This is a guest post from Steve Kamb over at Nerdfitness.com
Steve has a great sense of humor and a great mission–helping nerds get healthy.
In honor of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are making its big screen debut today (which I can’t wait to see), I thought I’d take a look back at the 1963 classic children’s book that inspired the film. Now, I remember reading this book countless times as a little kid and loving it, so I decided to read through it again the other day just for kicks and got way more out of it than I expected. Here are seven life lessons you can learn from Max, the main character:
1. “He was sent to his room without eating anything…that very night in his room a forest grew.”
Max made a mistake (yelling at his mom) and was sent to his room. Rather than sitting there crying about it, he made the most of it and created a fantastic adventure for himself. So you lost your job, or your girlfriend dumped you, or you’ve got to a point where your weight is really starting to become an issue.
You know the phrase, “there’s no use crying over spilled milk?” You can’t fix the past and you can’t predict the future; you can only play the hand you’re dealt. Andy Dufresne, the main character from The Shawshank Redemption, was wrongfully imprisoned for twenty years; rather than dwelling on his predicament, he chose to take action.
He built a library, helped his fellow inmates get their GED’s, and then tunneled through a wall to freedom. What kind of box are you trapped in? What are you doing while you’re in there, and how are you going to get out? Feel free to insert your own joke here about the kid who set off his home-made UFO yesterday and then went and hid in a box in his attic.
2. “An ocean tumbled by with an boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day.”
Max might have been physically locked in his room, but he chose to mentally be someplace else: where the wild things are. These days we’re so concerned with trying to do everything at once and get it done quickly that we never actually stop and take a deep breath.
Be like Max: lock yourself in a room, put on your favorite music, close your eyes, and completely shut off your mind for 15 minutes. After a brutally stressful day at the office, you’d be surprised how quickly this can improve your mood. Few realize this, but your mental strength is as important to your overall well-being as physical strength.
3. “…til Max said ‘BE STILL’ and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once. They were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all, and made him king of all wild things.”
Max was confronted by massive frightening monsters. What did he do? He glared right back, letting them know that he was in charge. F.D.R. once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Nobody is in control of your life but you. Don’t let a fear of rejection, failure, or the unknown keep you from making something of yourself.
Take a deep breath, look your fear square in the eyes (imagine it has eyes, anyway), and tell it to BE STILL. Of course, I’m talking about an intangible fear; I wouldn’t recommend finding a Grizzly bear just to yell at it. Aside from Yogi, most bears don’t speak English.
4. “‘And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!'”
Live a little! We only get one chance on this planet, so it’s okay to have some fun every once and a while. I’m a big fitness nut, so whenever people come to me for advice on getting in shape, the first thing I tell them is to find something that makes them happy – whether its dancing, karate, yoga, ultimate Frisbee, running, lifting weights, etc. – and find a way to do it every day.
I bet Matt over at WhereTheHellIsMatt.com got hundreds of weird looks as he danced around the world for the first time. Compare that with his latest video where EVERYBODY around the world wanted to dance with him. Whatever it is that gets you off your ass and out of the house, do it.
5. Max gets creative, swinging from tree to tree with the monsters
If you’re looking to get in shape and don’t have a gym membership, you’re going to need to get creative with your environment. Don’t have a pull up bar? Find a playground and use their monkey bars.
A kitchen chair can help you do decline push ups, one legged lunges, pistol squats, incline push ups, dips, and more. Heck, even empty milk jugs can be filled with sand for use as dumbbells. Max used his surroundings to have some fun. If you want to get in shape, use your surroundings to get started.
6. “And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
I learned this lesson the hard way. Right after college I moved to a beachfront paradise in San Diego, CA. It took me two years to realize that I was unhappy because my entire group of friends still lived on the east coast. It wasn’t until I moved back that everything turned around for me.
Max came to this realization and so should you: never underestimate or under-appreciate your friends and family. If you want to make a major life change, they are the ones who will motivate you, offer up encouragement, and pick you up when you fall down. If you don’t have a support group or somebody to lean on, find a community online or in your town that can help keep you motivated and accountable.
7. “Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye.”
It’s fun to dream and imagine and let go of reality for a while, but it’s important to stay grounded too. Once you’ve spent 15 minutes in your room alone with not a thought in your head, come back to the real world and put a plan in place to make things happen.
Whatever your fears are, take definitive steps toward conquering them. If you want to lose 10 pounds, get out of debt, run a marathon, or write a novel, make sure you set concrete, realistic goals and get started now.
Not bad for a children’s picture book! This mischievous kid in a wolf costume has taught me that it’s okay to not act my age, to face my fears head on, and to find a way to make the most of any situation. For those of you looking for the motivation to make a change in your life, you can learn from him too. Look at the hand you’re dealt, take a deep breath, and go wild.
Steve Kamb is a nerd and a fitness nut. He runs a fitness and lifestyle blog over at NerdFitness.com, helping out average joes and desk jockeys turn their lives around. You can download his free e-book, “A Newbie’s Guide To Fitness,” by clicking here.