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The Nerdist Way

early cover concept art by Chris Glass; this will not be the final cover, however

As many of you know because of my blabbings, I’m releasing a book later this year (Fall-ish, I think) called The Nerdist Way. It is a productivity book for Nerds. It was born out of the fact that I have released many fuck-ups into the world throughout my life, and a handful of years ago turned to the Nerdier parts of my brain for help. I sense that there are many other Nerds out there looking for answers, so this is my attempt to reach out to all of them (or YOU) and share methods and tricks I’ve employed to straighten out my life. In my experience, Nerds have a very specific world-view and problem-solving approach coupled with hyper-self-awareness and a very active internal monologue. I believe it is possible to aim some of the traits that normally seem to attempt to cripple us with inactivity into the very engine that drives us forward. The content is a sort of first-person walk-thru of challenges I faced, and how I got around them. Tonally, it’s not unlike the WIRED article I wrote in ’08, Diary of a Self-Help Dropout. Though, if you listen to the podcast or read this site with any regularity, you probably have a pretty good idea how I present stuff.

I am BY NO MEANS perfect, but I pretty much never stop thinking about work, and how to streamline my life. I would tend to think I’d get an “above average” mark were there some kind of report card. I’m usually juggling a bunch of small, fun projects that I enjoy and that make me happy. If you are so inclined, I feel you deserve to be sprayed with some happiness as well doing what you love if you’re not currently experiencing it. Nerds were always shit on when I was growing up, so I feel excited and proud that we’ve now inherited a large chunk of this planet. IT IS OUR TIME TO RULE.

So now the point of this post…earlier today I got the following tweet from a nice chap who goes by @MDBowden:

Hey Chris, do you have any tips to get over writer’s block? I haven’t been able to write jokes for a while.

As I responded in a series of abbreviated DMs (I really do try to answer as many of those as possible) it occurred to me that there were probably more than a few specific points I might miss. Since the Nerdist stuff is really just a community of like-minded folks, I thought I would end each chapter or section by answering a few related queries. What you should know is that the book is that it’s divided into three sections:

MIND – how to manage your brain
BODY – how to manage your physical self
TIME – how to manage Einstein’s favorite dimension better to achieve the productivity you “so sorely need” (as Carl Carlson once said)

So that’s it. If you have any questions relating to any of the above-referenced sectors, please post them here and I will pull a few into the book and answer them to the best of my experience. Make sure to use whatever name suits you for crediting purposes. Also, hashtag your question with mind, body or time for easy sorting. And please don’t be shitty here. My intention with this book is to help other Nerds benefit from the lessons of my anxieties and mistakes, kind of like an older brother. Or an Overlord. Whoops! That last part just slipped out.

Hashtag HUGS.

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128 comments

  • I bought your book from Audible with absolutely no idea what to expect. After my first drive (~1hr commute) all I could say was, “Wow! This is not what I expected and exactly what I wanted!” I, age 40, also heard Yoda in my head saying, “Too old, yes, too old to begin the training.” I didn’t really feel that way, so I just channeled my inner Chris and said, “F*** off Yoda!”

    This book is a great new way to look at your life through the familiar electrodes that jazz the nerd brain. Awesome job, Chris. Thanks!

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE your book. I enjoyed it so much and found it so profound that I am gifting it to almost everyone on my gift list. Can’t wait for more of your work. PROUD TO BE A NERD!

  • I intend on purchasing your book. I can see my sons (high schoolers now) enjoying the reading. They, as well as myself, can relate and will most likely purchase a copy for each of us!

  • So I couldn’t sleep, turned on Jimmy Fallon (our resident Nerdist was a guest), and heard about the book. The only question I have is when can I pre-order?

  • I have a real problem with social anxiety. I need tips to counter it. It makes me want to stay inside, avoid the world, play games on the computer, or watch TV. #Mind

    I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I can get interested in something for awhile, but maintaining interest in the longterm seems difficult. Am not sure why I lose interest and want to move on to something else. Can’t seem to stick with something. #Mind

    Maintaining a regular sleep/wake cycle is difficult for me. This doesn’t help when I am on the computer or watching TV … but it is interfering with my life. My overly active, nerdy brain isn’t helping. #Body

    My house has gotten very cluttered. Lots of projects have gotten put on the back burner. I feel overwhelmed. #Time

  • Just curious about how you handle ‘hecklers’ at performances. Might be an interesting topic for the podcast. I think more people would be willing to attempt stand-up but hostile audiences freak them out.

