Category Archives: self-love

Who’s a hero?

All together now: I’M A HERO!!!!!!!

This is one of many inside references to Camp Nerd Fitness I could make in this post. It started out as what we would yell during Amy Clover’s Strong Inside Out bootcamp sessions when a particular move was kicking our ass and we needed a war cry to keep us moving, and quickly became one of the watchwords of the whole weekend.

So what the hell is Camp Nerd Fitness? Let’s break it down.

Camp: Exactly what it sounds like. This long weekend took place at a legit summer camp facility, complete with bunk-filled cabins, a lake, a dining hall, lots of trails through the woods, a high ropes course, sports fields, and a giant inflated “Blob” from which campers could be catapulted into the water by their friends. And this camp was in the literal middle of nowhere, so it was as peaceful and quiet and away-from-it-all as you could want a summer camp to be. Every day was packed full of workshops, classes, and sessions we chose to participate in (and lamented conflicts between), with breaks for meals, walks, meditation, games, and conversation with our fellow campers. Every night had a themed dance party and a bonfire. And everyone there came from many different places, met as strangers, and left four days later as family.

Nerd: This wasn’t just any camp. This was camp for nerds, geeks, dweebs, dorks, and other people who just can’t contain their love for things like video games, fantasy books, board games, travel and adventure, even reality TV shows. And the nerditude was not subtle. I’m sure the different areas of this camp had normal names, but this weekend we learned longsword moves and played Ultimate Frisbee on Hyrule Field, practiced parkour in the Panem Training Grounds, talked about meal planning and self-esteem in Hogwarts, held the opening and closing ceremonies in The Coliseum, lit our bonfire atop the Beacon of Gondor, meditated at the Deku Tree, and used the entire camp space for a giant game of Humans vs. Zombies. When we weren’t sessioning or partying, there was a whole room full of board and card and video games for us to play. (Multiple epic games of Cards Against Humanity took place there, among many other games!) The nightly dance parties had a superhero and a Rubik’s cube theme, respectively. We weren’t just nerds in the same space, we were nerds being nerdy together on purpose, and damn proud to be there.

Fitness: Here was where we niched down even further. Steve Kamb is pretty famous for turning fitness into a real-life leveling up quest, and he and his team have inspired hundreds (probably thousands) of people to embrace their nerditude in ways that gets them healthier, stronger, fitter, and happier. To this end, all of the sessions and activities at CNF were geared toward all different kinds of fitness. Some of these were flat-out workouts, like the bootcamps I mentioned above. Some were training sessions for basic and advanced workout practices, from yoga to powerlifting to bodyweight work. Some were more specific (and nerdy) skill sessions, including knife and longsword fighting, kung fu, parkour, tricking (flips and air kicks), and grip strength. In between these active activities, we could learn about Paleo cooking and meal planning, how exercise helps fight depression, how to develop strong positive body image, and how some of the Nerd Fitness luminaries got in shape themselves. All the food served was Paleo, we all drank a ton of water, and I think pretty much all of us got pretty sore. (And we did all this as a vacation!)

So wait, was this just fat camp for geeks?

Um, no. Not even close. See, I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.

The best part is that this wasn’t a camp someone threw together to shame us all into slimming down, or challenge us to get off our lazy asses and start subsisting on broccoli between weightlifting sessions. This was a community gathering, the Nerd Fitness online forums writ into real life, founded on the principle that people make the healthiest and happiest choices for themselves when they are completely and totally supported. All body types, all skill sets, and all fitness levels were represented at this camp, as they are in the NF online community, and every single one was welcomed without question or condition. Some of us had done Ironman triathlons, some of us could barely run around the dining hall. It didn’t matter. The question of “who’s a hero?” was not a question of ability, but a question of heart, grit, passion, and self-acceptance.

I went to Camp Nerd Fitness unsure of how well I would do or fit in. I was definitely a nerd, but fitness hasn’t been a big thing for me in a long time, and I was never a camp kid. I fully anticipated spending the entire long weekend gasping for breath and massaging a raging stitch in my side. I wasn’t sure how I would deal with the people who could run circles around me (literally or figuratively). I knew I would be outside of my comfort zone, playing at my edge, sitting in the middle seat, or whatever language you want to use. But I knew I was going to do it anyway.

Was it perfect? Hell, no. There were a hundred tweaks that could have been made to make the experience better. That’s what happens whenever any event gets put on the first time, and it was still pretty damn great given that.

Was it difficult? Bet your asbestos it was. I struggled with all kinds of things, from doing the whole bootcamp to reforging my rusty martial arts skills to sleeping badly on camp bunks. That’s what happens when you commit to pushing yourself for a weekend on purpose.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. The people I met this weekend are, in every sense of the phrase, my people. We’re on a collective hero’s journey, and even when we go it alone, we’re doing it together. And that’s pretty awesome.

