The Nerdist Way–a Book Review

I know what you’re thinking. Why in the hell would I take self-help advice from the former co-host of MTV’s dating game show “Singled Out”? Well, fair point, but consider this. Shortly after the show ended, Hardwick fell onto hard times: alcoholism, weight gain, wrecked credit, inconsistent employment, and the kicker: he was working as an intern at “The Daily Show” when Jon Stewart told interview guest (and former “Singled Out” co-host) Jenny McCarthy that Hardwick was the guy who fetched everyone’s coffee. But now, Hardwick is sober, thinner, and can be found touring as a comedian, writing magazine articles for Wired, hosting several shows (including AMC’s “Taking Dead” and BBC America’s “The Nerdist”), and even writing and starring in Nickleodeon’s “Back at the Barnyard”. He’s also the driving force behind Nerdist Industries: a quickly growing collection of websites (including nerdist.com), podcasts, the aforementioned BBC America show, live stand-up shows in Los Angeles, and now a book, The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (in Real Life). Now are you curious to hear how he turned his life around?

I think we are all pretty familiar with the stereotypical nerd: D&D playing, anxiety prone, not in good physical shape, and over-thinker. He can beat all his video games. He can fix your computer. He has every action figure known to man. Hardwick wondered why a lot of these qualities lead to self-sabotage. Over-thinking leads to beating yourself up by replaying past mistakes over and over in your head. Anxiety can lead to panic attacks, which lead to increased anxiety, which lead to–you guessed it–more panic attacks. And well, the consequences of less than stellar health are pretty obvious.

So Hardwick wondered what if you could take these nerdy qualities of intense focus, obsessiveness, and intelligence and use them for self-improvement? Hardwick’s conclusion is that they can be used to create instead of destroy. And thus was born the concept of the “nerdist”: a creative nerd. The Nerdist Way is a list of tips and techniques to help nerds become nerdists.

The book is broken down into three areas: getting your mind right, getting your body right, and improving your productivity. The first part discusses ways to decrease anxiety and prevent panic attacks before they get going. He also lists ways to turn your mind outward so you can focus on your creative goals instead of beating yourself up.

The second part is a run-down of his health regimen. Hardwick includes his own before and after photos so you can see the effectiveness. This section is nothing new really, if you’ve picked up a few fitness books, but it does conveniently offer programs you can do in a gym, at home, and when travelling with only a couple pieces of equipment that fit in your carry-on.

The third part contains tips for getting your house in order financially and getting organized. I didn’t need the credit section (#humblebrag), but if you do, Hardwick outlines a solid credit-improvement plan. The organization tips are simple, and effective as well. Hardwick wants you to minimize stress and wasted time, so you’re free to not only do what you want, but also find ways to make those creative endeavours grow and reinforce one another.

It’s a quick read, rich in tips described using Hardwick’s humor and enthusiasm. The three parts may not hang together perfectly, but if you are able to incorporate even a few of them into your life, you will be better off for it. As Hardwick concludes his book, you will be ready to go out, try new things, face your fears, and become the nerdist you were always meant to be.

Full disclosure: I’m a Hardwick fan. I subscribe to his podcast; I’ve seen his live comedy; I DVR his shows. So I was predisposed to like the book. But the more I read it, the more I saw myself in it. Yes, I suffer from panic attacks. Yes, I mentally beat myself up all the time. And yes, while in graduate and law school, I put on a ton of weight I am only now shedding, years later. But I’ve already put some of his tips into practice. I was able to calm myself when I felt a panic attack coming on. I’ve become more driven and organized with my creative endeavors. And I’ve faced down the fear that comes with growth and risk. It’s exciting being a nerdist.