Wil Wheaton on Embracing Your Inner Nerd

wil wheatonIf I asked you to name one subject that completely enthralls you, could you do it? One subject where you consider yourself to be an expert and, at the same time, have an insatiable need for more information. One subject that you can talk about for hours without getting bored. Would you consider yourself a “nerd” for your particular subject? You might be more successful if you did.

In an interview on The Nerdist podcast, actor and writer Wil Wheaton was discussing the definition of a “nerd.” The conversation was not judgmental or insulting; in fact, it was just the opposite. Wil is a staunch supporter of the Nerdist Mentality.

Being a nerd is not about what you love, it’s about the way you love it. So you and I love Mystery Science Theater in a way that somebody probably loves the Dallas Cowboys…That doesn’t mean that we’re a weird kind of nerd and they’re a weird kind of nerd. We’re nerds for different things.

Our nerdy tendencies exhibit themselves in distinctive ways. My grandmother is a nerd for the National Championship Ohio State Buckeyes. She watches every football game with an intensity that frightens the rest of the family. I have a friend who is a nerd for cooking new and exciting cuisines. She’s constantly posting her delicious creations on dessertsrequired.com. I am a self-professed nerd for AMC’s The Walking Dead. You can ask me about it, just make sure you’re free for the next hour.

We love this stuff. We live it. We find other people who love it the way that we love it, and we talk about it. And there are people who are nerdy for reality TV. And there are people who are nerdy for science. There’s people who are nerdy for 3-D printing.

If you remember the ending of the movie Revenge of the Nerds, {spoiler alert} the nerds win. And guess what…they win in the workplace, too. You know why? Nerds outsmart the opposition. Not because they are told to, but because they have a genuine interest in whatever it is they are nerdy about.

For those of us fully engaged in our jobs, we are constantly “nerding out.” New data is in? Party time! Let’s order some pizza and pull an all-nighter. The new software is running? Time to block out my calendar, close the door, and learn every detail. We hired someone? Hope their schedule is open, because I am genuinely interested in learning everything I can about the new member of the team.

Does this sound over the top? Am I risking losing “cool” points? Good! I am a nerd for my work and I will not pretend that I’m less excited. You might be passionate about a current project, the vision of the organization, building onto the strategic plan, or learning a new skill. Neither is wrong; what matters is that you are a nerd for something.

Embrace your nerdiness. When you find some aspect of work that holds your interest and provides a steady stream of curiosity, don’t hesitate to become fully invested. It cannot help but make you better than a Mouseburgler in an anterior assault [that’s a Dungeons & Dragons reference].

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