[Steve Kamb]

How one Nerd helped others break stereotypes, get healthy, have fun, and made millions doing it.

Listen to Brian Clark's podcast 20mins in

[00:00:00] Hey folks. It's Swyx so today's clip is the longest one. I'm sorry about that. Basically. It was such a good story from beginning to end and I could not cut any of it out. It covers nerd fitness, which is one of the fitness blogs I've been tracking for many years. Um, I fell off the radar. A while ago, but I still have very high opinion of it.  

Um, I have been one of the passive leaders, but I think the message definitely resonates that it finds a niche, which is nerds. And then it tries to do something to serve that niche. And I think the journey of Steve as a creator, as a writer who went through SEO, Uh, just the exploration and understanding how to do contents for living.  

And then starting to build a business on top of it, and then exploring how to productize this stuff that he did. Like don't teach me what to do, just do it for me. I think it's a very typical business journey for bootstrappers that is extremely successful. He's essentially one guy, maybe if a team of 20 something, people making millions of dollars a year. And I think. What's great about that is that it also helps people be fit so it's just one of those ideal bootstrap businesses that is just win-win. 

So my origin story. After college, I was living in San Diego and I was selling construction equipment. I was in sales because I didn't know any better. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Both my parents were in sales, so I just figured get in, get into sales. I've lived by the beach. I worked in sales and I was terrible at it. 

So, so bad. I had very little experience with construction equipment, renting. I was renting out forklifts and boom lists. Giant downtown projects in San Diego 22 or 23 at the time. And just have no idea what I'm doing and on a particularly miserable. Day at work on my lunch break. I walked into a bookstore and I felt like the sun was shining through the window and spotlighted this book that had just come out. 

I had no idea who the author was or what it was all about, but I saw the cover and the book is called Tim Ferriss's four hour workweek. So I see this book as like, it was literally the first week it came out. So this was 2007, I think, or somewhere in there. And I picked it up and I read it and. A big part of the book was like, pick something that you're good at and a social group that you're a part of and see where you can find that overlapping, gap. 

And for myself, I was like, well, I just cracked the code for myself personally, about my health and fitness. And I was spending an inordinate amount of time playing video games. I was like, well, I don't think I could write like the best fitness website, but. I could probably help people that are beginners. 

And who else has big, is a beginner fitness. That's self-conscious and like, can think of fitness, like a video game nerds do that. It's like, all right. I Googled nerd and fitness, nothing popped up. I was like, huh. All right, let's do that. So I bought nerd and then I did nothing with it for like two years. 

Cause I was so afraid to get started. Eventually quit. The first job started a sec or went to work at a different company. It was while I was at that second company, I got certified as a trainer. I got further education and finally worked up enough. To start writing basic articles about beginners getting started with health and fitness. 

And that was it, but like, I didn't start it because I saw that nerd culture was going to become popular. Like, I didn't know, Disney was going to acquire star wars and Marvel and like, it was just going to become cool to be a nerd. I was just like, I'm playing 40 hours a week of EverQuest, which was like, even nerdier than world. 

Like I'm playing all of these video games and I want to talk about nerd stuff. Like let's just stick the two together and see what happens. And fortunately I didn't know any better, which is what I started at before.  

Yeah, that's amazing. Because now of course you look like a genius, like just a complete marketing guru who saw how these two things would work together because the stereotype of course, is that nerds don't work out. 

Did it well, but you were an exception, I guess. So in many ways it seems like you created this. That someone like you would want. And it just happened to also resonate with a lot of  

exactly. I, so when I was starting my fitness journey I did what most guys do. I went out and bought like muscle and fitness magazine and I followed like the bodybuilder workout programs. 

And after like three weeks, I'm like, well, I don't, I look like that guy. It's like, well, because you're not on steroids and you don't eat like that dude. And he's been training for 25 years. So I most stuff that I found. I felt either disconnected from like, I have nothing in common with this guy, or I felt almost like, I want to say ashamed, but rather like most of the fitness marketing is built around like, Hey, you're not. 

And you're not good enough, but if you buy this thing, then you will be good enough and everything will get better. And I was like, that's [00:05:00] just that's bad shame on you for doing that. And let's try to give people like actually helpful information without the hype and the nonsense. And just like, here's what you need to know. 