So who’s a hero? I’m a hero. If you’re interested in this particular brand of heroism, feel free to join me at Camp Nerd Fitness next year. I’ll see you at the swordfighting class, the Blob, and/or the Cards Against Humanity table.

The only two rules you need

I’m at Camp Nerd Fitness right now! So as John Green occasionally says, I’m writing this from the past. While I’m away, I’d like to share a short story with you of something cool that happened to me recently.

I was having a Facebook chat conversation with a good friend who lives halfway around the world the other week, when I had one of those moments where I inadvertently said something absolutely perfect. My friend was saying how she really wants to write book reviews, but is concerned that lots of other people are writing them as well, and that her reviews might not be as good as theirs. This was my response:

There are two rules to doing anything you want to do, in this case writing book reviews.
1. Fuck what everyone else is doing. Do your thing, your way, for your enjoyment. Full stop.
2. When in doubt, refer to Rule 1.
If you’d like a bit more to go on than that, try this: imperfect action done today will beat perfect action done next week/month/year nine times out of eight. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, it only matters that you do it. Doing it means you can make it better as you keep doing it. Thinking about doing it will never improve anything, and trying to make it perfect before you do it will only ensure you never actually do it. So just start doing it. Love that you love to do it. Love that it’s not perfect yet. Love that it’s your thing, your way, with all the good and bad things that means. Love that you get to keep working on it. Love yourself for getting off your cute but sedentary ass and actually DOING something. And when you see other people doing the same thing better than you, love yourself for working to follow in their footsteps, and love them for leaving the footsteps for you.
That is all.
I could write a long and involved conclusion for that, but I don’t want to.
See you in the future, when I get back.

The magic words

Today I’m going to talk about magic words.

“Hang on a minute,” I hear you cry. “Ein minuten, bitte! You just said not even a month ago that there are no magic bullets, and now you’re saying there are magic words?! What gives?”

Here’s what gives. There may not be any actual magic words…but words themselves are magic.

Have you ever been talking with a friend and, without meaning to, said something that so perfectly encapsulated your thoughts that the conversation just paused for a moment to let it sink in? Have you ever looked back a few pages (or a few years) in your journal and found a phrase that was so beautiful that it inspired a whole new journal entry all on its own? Have you ever read a book that seemed like it was written specifically for you, or even to you like a novel-length letter? Have you ever heard or told the perfect joke for the moment you’re in? Have you ever heard exactly what you needed to hear from another person, in exactly the moment you needed to hear it?

That’s part of what I mean by words being magic. Words can transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary one. The difference between a good story and an amazing one can be the words used to tell it. Mark Twain, likely the preeminent wordsmith in US history, once said “the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” That quote summarizes one of the major duties and highest joys of my work as an editor: helping people find their right(est) words.

But words have magic in other ways, too.

When you read the title of this post, I’m guessing a few words popped immediately into your head. Maybe words like “please” and “thank you” (we all learned those magic words in kindergarten, right?), but also words like “Alacazam!” “Hocus pocus!” “Wingardium Leviosa!” or “Klaatu barada nikto!” And of course, the magic word most commonly called the magic word: “Abracadabra!”

Now follow me here. When editing an article for writer Roman Korver recently, I ran across this fact: the ancient Aramaic phrase evra kedavra translates to “with my language, I create.” J.K. Rowling has confirmed that the killing curse avada kedavra is also Aramaic, meaning “let the thing be destroyed.” It is in fact avada kedavra that is the true root word of Abracadabra, the “magic word,” though the original use of that Aramaic phrase was in destroying disease, not people.

Evra kedavra: with my words, I create. Avada kedavra: with my words, I destroy. Abracadabra: the “magic word.”

Words have power.

With our words, we create and destroy our realities.

Think about it.

When was the last time you made a mistake and reflexively said “idiot!” to yourself?

When was the last time you looked at your bank account and said “I’m never going to have enough money?”

When was the last time you looked at your business, your relationship, your side hustle, your life, and said “I’m not good enough?”

When you say those things, what do you see in your life? And when you make a conscious effort to change those negative and self-critical words to more positive and accepting ones, what changes in your life do you see?

Evra kedavra. Avada kedavra. Abracadabra.

The most powerful life coaches and gurus I know have this idea on lockdown. They police their own words and the words of their clients, sometimes pretty harshly, in an effort to create better lives through better words. Some of these people are very woo-woo, some are very pragmatic, but they all know this power of words. And you know who else knows it?

Happy people.

There are studies showing this is true (Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman, talks about several of them), but just in my own experience, I know that when things are going well, I am happiest when I say things like “I’m really proud of myself for getting here” and “This is the way my life naturally works” rather than “This can’t last” and “Damn, I hope I don’t screw this up like I did last time.”

