you read my previous post, you know I suffer from an anxiety disorder coupled with the occasional panic attack. Its not that much fun, and I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the course of my life as a result. In a lot of ways, The Nerdist Way is somewhat akin to what we’re attempting here at SJW: Hardwick talks about his own fears and anxieties, and the lengths he had to go to in order to get over them, as well as offering some good, sound advice. Listening to him talk about these things makes it a little more personal. Most importantly, he’s there to tell you that it is possible to be “normal.” This went a long way with me.

In fact, we loved the book so much, we picked it up on Kindle just to have a handy reference guide. The website has a number of complementary goodies as well.

It’s not all sunshine and roses. The second section (“Body”) was somewhat boring if not painful to listen to. His pep talk and lead-in are great, but then Hardwick goes through a number of basic workout exercises, as well as describing gym equipment and how to use it properly. In a written format, this probably makes more sense, but it felt like it went further in-depth than I needed it to go. The fact that it’s being read by a comedian did little to alleviate the droning boredom of lists of instructions on exercise; however, in the print or digital print version, this probably isn’t so much of an issue.

When it really comes down to it, a self-help book is only as good as the results it produces. Chris Hardwick is not responsible for me, so that’s not a good measurement. However, since finishing the book, I’ve gotten standing weekly appointments with a therapist, made several gradual positive changes and worked to make them healthy habits, my email system is cleaner and easier to manage than ever, my wife and I joined a gym, and we’ve begun attending Yoga classes. In fact, I’ve got enough to talk about with recent positive changes that it will be its own post in the near future. I might not owe it solely to The Nerdist Way, but for me this book went a long way towards helping me look at myself and my inadequacies with better understanding so that I know how to fix them. Highly recommended.