Here are the, all the mistakes that I made. Like let's get rid of all that. Let's do some basic stuff and get you started. And then we can also still talk about Harry Potter and star wars and talking,  

right? Yeah. The whole shredded bro aspect of fitness. They're all trying to outmatch show each other. 

And I think that turns a lot of people off it doesn't work with me at all. So I, for further, I linked to nerd fitness guides all the time, because you've got the humor you've got the pop culture references, which is something I did at Copyblogger early on. I mean, that's literally how I was able to make myself write two long articles. 

Like it's because I would go, well, how can I use a prince metaphor to explain content? So when you first started, was it was just you, right? You were  

writing about the content. It was just me a long time. And interestingly, so I guess I started really working on the blog at night while I was working the day job in 2009. 

And back at that, then. Which is the same today. Everything I read on the internet was like, you need to write short posts. You need to publish five days a week because nobody has the attention span to read long stuff. So for like six weeks, I think again, I didn't know any better. I didn't know what I was doing. 

I spent six months writing like 400 word articles. A lot of them were like very topical, but quickly out of date. Cause it was about something that happened that week and after like five months, six months, something like that, I had. I don't know, 20 subscribers. Like I don't even think I had an email list yet. 

I was just like, people could subscribe the RSS and who's like, oh man, this is cool. 20 people are reading. And then I started stumbling across Bloggers that were writing long form content. And almost overnight, I was like, I'm going to try something different. Like instead of writing these short posts, I'm going to write one long article, but it's going to be like 2000 words. 

I'm going to cover an entire topic and just see what happens. And like right away, it felt better to me because it was long. I had to keep myself entertained, which is where the pop culture nerdy references came in. I was like, if I'm not enjoying writing this, then nobody's going to enjoy reading it. So like, I have to keep myself. 

Entertained throughout the writing process. Like if I'm laughing, maniacally, as I'm typing about vegetables, like I'm doing something right. So I would write these articles and they started resonating very quickly with the people that were already reading, but it started bringing in new people. And then over that next year, things really exploded because like you, Brian, I was doing two long form articles a week and I did that every week for years. 

But yeah, it was literally just me. Right. And two articles a week answering every email, replying to every comment while also still working the full-time day job.  

That's interesting that they were still saying the short article thing in 2009, because don't  


Yeah, well, I mean, w in the blogging space in 2005, it was like, well, you got to write every day and it's 250 words, and it's your opinion. 

And I was like, no. And so I wrote thousand word articles that were educational twice a week because I couldn't fill all five of them. And that's why Copyblogger, I think really took off quickly. Once you were offering a little more high-impact value, then of course, we got to the point where everyone, it was like, what I called the content arms, race. 

Everyone was trying to out value the other person, especially. People in the SEO community early social media, that was what would make it to the dig home page and all of that kind of stuff. Pre Facebook and Twitter. But yeah, I would have thought by 2009, They would stop giving that bad advice, but apparently  

you found, I was clearly taking the advice from the wrong places and didn't, I didn't know what he didn't know. 

Like my, my, I wasn't, I probably had never even heard of the term SEO at that point, digital marketing. Like those weren't even thoughts in my mind. It was literally like, if I can just start a website, like I'm a nerd, but I'm a video game and bookworm a video game player in bookworm. 

Developer or programmer. I don't know much about internet marketing. So first, like, man, if I can just write it and like this WordPress thing seems cool, like, all right, I'll put some stuff up there and probably Googled like how to blog. And some of the stuff I found was unhelpful. Luckily I then stumbled across a few bloggers back in the day that were helpful. 

And I tried to emulate them by as like, yeah. Two articles a week. I'm putting out good stuff and just focusing on.  

Did you have aspirations to write had you written before you started the blog?  


It wasn't until, so I quit the sales job and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia where two of my college roommates were looking for a third roommate. And I went to work at this company called six men and six men [00:10:00] produces floating music festivals. It's literally like rent a cruise ship and then put John Mayer and 20 other bands on the boat and then sell every other cabin to fans of those musicians and create this floating music festival. 

So it was while I was working for the. My job was like marketing assistant for something to start. I got paid very little, but it was so much fun. And I learned a lot. And part of my job is building or fostering the community for each of the each of the different boats. Each one had a different music genre and thus a different audience that needed to be spoken to in a different language. 

