Why Nerds Are Happier

Here’s a statement everyone would agree with — the more time you spend with people that bring you joy, the more joyful your life will be.

And yet — I meet people all the time who feel undernourished and frustrated with this area of their life. When I ask, “why don’t you spend more time with your friends”, I get the same answer.

Everyone is so busy.
I try, but no one is available.
No one makes time for hanging out anymore.

It’s true, people fill their lives with meaningless bullshit and don’t prioritize relationships the way they should.

Boo fucking hoo.

There’s nothing you can do to change that. In fact, passively waiting for your friends to start giving a shit about relationships is futile, so I recommend a different approach.

I call it the “desperate nerd” approach.

The Desperate Nerd Approach

But Dave — I don’t want to be a desperate nerd!

Of course you don’t, and that’s the problem. You want to be the “cool guy”, the one who always gets invited to stuff but never puts themselves out by showing people that you care.

How’s that working out? Do you think playing it cool is a good long-term strategy to have a life that’s full of the kind of friendship and romantic connections you want?

I certainly don’t. Which is why I’m willing took like a nerd.

I just went back through my calendar for the last month and counted the number of 1-on-1 hang outs I initiated, versus the ones that just fell in my lap. Out of 24 hang outs, I initiated 18 of them. That means if I sat back and “played it cool” I would have one-quarter of the 1-on-1 time with people I love.

Fuck that.

Do I like the fact that I have to do all that work? Hell no I don’t — and I give my friends shit about it, but at the end of the day — I’m the one who follows up. I’m the one who pulls out my calendar and says “alright, let’s put some time aside”.

I also resist the Californian habit of saying “let’s hang out” but not really meaning it. If someone wants to go to lunch together and I don’t want to, I’m not going to end the conversation with some bullshit like “yeaaaaaaa that sounds greaaaaaaat” and never follow up. What the fuck is that all about?

Chances are, there are always conditions to which I’ll be a “yes”. Maybe I ask them if they’d like to meet at my house, or a coffee shop I can bike to. Maybe I invite them to meet me at a party.

If for whatever reason I don’t want to go out of my way to meet up with them, I can still suggest something I’m a “yes” to, it just takes a little creativity.

I digress.

Here’s an example of my nerdyness — I’ll call this “vulnerable stalking”.

The ‘Vulnerable Stalking’ Method

There’s a guy in my community named Daniel. He works a lot and keeps weird hours but I like him, and we have a lot in common. He’s also notoriously hard to meet up with.

At Daniel’s birthday party six years ago I did something most people wouldn’t be caught dead doing. We were going around the room sharing appreciations, and at the end of my share I pulled out my phone and showed him that he was on my “favorites” list (basically, speed dial for iPhone), which was significant because up to that point we had barely talked on the phone or spent much time together.

I said (in front of the group) “this might be a little stalker-ish of me, but I think you’re an awesome guy and I want to be friends with you, so I added you to my favorites list”.

Sure enough, Daniel and I have become friends, and when Paula and I were going through some tough times trying to understand polyamory, getting to spend quality time with Daniel made a huge difference in my peace of mind.

Was I afraid of seeming like a desperate nerd? Of course I was, but fuck that. In that moment I had the choice to be cool and separate, or be nerdy and have a chance at making friends with someone I admired.

I chose to be a nerd, and it paid off.

Here’s another story about how I “picked up” a guy I saw on YouTube.

The Friend Pick-Up Artist

As some of you know, my friend Obi and I worked together on a project called “Dude Panel”, which before we closed it down had 25K subscribers on YouTube, a popular podcast, and a loyal following of amazing women that we got to interact with almost daily.

But most people don’t know the story of how Obi and I met.

I saw Obi on YouTube, and in the video he was reading a few books I liked. He seemed like the kind of guy I’d want to be friends with, so I looked him up online (a.k.a. online stalking).

I found out he lived in LA, and I sent him an email. I lied and said I was going to be in LA and asked if he wanted to meet up, and he said yes. So I drove three hours up and back just to have coffee with someone — what a desperate nerd I was!

We gradually became friends, and Obi not only became my business partner, but he taught me a ton about copywriting, internet marketing and online business.

That little bit of effort I made to meet in person turned out to be a great decision.

The Genius of Steven Quincy Urkel

Steve Urkel was the king of the 90s.

Ever since he appeared on Family Matters he became a national obsession, but who would have thought a huge nerd, desperate for love from his crush Laura, would become such a star? It was a surprise to everyone.

It’s worth understanding why we loved Steve. Steve was the very embodiment of everything we’re afraid to be — he was the quintessential desperate nerd — and he did it without shame.

In a world where we feel like we have to pretend to be someone we’re not, that kind of honesty is incredibly refreshing, even if it looks like someone doing all the things society has deemed “uncool”.1

If Steve were a real person today, he wouldn’t be saying “everyone is so busy” and he wouldn’t be afraid of putting in more effort than his friends to have the kind of social and love life he wants.

Many of us have been trained to think that being cool is the way to happiness, but I believe it’s the opposite.

The extent to which we’re willing to look “uncool” and show that we actually give a shit about people, is the extent to which we will be able to create and sustain the relationships that make our lives happy and fulfilling.

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Footnotes

  1. Steve Urkel wasn’t perfect. Were he judged by today’s standards we would see that him repeatedly not taking “no” for an answer perpetuates the habit of men not listening to women.