Izmael Arkin, a middle school teacher quit his job to follow his childhood dream: To become a Ninja. Read on to see how Izmael went from a struggling life as a middle school teacher in california to becoming a Ninja in Japan.
Enjoy his 6 Steps to Turn Your Dreams Into a Reality.
I looked at my hands.
They were shaking.
I pulled over to the side of the road. The questions ran through my mind:
What did you do wrong?
How did you get here?
What are you going to do with your life?
Then the tears started to fall…
I was in my 4th year as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles, California.
26 years old, getting a masters degree in education. I was moving up the ladder fast, soon to be running my own school.
I was making more money every year. I drove a nice car. My resume looked fantastic. Everyone was impressed.
But there was a problem.
I hated my life.
I’d lie awake at 2am unable to fall asleep. Anxiety, fear, and stress overtook my thoughts.
Night after night the questions, voices, and thoughts kept coming.
What Are You Going To Do With Your Life? (The Million Dollar Question)
I thought I wanted to give my life to education. I thought this is what I was supposed to do.
I tried to use logic.
You have a good job.
You should be happy.
You’ve done everything you were told to do.
Logic is stupid… when it leads to depression, anxiety, and stress.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
For months on end I battled with the million dollar question.
What are you going do with your life?
I made it my purpose to discover my purpose.
I talked with friends and family. I read books. I took personality tests. I tried new activities. I volunteered in my community.
Friends would ask “Izzy, if you aren’t going to be a teacher, what are you going to do with your life?”
I’d smile and give a little laugh.
“I want to be a ninja.”
It was meant to lighten the mood, to bring some humor, to such a serious question.
But one day it clicked… I’m not kidding.
What is a Ninja?
About 4 months after that fateful October day, I wrote my dream on paper.
“I want to be a ninja… But what is a ninja?”
It’s a good question, right?
As I explored this question I realized something. I didn’t want to be a traditional ninja. I wanted to be the ninja from my childhood imagination. It’s a childhood dream.
So then I asked the question: According to my 8 year old brain, what is a ninja?
The answer became very clear. A ninja does 3 things.
- Moves to a far away land
- Trains extensively in martial arts
- Challenges the traditional rules of work and life as we know it
As I wrote these down I sat back in my chair with a surge of emotion. It clicked.
I Quit My Job, I live In Japan, I Train 4 hours a Day in Martial Arts
Over the course of 4 years I would quit my career in education, save money, find work in Japan, and eventually train extensively in martial arts.
I now live in the historical capital of Kyoto in Japan. I train in Aikido (a martial art) 4 to 6 hours a day 5 days a week.
Am I a ninja? By technical definition, no… But that was never what I wanted to be. I wanted to be the ninja from my childhood dreams.
I have now lived in Japan for 2 years. I have given my life to Aikido.
4 years ago, I was a depressed, stressed, overwhelmed 26 year old middle school teacher. Now, I wake up with joy, purpose and meaning.
I share my story for one reason. I’m not magical nor special. My life is evidence that you can follow your dreams no matter how absurd they may initially seem.
6 Steps to Identify and Live Your Dream
Below I break down the process to 6 specific practical steps to turn your dream into a reality. I know this stuff works because my life is the evidence.
Step 1: Answer The Million Dollar Question
I believe there is nothing more important than to identify your purpose.
The million dollar question is as follows:
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with your life?
Many of us allow money to be our excuse.
We use it as a crutch to slow us from moving towards our dreams. In some cases we even use the money excuse as a dagger that rips right through the heart of our dreams.
Your job above all else, is to identify what you want to do. After that, then you can figure out how to make money doing it.
Step 2: Define Your Dream
Once you know what you want to do, create a clear succinct definition for your dream.
Take my dream for example: to become a ninja.
That sounds totally absurd, unrealistic, and crazy. But when I give you the definition (according to my 8 year old brain)
1) Moves to a far away land
2) Trains extensively in martial arts
3) Challenges the traditional rules of work and life as we know it
It all of a sudden becomes possible.
Defining your dream makes the ‘impossible’, possible.
Step 3: Determine The First Step
Once you know exactly where you want to go (your purpose) and you have a clear definition then you need to identify the first step.
Do not be concerned with step 9, step 29, or step 109. All you need to do is focus on the next step in the process.
Step 4: Take The First Step
Action is the great differentiator. This world rewards people that ‘do’, not people who ‘think about doing’.
Everything comes down to execution. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but it don’t mean a darn thing if you don’t take action on it.
Step 5: Start Saving Money
Yes, I mentioned above that you cannot use money as an excuse. And that is correct. But here is the other reality.
As soon as I identified my dream, I started saving money every month. I called it “my dream fund”.
By doing this I was gaining momentum on my dream. Every month it felt like I was getting closer.
How much you save isn’t near as important as saving. Choose an amount and start saving today.
Step 6: Reflect, Adjust, Act
As you take action, you’re going to learn incredible things about yourself. But here’s the simple reality: you’re going to make mistakes.
It’s critical that you learn from these mistakes. After you take action it’s important to set time aside at minimum weekly to reflect. There are 3 specific questions I always ask myself:
1) What actions did you take in the last week that are moving you towards your dream? (keep doing those)
2) What actions did you take in the last week that are preventing you from moving towards your dream? (stop doing those)
3) What actions do you need to start doing to accelerate your progress towards your dream? (Choose one of these and do it).
Then based on your answers to these questions, adjust your plan and take action.
Repeat this “reflect, adjust, act” approach every week and you will be amazed by the impact it has on your life.
Identify Your Dream, Then Take The First Step
At the core of all of this are two very simple concepts.
To turn your dream into a reality all you need to do is know exactly where you want to go and then continuously take the next step.
This sounds simple because it is simple. But simple does not mean easy.
If some former middle school teacher can quit his job to become a ninja, you can follow your dream.
What actions are you going to take today to start turning your dream into a reality?
Izzy, The 30 Year Old Ninja
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