So. Working with them. They said, Hey, we're going to start this thing called a blog. And we're going to put it on our company website. And everybody needs to take a turn, writing an article. And then I wrote something and this was like the first time probably. Probably maybe the first time ever that I got to do truly creative writing where it wasn't a term paper for college about, Abraham Lincoln or it wasn't a business deep dive into something, but it was like, truly write about a band that you love, that you happen to just watch perform on the deck of a cruise ship, parked in The Bahamas and let's have some fun with it. 

And I wrote, and I was like, oh, this is way different. And then they very quickly said like, okay, you're now in charge of the blog. Okay. We just want you to write all the time. So I just started writing all the time and learned like, oh, like if you write about things that are fun and interesting to you, like time flies by. 

And that's when it finally clicked for me, it was like, okay, I'm not going to become like a personal. That trains people that are nerdy with nerd fitness. That's one-to-one what if I start a blog or turn it into a blog that is, one to a hundred, one to 1,001 to a million, like, I can have some more fun with this. 

So I never, as a kid growing up, I didn't, I never imagined I would become a writer that could happen to accidentally I guess serendipitously as a result of some other opportunities that came up.  

Okay, well, that seems like a good segue into product. Like at what point after you started the blog, did you understand what type of coaching or courses that you would develop? 

What was that process like  

for you? Yeah, very organic. It was, I didn't know what I was going to sell, but I figured if I can just get a good. Number of people reading the website and then ask them, how can I help you? Like. What is the thing that you're struggling with, then it's going to give me an opportunity to create either a product or a service in that space and and then serve those people and they'd be happy about it. 

So there was about 18. After I had started after I had started a website, part-time and over those 18 months, I just kept getting the same questions over and over again, it was like, Steve, can you just give me a workout? Like, I think I even had an article that was like how to build your own workout and all the comments and all the emails I got were like, can you just do this for me? 

Like, I'll pay you. It's like, oh, all right. Well, that seems like an easy place to start. Why don't I create I'll, my community at that time, I called it the rebel. I think I started calling it the rebel Alliance, but then it evolved now where the nerd fitness rebellion, it was like, let's call it the rebel fitness guide. 

Well, I'll make a PDF charged. Like I think I was like terrified. I asked for $30 for this thing that was going to, it was like six months worth of workouts and everything you needed to know about nutrition and my. And I asked for 30 bucks and managed to sell enough of them to buy me like a month or two's worth of income. 

It's like, okay, this is now officially a business. I should probably try to start taking this thing a little more seriously. Let's go to find, let's go find more people that are like the people that are currently buying this and continue down this path of like, okay, this is no longer a hobby. This is a thing that I think I can devote my. 

So, what is the current product offering that you have at nerd fitness? So wait you rebel Alliance to nerd fitness Alliance. That's  

finish rebellion  

rebellion. Okay. The rebellion is from Disney. They're like you can't be the rebel Alliance.  

I mean, it was very comically. I asked the community, I said like, Hey guys, I don't want to just call us. 

Like welcome to the nerd fitness community. Like that doesn't seem nerdy enough. So I was like, what do you guys want to do? Like, I think you can even still, I think the blog post still exists maybe, but I was like, do you guys want to start an empire? And I was thinking like, Roman empire, I wasn't even thinking star wars, empire. 

And then I was like, or do you want to like, help me build a or like run a rebellion and like overwhelmingly the response came back. Dude, we hate the empire. Like we're all rebels. We hate that. I was like,  

you can't be the empire,  

but like, I wasn't even thinking like star wars, empire inexplicably, like I was thinking like, like, oh, the Roman empire, that was cool and expanding. 

So, so stupid or so funny. Luckily the community said we're going to be rebels. And then I Googled rebel Alliance and I found this beautiful artwork of somebody had drawn the rebel Alliance [00:15:00] logo in maroon on like a concrete wall. Like at that time, I think the nerd fitness colors, it was like blue and white. 

And then it was like, oh, okay, here we go. Like nerd fitness logo is already circular. Like it's just right here. I already drew it on a napkin and had a friend digitize it. So it was like, okay. Our color scheme is now red and gray and white and black, like the rebel Alliance. We're going to be the rebellion. 

We're going to have rules of the rebellion. Welcome to the rebellion. Joined the rebellion. And like things clicked. It was like, okay, this feels like something that people are interested in being a part of. And it was still a small group of people, but people were very passionate about becoming a part of it. 

