Word For The Day: Level Up

Today I don’t present a new word but rather a new application to an old phrase:

Level Up – verb – informal – To pour effort into a personal endeavor with the deliberate and focused intention of improving oneself.  Particularly in reference to that last and most difficult bit of earnest hard work needed to reach a new plateau of achievement.

Unlike most of my “word for the day” posts, I didn’t coin this term.  Nor do I know who did. Being as socially connected as the average rock, I always associated the phrase with D&D players from the Medieval period of twenty sided dice and books written by the Gygax.  In non-geek terms (my readers who live and breathe this stuff can will correct me), a player would perform various feats and thereby earn points.  Accruing lots of points would earn them a level.  Each level made the player significantly more awesome.  This was the whole point.  The phrase sounded something like this: “It would be safer to run away from that six headed zombie dragon but instead I’m gonna’ charge it with my big ass weapon of smiting and see if I can take that sumbitch out.  The rest of you can chicken out but I’m gonna’ level up!”

That was then, this is now, and I don’t even know if twenty sided dice still exist.  However I’ve recently heard a new application of the term.  Now the term comes out when somebody is talking about the hard work they’re putting into their favorite pastime and how they eagerly anticipate the inherent reward of mastering a new skill or completing a difficult task.


Gun nuts: “I used to shoot crap ammo from Wal-Mart.  Then I decided to level up and start handloading with super X, mega point, unobtanium alloy, match grade bullets and powder made of ostrich feathers and shark lung.  Now I can shoot the nads off a squirrel at 80 yards.”

Hunters: “Going after elk with a 300 win mag was OK but I got bored.  I decided to level up and stalk Grizzlies with an osage orange bow and homemade arrows.  I’ll miss my left foot but no pain no gain right?”

Fitness fans: “It took months but I worked up to a new level.  I can bench press a Volkswagen!”

Survivalists: “I leveled up when I decided to buy that chaingun.  When I bug out I’m going through the zombie horde instead of around it.”

Homesteaders: “I used to buy seeds from Burpee but I simply had to level up.  Now I grow kumquat from seed that originally came over on the Mayflower.”

See the pattern?  It’s all about achievement.  It comes out in terms that are defined by the participant.  It has nothing to do with what you’re expected to do or what would normally be done by a fellow in your situation.  It’s all about picking your mountain and climbing that sucker.

Folks who define their own standards for their own development and go after them with hammer and tongs are inspiring.  Usually they’re kicking ass because that’s what motivated humans do.  Nothing is certain so failures happen.  Even so it’s not so much a failure as a delay.  There’s a feeling of inevitability to the pursuit, and even if you get your ass handed back to you on a plate you’ve got no regrets.  After all, what are regrets but the empty feeling of having chickened out or merely done a half assed attempt?

The phrase fills me with joy.  Too much victimhood pulses through our society and it threatens to taint us all.  This is the cure!  Whenever someone is trying to “level up” they shine a light in the correct direction of travel.  Further, they’re too damn busy to flounder around feeling sorry for themselves.  They take one person out of the flood of stupid and that’s always a good start.

Another plus is that someone who’s leveling up is deliberately uninterested in bossing you around.  It’s basically a tautology; a person who gets off on controlling others is the exact opposite of one who wants only to improve himself.

I for one have been “leveling up” lately.  At what?  At the moment I’m not gonna’ say.  (My dog advises against putting too much information on the NSA’s cloud my blog.  If you wish, you can assume I’m full of crap.  I’m cool with that.)  What I can say is that “leveling up” feels good.  The mind, body, and soul all react positively when you pick a goal and go for it.

I’m hoping the phrase “level up” will plant its siren song in the ear of the world.  Call me naive but every step up is better than a step down and we need a phrase that encompasses that concept.  If even a few percent of us are out there “leveling up” it’s a hard thing to deny.

I’ve seen other obscure concepts take root.  In 1980, nobody knew who John Galt was.  Now everyone is at least aware what “going Galt” means.  (Well perhaps I speak too broadly, everyone who is interesting knows the phrase; regardless of their reaction to it.  The rest are too busy looking at LOL cats on their iPhones.)  Moreover, it wasn’t an easy concept to explain until “going Galt” transmuted from an obscure book from 1957 into something an off grid survivalist and a hippie organic farmer might both understand.

For the folks who are out there “leveling up”, good luck.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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