  • I’m a writer with a day job and typically it’s like pulling teeth to find time to write. I manage to stuff some writing time during my commute, in the evenings & on the weekend.
    Ultimately, I’d love to leave my cube-dwelling IT hell and write for a living, in addition to hosting my own writer oriented podcast.

    My question is, until the Lottery Fairy drops some massive cash in my lap or my novel suddenly catches the fancy of an international audience, what sort of babysteps towards a good foundation should I be taking? There seems to be an overwhelming number of things to coordinate (Getting the book written, buying equipment, scheduling time to interview people, etc..) all the while still going to my day job, indulging in general geekdom & carving out time for the fam.
    (BTW– huge fan of the podcast! Very inspiring!)

  • how do you find out what your truly passionate about? i’m a very smart person, good at lots of things and interested in lots of things, but i hate my job. i’m a lawyer. i don’t know how to find something i’m interested in to turn into something that brings me joy (and a paycheck).
    also, i have a problem with procrastination. i hate starting projects. maybe because i hate the work.

  • I just moved from L.A. to the DC area and only have a few friends here, none of whom share my favorite activities. I am a huge alternative comedy nerd, avid podcast listener, and keep track of every bit of film/TV trivia and celebrity gossip. Most of these activities are fine to do alone and when I get the urge to quote lines from Arrested Development or Wet Hot American Summer I just go online to find some virtual friends to do so with.
    However, when my favorite comedians come to town I feel it would be a lot more fun to see them with like-humored real life flesh and blood friends, but I have no idea how to meet some who share my interests. As a big girl, I have low self esteem which makes it difficult for me to go out and strike up a conversation with strangers and don’t even know where I should go to meet my fellow nerds.
    Any advice on how and where to meet new friends with similar interests?

  • Any recommendations for staying enthusiastic about your job? I know we should all do what we love, but the world needs tax software programmers too! I do love the job when I get to work on a new project or am presented with a unique challenge to handle, but there are “doldrum” periods in any job and I was interested if you had any thoughts on staying in love with the job through those. Thank you for considering this, and keep up the awesome stuff you do.

    P.S. I love your podcast and the insights into the art of comedy, even though I get so little chance to see much of it up here in Montana. Keep it up!

  • Being somewhat stuck in a 10 year stay at an office supply store that claims to be “taking care of business” I have finally put in my 2 weeks notice…

    That being said I am soon to combat regular panic attacks and self doubt as I dare to have a different life. And though I will not be as bold or cover my nose in brown, I would like to openly thank you and your Nerdist army. For your constant proof that the most nervous of nerds and the worst of times can turn a bag of dicks into a bag of winged vaginas (wait… um.. yeah I’m gonna run with that).

    I look forward to your book’s guidance and the upcoming tour (Seattle?).

    side note: Jonah and Matt… MAKE OUT! MAKE OUT! MAKE OUT!

    Kind regards,

    SWC

  • My questions are similar to those of Matthew Burnside & ChaddersD.

    #MIND – How do you move past the initial planning and editing, get out of your own head, and make progress? Once you obsess over details and work hard to finish the project, how do you get over the fears and doubts that stop you from sharing it/publishing it/performing it/etc.?

    I have tons of projects (songs, short stories, ideas for novels, essays …) that I’d love to put out into the world, but I haven’t been able to motivate myself to do it. Fear of rejection is only part of it. I’m also afraid my work will be stolen or misrepresented somehow. Or it could be ignored altogether.

    These must be common obstacles. How would you suggest someone overcome them? At least, where would you begin?

  • how do you force yourself to focus your mind on a task instead of letting your mind wonder to things like youtube playing games and say reading your fav blog ( nerdist.com ) and how do you make time to fit in doing the things you like to do? #mind #time

  • Can a person be reproductive AND productive?

    As if it isn’t hard enough to be creatively productive what with a day job and a goddamned video-game habit… Now my gal and I have reached the point where we’re thinking of having kids in the next 1-2 years, but I am terrified it will be the final nail in the coffin of my dreams of creative fulfillment. All my friends with kids laugh knowingly when I ask them earnestly if they think I will still be able to continue my habit of getting up at 5am to write once I have a kid. Apparently I will be too busy building gazebos and landscaping the yard.
    Do babies have to be small evil vampires that feed on your hopes and dreams? Or will all this be forgotten when I look down at its hopefully cute, non-deformed face and see it gurgling and shitting its pants?

  • Oh, I have a question.

    Do you ever consider staying healthy (i.e. things like working out and sleeping regular hours) to be a necessity that unfortunately interferes with productivity? Or do you see it as another thing to fit into your schedule that will keep you busy, somehow giving you the same satisfaction you’d get from working on a project?