And so now I think you mentioned that you work with a team of writers, is that correct? You're no longer  

the chief writing guy. Right? So it's evolved a bit. We have we have a few people on the team that have edited past content of mine or I've partnered with, to write other contents. So I have two of them. 

We'd have 25 w we'll talk about the different aspects that nerd fitness offers now, but one of them is online coaching and two of our coaches are also pretty darn good writers and content creators, Jim and Stacey, and they have also created content. Stacy is a. Powerlifting woman who can deadlift 450 pounds. 

We just shared, we've shared her success story all over the site. She loves Zelda and and power lifting and has transformed as a result of discovering nerd fitness. Being confident or building up the confidence to pick up a barbell. So now it's not just me. There are other people. We have a mental health expert that has written articles. 

We have another guy in my team that has helped edit content and kind of repurpose it to make sure that it gets its way around the internet. So, nerd fitness went from just me to now it's at the point where we have close to 50 team members scattered throughout the globe, working on. Different projects and finding different people and helping different people in different ways. 


Wow. That's amazing. So yeah, the reason I asked about the writing aspect is because again, going back to the incongruency, if you will, how do you even find someone. It was a power lifter and is into Zelda. I mean, that's just, I guess they find you just like with Copyblogger, we got up to 65 people and they all came through the audience and they all understood the mission. 

You didn't have to have like, the break room manifesto on the way. Everyone knew what Copyblogger stood for. It. It's the same thing with nerve fitness.  

Yeah. You either get it or you don't and if you don't get it, then it's probably not for you, but if you do get it welcome aboard, let's go. 

Exactly. So you've evolved from that initial $30 PDF thing. To where you're actually doing one-on-one coaching. Is that right?  

Yeah. So we I've had to reinvent and transform nerd fitness as a company in a community like a dozen times in the past dozen years. Like, it seems like every year we're trying, we're reinventing ourselves. 

As things changed, the community remains the same, but the services or products or whatever it may be have evolved over that time. So we've simplified things lately. Two ways to support nerd fitness are two ways to paid services that nerd fitness offers. One of them is called nerd fitness prime. It's our online private community. 

We have an app that you get as part of joining our fitness prime called nerd fitness journey. You get to create a superhero character. You have daily missions to complete your character earns different items. You carefully craft your alter ego, your origin story. And then there's, there's villains to battle and storylines that go along with each aspect of it. 

So that's the that's nerd fitness, prime and or fitness journey. The app is free to download and try out. And then the higher tiered project or process for people that are interested in more one-on-one instruction is our online coaching program which very similar to everything else that nerd fitness happened organically. 

I had those two coaches, Jim and Stacey were creating content. But I said, Hey, I wonder if we can I have a car, I have a, at that time I already had my, I had an online coach myself and I still have the same coach to this day, five or six years. So I wonder if people in our audience are interested in this. 

So before building anything, we sent an email out to our, the women of our community. And we sent an email out to the men of our community and said, Hey, we're thinking of doing this online coaching program. You have to fill out this really long application. It's going to be expensive, but you're going to get one-on-one instruction from Jim or Stacy. 

And let us know if you're interested and we got a hundred. A hundred applications for both sides of that. It was like, okay, here we go. Seems like this is something we're interested in. I mean, we were using Evernote to track workouts and people were like texting to coach and very quickly we pivoted to a third-party software and then eventually built our own. 

So, and that has just continued to grow and blossom through we're. Now at the point where we have. 25 full-time coaches. We just hired two more. This week, we hired three last week or three, two weeks prior to that we built our own custom software where each coach now has a dashboard that they see, they know which clients did they need to interact with. 

Each client gets, one-on-one instruction from the type of workout they're doing. They can tell [00:20:00] their coach that they're traveling the following week and the coach builds them a travel workout. They take pictures of their food and the coach helps them slowly adjust their diet. It's and it's all done with a superhero theme to it. 

So it's a, so that's really like nerd fitness is super simple. Join our email list. If you're interested in learning more about our community, come check it out. Try downloading our fund habit, building superhero app, or if you want one-on-one instruction from one of our certified instructors that lives and breathes the nerd fitness philosophy, check out our coaching program. 

Again, you see that 20 minute journey going through his writing, you know, a serving on a music party boat through whatever. Uh, turning into a blog and then turning into coaching and then turning into productized services. I think it's a very repeatable process and I think it's just amazing to watch. 
2021 Swyx