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The School Teacher Who Quit His Job To Become A Ninja – 6 Steps To Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

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Ninja Japan

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.

 

October 2009

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…

 

The Depression

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.

 

izzy eli ninja halloween big

 

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.

  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

As I wrote these down I sat back in my chair with a surge of emotion. It clicked.

This…is…possible…

 

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.

Izzy getting thrown

 

 

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.

Money matters.

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.

 

Izzy with students 

 

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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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Shunmuga

    Feb 10, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Very much impressive article. Your article will inspire each and every person who doesnt like their PROFESSION and eagerly longing for their PASSION including me!!!

    You made us believe that if we follow out PASSION as our PROFESSION we will get satisfied in life.

    Thanks Izzy

  2. Elvis

    Nov 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I am inspired every time i read such articles !!! Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  3. Cansu Nar

    Oct 22, 2013 at 3:45 am

    I am very impressed with your article…this article definitely gives motivation, especially for those who are depressed and stressed out from life…

  4. Elizabeth Perez

    Sep 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Wow. .!!! Inspiring. .km 56 and cannot find my purpose. .!!:(

  5. Amit Rathi

    Sep 10, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Awesome article. You are a mad man! I
    I am also working towards finding my dream and this article is inspiring me a lot
    & i love this article.

  6. Shannon

    Aug 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve read and re-read this like five times now. You make achieving your dream sound so doable, I love it! I actually wrote about this piece TWICE on my own blog this week, and am implementing the steps you outlined for myself. Thanks for sharing your success and how you got there!

  7. Ryan

    Aug 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Izzy. Kudos to you my man. I quit a very well paid but dissatisfying job in London to move back to India as I simply couldn’t suffer that soul sucking crap any longer. I don’t have plans to become a ninja, but am working towards building a business and needed this motivation to keep me going…see you in Japan some day!

  8. Calvin Lee

    Aug 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Hasn’t the ninja ship sailed a hundred years ago? Shouldn’t he be practicing Ninjutsu instead of Aikido?
    No matter what, someone who follows his/her dream is truly admirable 🙂

    • LOKI

      Aug 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      AGAIN… THE POINT WAS HE REALIZED HIS DREAM BY DELVING INTO HIS 8 YEAR OLD SELF’S DEFINITION OF WHAT A NINJA IS.

  9. John

    Aug 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Awesome article. You are a crazy man! I completely envy you for your balls of steel to take action and completely change your life. My dream is become an actor, but drugs, alcohol, and anxiety got in the way. Now, 6 years sober, I am 3 years away from completing my degree in chemical engineering (my back up plan) and am then planning on moving to L.A. to delve into my acting dream.

    Keep up the good work Izzy!

    • Sankarshan

      Jan 31, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      You don’t need a to become a Chem. E. for that. I should know because I am a chemical engineering major about to graduate.

  10. Izzy

    Aug 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Betty (I’m assuming that’s your name).

    Teaching is darn hard work. I believe it can be one of the most fulfilling job if a person truly loves it. But on the flip side it can also be a very painful job if you don’t enjoy it. Kids are so darn honest. You have to be on your toes and ready at all times.

    I’m glad this story inspires you but I really hope it compels you to take action.

  11. bettybuttonsblog

    Aug 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Love this article and can totally empathise as an out of work, unemployable and disengaged teacher.
    I am working towards finding my dream and this article is inspiring and will definitely help on the journey.

    How awesome to be a ninja : )

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Welcome to our new normal. A time in our lives that a year ago we certainly didn’t see coming that most of us probably wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves; but here we are. As the days away from each other carry on and more and more bad news comes our way, it’s easy to lose your motivation and waste energy doing things that aren’t helpful like worrying and fighting with people on the internet instead.

Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to the Washington Post. While many of us had routines set up to deal with stress in the past, the stress we are facing during this time is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. It’s easy to find yourself in a downward spiral, and that’s the most challenging time to stop the momentum and turn things around. If that’s the case, keep it simple and start to reach for little things to help you feel better and climb your way out.

Here’s a reminder of a few simple things you can do right now to start getting positive momentum going your way:

1. Find someone who was in a similar place and made it to the other side

Whether you’ve been unmotivated to workout, eat healthy, make sales calls or simply do anything, you can find someone who has been there and made it to the other side. Look up some great TED talks, go on YouTube and look up people that motivate you, google them to find their websites. There are short speeches and much longer talks all over the internet, you just need to find someone who you relate to that speaks to you.

2. Do something that you love

When we’re unmotivated, it’s easy to get out of the habit of doing what we love. Sometimes just getting out of bed or away from the tv feels like a chore. Think back to a time in your life when you felt great – what were you doing? What do you absolutely love to do that if you had the time, you would do all day and not realize any time had passed at all? 

Figure out a way to do whatever that is, or a modified version of it if it is something that you aren’t able to do at the present time. Spending time doing what you love will get your mind off of anything that is wrong and allow you to find inspiration.

“If something is important enough, even if the odds are stacked against you, you should still do it.” – Elon Musk

3. Don’t overcomplicate it

Keep it simple. When we’re stuck in a rut, we’ll give ourselves every excuse to not do something. Say you’ve gained some weight; you might tell yourself you need to find the perfect trainer and wait until you have time to cook your meals from scratch each night before you do anything else. Stop trying to overcomplicate it and keep it simple by finding one thing you can do right now, however small that may be. You don’t have to wait until the timing is perfect and the stars align for you to start moving in the direction you want to go.  

4. Get up and get moving

This is probably the last thing you want to do right now, but once you are up and moving, your blood will start flowing. The hardest part is getting started. Day one, get up and do anything to get moving. This is the hardest day if you haven’t in a while because getting up is really the hardest part. Day two, do a little more. Once you start, you’ll build momentum and get back in the habit.

5. Reset your focus

It’s so easy for worry to set in and for our minds to wander to places of what we can’t control. This is not motivating or helpful and we always have a choice to redirect our attention. There is always something we can do right where we are, so bring your focus to the solution instead of the problem and figure out the next step of what you can do. 

One step at a time. Step one, take your attention away from what you can’t control and what you can’t do. Step two, ask yourself questions like “What can I do?” and see what comes to mind. Follow through with the answers you find.

6. Listen to your favorite music

Not much can lift our spirits and put us into a positive vibration more than our favorite music. Feel free to sing along. Find a song that pumps you up and make that your theme song. Put it on anytime you feel down or unmotivated.

7. Expand your knowledge

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8. Meditate

If you’re already a meditator and got away from it, take some time to come back to it. If you’ve never tried, it can be as easy as setting a timer for five minutes (or less, feel free to start with one or two minutes) and focusing on your breath. Listen to the inhalations and exhalations. Silently say to yourself “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale. Even taking a few minutes to do this can help you to calm down and allow your mind to refocus.

When we’re unmotivated, our momentum starts moving in the other direction. Slow down that momentum by trying one of the ideas above. Once you’ve slowed down the momentum, get it moving in the right direction and you’ll be well on your way.

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