Business Lessons I Learned From Ninja Warrior
Recently, Leo and I discovered a Japanese game show called “Ninja Warrior.” In this show, athletes from around the world (but primarily Japan) test their skill and strength at a seemingly unbeatable obstacle course, in the hopes of becoming a champion worthy of the title, “Ninja Warrior.” The other day, as Leo and I watched yet one more round of warrior athletes performing what seemed like impossible stunts, I reflected on the business and life lessons one might take away from this extraordinary show.
Do something you think you can’t.
Ninja Warrior tests are incredibly challenging and often seem impossible. But the competitors are rarely daunted. They always try whatever seems impossible…and even if they can’t defeat the obstacle course, they almost always go home and train for a full six months before returning for the next Ninja Warrior competition and conquering the obstacle that tripped them up last time. Likewise, if you see a challenge and think you can’t do it, try it anyway. Then, if you don’t succeed, train harder until you can do it.
Always compete against yourself, not against others.
One of the characteristics that drew us to Ninja Warrior in the first place was that it’s not a competition where participants compete against each other. It’s every man (or woman) against the obstacle course. So rather than worrying about what anyone else is doing, each competitor is focused on doing his or her best. Similarly, in business, we’re often focused on the “old school” concept of watching the competition and worrying about what they’re up to. Instead, focus on you and what you can do to improve and grow, and cheer on your peers. Their success has little to nothing to do with you.
If you fail, keep trying.
There’s a group of Ninja Warrior “All Stars” who have participated in many of the Ninja Warrior competitions. If you watched the show from the beginning (as we have) you’d see these competitors go from young upstarts to family men with successful careers. And they just keep coming back to try to conquer the Ninja Warrior obstacle course again and again and again, hoping to succeed where they have failed before (of course, a couple of these All Stars have actually completed the course, but they continue to return to try to conquer the course as it has evolved). In business, if you don’t succeed at something, that doesn’t mean you should give up. In a recent The Experts Series interview with a bestselling author, I learned that this author’s book was rejected two hundred times before he got his book deal that shot him into bestselling status. If you fail, go back and try again and again and again.
Never give up in the middle.
Something that keeps us in awe of this show is that none of the competitors ever gives up. Even if a competitor knows the clock is running out and he may not complete the course, he never stops giving his full effort- not until that last second when the buzzer sounds. Likewise, in business, give it everything you’ve got until that buzzer sounds- until you know for sure that what you’re doing isn’t going to work.
Always be gracious and find the fun.
Leo and I are constantly impressed with the graciousness of the Ninja Warrior athletes. They cheer each other on, seem genuinely sorry when their comrades fail, and vitually all of the contestants maintain a friendly, lighthearted spirit and focus on the fun of the game. Your business may seem very serious to you, but if you’re too serious or too desperate to succeed, your attitude might be standing in the way of your success. Instead, try to look for the fun in what you’re doing and be as gracious as you can- to your clients, to your competitors, to everyone you encounter.
“Ninja Warrior” isn’t business- it’s a game. But it’s a game with some really powerful lessons that can be applied to business. Ultimately, what Ninja Warrior teaches us is to be as strong as you can, test your limits, never give up, and remember to find the fun in everything you do.