  • A. I <3 your podcast and the blog is such a treat.
    B. I truly appreciate how super positive you are and wish you could bottle that and spray the world fire hyrant style.
    C. #Mind: how do you motivate yourself to do the little tasks once you've taken on the big stuff? This is my biggest challenge.

    Can't wait to pre order this in multiples!

  • Chris,

    Subject: Your thoughts on exercise and its importance for creativity

    Another question you might want to tackle is the importance of exercise for you. You mention how exercise helped you with overcoming alcohol addiction, and how you realized later that your obsession with exercise was by itself vanity, etc.

    My question is this: is exercise good? and I don’t mean it in the stupid, no duh way, I mean, how did it help you through progress? I always read about how exercise is discipline, blah blah blah. What do you think, Chris? Do you follow a strict exercise regimen (the whole personal trainer thing mentioned on the Joel McHale episode) that must be done everyday for mental relaxation, or is it just there for health purposes? or, like Maron, is it guided by some mild to serious obsession with body image?

    And while we’re on the subject, what about meditation?

    I know that answering this question can sound like a lose-lose, and you might think that you will end up either parroting some known ideas or sounding like a blowhard. However, your book is for life management of creative brainiacs, and since exercise seems to work for many of the people you’ve interviewed, you must have formulated some thoughts on that.

    Thanks Chris ! Can’t wait for the book !

  • Hi Chris,

    With all the delightfully nerdy ways to engage with technology, media and culture, how does one quiet the digital chatter and not get overwhelmed, and yet also partake in such things as Twitter, blogs, podcasts? It’s getting so that I can’t do normal tasks like cooking, cleaning, boring work stuff without a podcast or something to take up the other part of my brain without getting hugely distracted. This seems bad. Digital cleanse might help, but the web and social media are part of my job and I need to stay engaged without being completely taken over by it. Tips?
    Thanks!
    #mind #time

  • Hey Chris

    Not sure if this falls squarely under Mind or if it could fall under Body as well. What kind of tricks or suggestions do you have for dealing with anxiety attacks. Where you can’t focus or sit still because you’re (obviously) anxious about something.

    #MIND #BODY

  • Subject: What is your standing with mentoring?

    Hey Chris,

    I enjoyed your podcast and your interviews because they showed me how you and everyone you knew had to work their ass off to get where they were; how they all had to deal with failures; and how they all were humbled by the process to become the nicest people ever. I am sure you have talked about this in detail

    However, you rarely mention mentoring, or whatever is close to being guided by a senior comedian or person. Have you ever had those? What is your position on mentoring, or at least being chosen/adopted by someone who sees a talent in you? For example, the story of how you were offered your first spot in radio, and how you learned what to there, etc.

    To me, that would complete your already awesome set of advices — just do it, work hard, get up after a fall, have great friends, and be humble and self-conscious at all times.

  • #mind

    Chris, how do you overcome an overwhelming fear of failure, of not measuring up? Especially for someone trying to just get off the ground and create things. Like, if you have really good taste in tons of things and think “The works of Nabokov exist, Louis CK and Paul F Tompkins are creating new jokes every day, why the hell should I be arrogant enough to think I can create anything worthwhile in comparison?”

  • #mind I apologize if this topic has already been mentioned, but my question is about self motivation.

    When I do creative things I get a positive response from my friends, the issue is getting myself to actually create something. I’ve always got a handful of ideas in my head for comics I’d like to draw, stories I’d like to write, or even just blog posts I’d like to make. Then life and TV will get in the way and all my creative endeavors fall by the wayside. I have no trouble self motivating at work (mostly for fear of being fired), it’s my personal life that could use a kick in the tookus. It’s not that I don’t find time to create stuff occasionally, it’s just that I know I have time to do more.

    So basically, how do you self motivate yourself to be creative?

  • Chris, this is very much in the #MIND column. I’m interested in how the brain, which is an otherwise lovely and wonderful thing, can fool us into believing that we are stupid bumholes. A cycle seems to occur in my head every day where I believe that a) I am no good at anything, b) I should probably not even try to do anything, since I’d be no good at it, and c) I am a bad person for not being good at anything, and also for not trying. Then I get bummed out.

    I suppose what I’m asking is, why the fuckshit do we let this happen? (We do let this happen, right? It’s not just me, right?!) Is there a fun way of either dispelling these dumb feelings of self-doubt or no self-worth, or using them to propel ourselves to SUCCESS, whatever that is.

