Sunday, March 13, 2016

Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb

Life is not a game, but you can learn from games to make your life more adventurous and fulfilling. Steve Kamb, a gaming enthusiast who turned his attention to physical fitness, used concepts of gamification to change his life. He describes the process in Level Up Your Life.

Throughout much of his childhood and into his early adult years, Kamb spent much of his free time playing video games. It was an escape for a life he didn’t always like. On the down side, these nearly addictive games were not helping him achieve a life he really wanted. He began to look for what made games so satisfying and how that could be adapted to making life more satisfying.

It is surprisingly simple. Our brains enjoy making progress, and it triggers our internal reward centers when we get feedback that lets us know we’ve progressed. Designers build incremental progress and associated rewards into the structures of most video games.

Much of the middle part of the book deals with goal setting. It is not much different from the advice you might find in other self-help or popular psychology books, except for the gamification spin. Imagine your idea life (Kamb calls it your “Level 50” life). Choose some challenging, inspiring, big goals (quests). Break them down into smaller, doable goals (specific timelines help). Create systems of accountability and rewards to encourage yourself to stick to it. Find a group, or groups, of people who can help and encourage you along the way.

In the final chapters, he deals with supporting concepts about overcoming fear, supporting your goals with good health and fitness, stirring up you sense of adventure, travel tips, and making the sacrifices you may need to make to live the life you desire and respond to a higher calling. He takes inspiration from fictional heroes of popular culture: Bruce Wayne (Batman), Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones, and Katniss Everdeen. He also lists several resources, both web sites and other books. If you’re inspired by adventure stories (in games, books, film or other media), you may find in Kamb’s book a framework for building the life you want.

I like that Kamb emphasizes that life, like a game, should be enjoyed. We should enjoy the process as well as the achievement. We should be flexible and open to the adventures we may discover along the way; they can enhance our lives and may prove useful to our quest in surprising ways.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in


Kamb, Steve. Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story. New York: Rodale, 2016.