Recommended Podcast Episode: “Leveraging Incremental Progress to ‘Level Up’ Your Life with Steve Kamb” (Unmistakeable Creative podcast)

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I recently listened to “Leveraging Incremental Progress to ‘Level Up” Your Life,” an interview with Steve Kamb on the Unmistakable Creative podcast.

Here are several ideas I appreciated from the interview plus my thoughts on them.  But I haven’t covered everything misters Rao and Kamb discussed,  so I recommend listening to the full episode:

  • After Mr. Kamb purchased his website domain, it took him a year and a half to start writing a regular blog and developing his business idea. First, he had to overcome his fears and distractions.  In fact, he kept giving most of his free time to video games until his computer literally burned out and he chose to use that event as a catalyst and lever: he made an agreement with himself that he couldn’t buy a new computer until he made his first dollar from NerdFitness.  So many origin stories make it all sound easy: a person had a vision, made a decision, and instantly got to work, with no hesitation or doubts (or doubts that were easily overcome).  It’s nice to know that you can succeed long-term even if you’re slow to get started, even if you have to blackmail yourself to get over the initial fears and other obstacles.
  • Along the same lines, I appreciate that Mr. Kamb acknowledges that after nine months of blogging, he had very few readers or subscribers. Again, he doesn’t pretend there was instant success; he had to learn along the way and it took time and some stumbles.
  • The importance of incremental progress: moving forward slowly but steadily through a series of small actions with measurable results. It’s a useful form of project management.  Often, when we have a big goal, we get overwhelmed because we need to do so much to get from here to there; it can be de-motivating.  But if we break the big goal or project down into small steps, it becomes more manageable (oh yes, I can do just X), and seeing progress each day/week/month keeps us motivated and doing more. (This is the idea behind the paper thermometers to show progress towards a fundraising goal—or more commonly these days, digital trackers).
  • Interesting point: when playing a video game like “Legend of Zelda,” actually saving the princess—the big goal—is a miniscule moment in the game. The joy comes from watching your character get stronger, smarter, more resourced.  He connects this with the “progress principle,” which posits that humans enjoy making progress towards a goal more than they enjoy receiving the reward at the end.  Interesting idea; does this explain why so often we feel much less satisfied than anticipated when we reach a goal?  On the other hand, if the only thing we like about an activity is the reward, if there is no inherent reward in the doing, is it the right activity for us to dedicate significant time and energy to?  Or is there a way to shift our perspective so we can enjoy the process?
  • “Screw motivation, cultivate discipline.” You can’t count on daily motivation to keep you going.  Structures and systems are much more reliable.  Kamb made almost no progress on writing his book until he broke it down into weekly word count goals (incremental progress) and set up a system to write X words first thing in the morning several days of each week.  To help him focus, at night he would block access to many websites for about 12 hours and put his phone in airplane mode, so he had no distractions and no other work he could do until he met that day’s writing goal.
  • Kamb acknowledges, without shame or chagrin, that he has “balled his eyes out” in response to letters and emails from clients telling him how NerdFitness has changed their lives and helped them achieve things they never imagined they could do. He also admits he had no grand vision and no idea how meaningful the work would become when he began.  He started where he was, with an idea he was excited about, and has let things (and himself) evolve from there.  It’s quite all right to start small (and stay small, if you prefer).

This was the first time I’d listened to Unmistakable Creative, and I really appreciated that the host, Srini Rao, let Mr. Kamb tell his story in his own way, often taking minutes to answer a single question.  I’ll be listening to more episodes!



Level Up Your Life. The website Mr. Kamb created to enable you to follow his model of turning life challenges into video games.  (I haven’t used it; I like old-school check marks, stars, and smiley faces on a chart.)

Habitica.  Another twist on the “gamify your life” idea, this app turns all your tasks (desired habits, daily actions, and to-dos) into little monsters you have to conquer.  You can also become weaker and die if you fail to complete tasks. I haven’t used it, but a friend of mine LOVES this program and credits it with helping her finally begin developing certain habits she’d long considered a good idea.

Photo borrowed from “Unmistakable Creative” webpage

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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