    Hugs from Scotland,
    Stu

  • How do you manage to keep healthy relationships(friends, family, partner) while juggling work, projects and time spent recuperating from everything in general? I’ve found out the hard way that I suck at it. #TIME

  • Hey Chris…

    Thanks so much for doing what you do!

    Please tell me what’s in your ManBag? What are the essentials you must have with you to cope with the day (besides the obvious 2600 cartridges!)…

    Also what kind of bag is best for the 21st Century Nerd?
    How many iPod cables is too many?
    USB Thumb Drive or Portable HDD?
    How many Mini Display to whatever adapters is the minimum to survive?
    etc, etc…

    Cheers : Andy
    #Mind #Body & #Time Not trying to be a douche just think tIis straddles all three!

  • How do you manage to keep healthy relationships(friends, family, partner) while juggling work, projects and time spent recuperating from everything in general? I’ve found out the hard way that I suck at it.

  • Growing up and now growing older, I’ve been bombarded with intimidating statements “it takes X number of years before you’re any good at this certain art” be it writing, acting, standup, etc. On a logical level, it seems arbitrary, and not to be taken literally. How do I keep my ADHD/OCD brain from taking this literally, keeping myself permanently intimidated, and therefore continuing procrastination? How do you force yourself to create what you know will start off being rather sloppy, and possibly just dumb?

  • I want to know why they are making another Matrix movie? Apparently neo is going to be battling a sparkling vampire who looks like he just came out of a Hollister catalog…. Where’s Wesley Snipes when you need him?

  • Any advice on how to manage a stressful life would be helpful for sure. I work full time in retail management *shudder* and go to school full time. It feels like I never have time for myself, or time for the things I like to do. And when I do have free time, I always feel awkward explaining how I spent 8 straight hours playing video games when I have a to-do list a mile long. x.x Oh and WHY do people continue to assume girls don’t play video games and or/ [insert nerd thing here] when it is obvious a great amount of us do? #MIND/TIME/RANT

  • Not sure if this qualifies as #mind, #body, or both, but here goes. As someone who has dealt with substance abuse, what would your advice be to others with similar trouble? How have you successfully stayed clean? I haven’t yet been clean for a whole year and have found that 12 step programs don’t work for me, so I always like to know how others do it.

    thank you. please keep bringing the laughs you wonderful person, you.

  • Hi Chris,
    How does a Geek, yes I prefer this moniker over Nerd, not become bogged down in his/her own desire to know, everything on what ever subject peaks their interest. I have three that can and have at times become all consuming. To a point were my non Geeky wife and I have had arguments about what ever I happen to be Geeking out on at any one time. Enjoy your Burrito!

  • How do you respond to my assertion that nerds of today are not as ‘nerdy’ as nerds of yesterday? In today’s society everyone has a roomba, or an iphone, or a dedicated high speed network running into their living room. You can barely function today if you aren’t a little ‘nerdy’. Back in the 90’s and before, society truly shunned those of us who were nerds. Servos on circuit boards, command lines, and 300 baud modems. It was a whole separate world we worked in. Nerdy wasn’t getting tickets on Fandango, it was bridging a VAX email system into a UNIX based SMTP server.

    …and we walked 5 miles a day, in snow, uphill, to get to the coffee machine.

  • *Mind*

    I am a 24 year old nerd who hails from Long Island. I am a Comic book/Anime/Whovian/Video game nerd. I suppose I would be an all around nerd? I never really had luck with any ladies due to a myriad of problems that I believe but the main one is as the subject of this comment is mind. I am very largely self-aware and have a very hyper-active inner monologue. Those two never seem to work together well in tandem. I don’t like to take risks for fear of what could potentially happen. I suppose I am always afraid of the “what if?” My question to you is if you would like to use it is:

    How does a nerd get past the internal thought processes and simply take a chance or go for it with life?

    Allons-y!

  • With communication being affected by globalization as much as industry and culture, why do some nerds isolate themselves in their passions as well as their hardships? The access to more like-minded people would seem more facilitated by increased avenues to relate but on the whole internet culture, in my experience, seems to get boiled down to the least common social denominator. My fear is instead of increasing splinter groups of creativity or skill it’s stifling and watering down the collective masses. Am I the only one perceiving this?

  • With communication being affected by globalization as much as industry and culture, why do some nerds isolate themselves in their passions as well as their hardships? The access to more like-minded people would seem more facilitated by increased avenues to relate but on the whole internet culture, in my experience, seems to get boiled down to the least common social denominator. My fear is instead of increasing splinter groups of creativity or skill it’s stifling and watering down the collective masses. Am I the only perceiving this?

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