Similarly, when things aren’t going well, I find it easier to persevere and remain positive when saying things like “I’ve got this, I don’t know how yet but I’ll figure it out” and “I got through the last struggle okay, I’ll make it through this one too” instead of “I don’t think I can do this anymore” and “I can’t believe I fucked things up again.”

And the more I use the first kinds of words instead of the second ones, the more I choose evra kedavra over avada kedavra, the more easily I get through the tough times and enjoy the good ones. The happier I make my words, the happier I get to be.

I’m not talking about being a Pollyanna or closing my eyes to reality. When times are tight or I make a mistake, I know I have to step up and take responsibility for myself. But as I do so, I have the ability to use magic words to create my reality, and I get to do it in real time, every moment.

And so do you.

Evra kedavra and avada kedavra are a true dichotomy. They’re Harry and Voldemort, Gandalf and Sauron, good music and Justin Bieber. In the end, neither can live while the other survives.

The choices are yours, and yours alone.

What will your magic words be?

Exercises in self-love: the professional bio

I’ve written a few guest posts for a few other blogs recently. And for each, I’ve been asked to provide a bio, so the readers of these blogs will know who I am and why I’m awesome. And while like most people, my favorite topic of conversation is myself (ha, ha), I realized that writing about myself is not easy.

It’s not because I haven’t done anything. I know I have. And it’s not because I can’t think of fun ways to write about the things I’ve done. I know I can. It’s something different. Actually two somethings.

First, I feel like a rookie. A noob. A tenderfoot. I feel like trying to write about the things I’ve done so far in a bio is like a recent graduate padding his resume for a job interview. I know I’ve done some cool things, but a lot of those cool things have happened in the last three months, or at most the last couple of years. Talking about them out of context and timeframe seems almost disingenuous.

And second, the way I want to talk about who I am and what I do is still taking form. I know that I want to describe myself from the perspective of the mission I’m on and the impact I want to make and the WHY of what I’m doing, but I haven’t figured out the perfect words for those descriptions yet. All I know is I want to say more than just “I’m an editor and a speaker coach” or even “I’m a word coach and a professional giver of feedback,” which is the next step up I’m playing around with at the moment.

So when I had to sit down tonight and produce another bio for a podcast interview I have tomorrow morning (and can I please take a second and FREAK THE HELL OUT that someone who does a PODCAST wants to INTERVIEW ME?!?!?!?!), I really had a hard time getting started. I knew I had the bios I’d written for guest posts to inform me, and that I wanted to use some of their language, but I didn’t want to just copy and paste–not entirely.

I’d like to say I thought of some inspiring things that made me a lot more comfortable writing about myself, that made me feel less like a noob and more okay with imperfect wording. Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because the things that came to me in that vein didn’t explicitly surface in my memory until well after I’d finished agonizing through this version of the bio. But here they are anyway:

First, something Mike Hrostoski talks about: don’t be humble. Own your shit. Whatever things you’ve done, be fucking proud of them, because it’s your power and your awesomeness that’s enabled you to do those things.

Second, something several speakers at World Domination Summit talked about: take imperfect action. A decent plan executed today will beat a fantastic plan executed next week nine times out of eight. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just do it.

And third, which applies to both being new and being imperfect, writing a bio is just one more way of saying “I absolutely fucking love myself.” It’s simply the form of that statement that goes “let me tell you about who I am and what I do, because I absolutely fucking love myself and I can’t wait to share with you why I feel that way.”

So for those of you that ever need to sit and write a professional bio for yourself, take a few deep breaths and look at it as an exercise in self-love. You may still struggle with language, and you may feel like a rookie, but you’ll know those feelings are part of the perfection that is you doing your best, right now. Bet you anything changing that outlook will make the process easier and more fulfilling.

P.S. Here’s the bio I came up with. What do you think?

After several years of feeling life was holding him for ransom, James decided it was time to hold life for Ranson instead. Now he is an itinerant word coach and professional giver of feedback on a road trip across North America that has no set itinerary and no final destination. His mission: to enrich and amplify the impact of stories the world needs to hear. His superpowers: wordsmithing, listening, laughing, and giving amazing hugs. James contributes content to Start Young Financial, Next Stop Who Knows, Career Indulgence, and One Week Without, has edited pieces for Overachieve.Us and Huffington Post, has coached speakers for four TEDx events, and is a staff editor at Highly Conscious Man. A recently reestablished Crossfitter, an all-purpose tenor, an avid life experimenter, a travel and solopreneurship blogger, and a huge a cappella and Game of Thrones geek, James isn’t sure who or where he’ll be tomorrow, but he can’t wait to find out. 

If you feel moved to, write a practice bio for yourself in comments. I’d love to see how you guys absolutely fucking love yourselves. :)