The world is in the middle of the nerd culture’s Renaissance.

Just look at President Obama, Steve Jobs, and Joss Whedon—from the President-in-Chief to the captains of industry we’re a nation lead, powered, and entertained by nerds.

It hasn’t always been a primrose path through Hobbiton. For many geeks and nerds, their high school felt like living in Mordor. Their memories are filled with equal measures rejection and bullying. Even reclaiming nerd and geek as positive instead of tools of torment was a battle hard won.

But the nerd’s brain is wired differently. It grants amazing powers of concentration when harnessed. It can just as easily misfire, leading to depression, addiction, and despair. It’s like the light and dark sides of the force…before George Lucas mucked it up with all of that Midi-chlorian crap.

Photo of Chris Hardwick
Courtesy Chris Hardwick

No one knows the perils of the beautiful geek mind better than Chris Hardwick. After his unlikely MTV success faded he fell down the rabbit hole. Numbed himself with gallons of beer and stacks of pizza. A short fall from comedian to punch line. In 2003, Hardwick decided to fix his life—by any means necessary.

His redemption story serves as main narrative of Hardwick’s new book The Nerdist Way, part career guide, part self-help book, part rallying call for nerds everywhere. “I’m a dude with a Long Trail of mistakes. I have gleaned some knowledge from them…I feel like it’s a responsibility for me to offer them up,” he writes.

From the ashes of Hardwick’s post-“Singled Out” life he created a niche on G4 and founded Nerdist Industries, a growing podcasting network and television show. His comedy shows and panels at conventions regularly sell out. Every year his fan base grows as more people discover his distinctly nerdy brand of comedy, and alongside sidekicks Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, Hardwick has become a geek tastemaker.

The set up of the book is appealing to anyone who has spent long nights playing roleplaying or video games. There you beat a stage or thrash a boss and you level up. Well, Chris Hardwick’s book is designed to help you to level up in your real life by learning to take control of your mind and focus it like a laser. Moreover, it shows how the powers of focus can make you fitter, happier, and more successful.

In all of those areas, The Nerdist Way hits like a thoroughly pissed off Hulk. It’s so right on that I lost sleep thinking about how I could use his lessons. (And this is someone who didn’t have nightmares after watching the legendary Doctor Who episode “Blink.”) The points are brilliant, but not some instant fixes—you have to put in the work and be brave enough to examine your weaknesses.

While his methods are often efficient in saving time and energy, some of his approaches (see the part about perfecting your credit score) require an amazing amount of work. It’s a needed kick in the pants, but a touch obsessive.

The Nerdist Way Cover
Courtesy Chris Hardwick

It would have also been interesting to hear him talk about commuting, beyond the productivity of audio books. Maybe he could have given a lesson on stress management, so we’d learn to arrive at work safely and less stressed. It will only become a growing problem as there are more cars on the road.

Honestly, the book could have been twice as long. Some of the best ideas fly by and if I didn’t already know the basics from The Nerdist Podcast, I might have missed them. But this may be the best argument for buying the book so you can reread chapters as your Nerdfu grows stronger.

Buy The Nerdist Way

Culture Book Review: The Nerdist Way By Chris Hardwick