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14 Lessons That Will Change Your Life (Plus 14 Ridiculous Pictures)

About 36 months ago, I became acutely aware of a reality that would forever change my life.

Experience is a wonderful teacher but often a painful one as well.

Tears, depressions, anxiety, insecurity, doubt... They are my friend. But only because they are part of my past. They are a horrible bed partner. But a lovely ex-girlfriend. ... That was inappropriate.

36 months ago is when the dream reached the surface.

The words came out of my mouth

I want to be a ninja.

"No. Really Izzy, What do you want to do?"

And then there was silence. .

Fast forward 36 months

Now, I live in the historical capital of Japan, Kyoto. I train in martial arts 5 to 6 days a week. The purpose of my life has extended beyond me.

I step forward everyday  to convince 2 people that we don't have to live a conventional life.




Actually, I'm already sold on the idea. I don't take much convincing anymore. I quit my job, cut my "career" short, and moved to the other side of the world. You are the one I want to convince. I want to sell you on the dream. Not on my dream, on your dream.

Do you have a dream? 

14 Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Over the past 36 months I have felt every emotion from deep depression, to total euphoria. About 3 years ago  is when it all started. It was the beginning of a life long pursuit. Today I want to share with you 14 Lessons I have learend along this journey.

I share these with you, in hopes that maybe, possibly, one or two of them can change your life.

Lesson 1: A Dream is a Process Not An Event.

I came to Japan a year ago. Initially when I came here I thought it was going to be easy. I would move to Japan, find a dojo to train at, and bam, boom, voila! I'm a ninja. Not so. I came here last August, was placed in the countryside of Japan, and my job was a joke. There were zero dojos in the countryside. My job responsibilities consisted of repeating English words out of a textbook. When they gave me the option to sign for another year I turned it down. I soon after moved to where I live now. I have part time work, train in martial arts full time, and live in the awesome city of Kyoto.

Maybe it sounds like I wasted a year. What if I knew sooner?

That's irrelevant. I didn't know sooner. But I do know now.I had to do that, to do this.

I'm not yet a ninja, but maybe someday. It's all a process. I'm happy, thrilled, and so excited to be on this journey. But this is because I'm focused on the process, not the end result.

Lesson 2: Discipline is Underrated.

I am not exceptionally smart, gifted, talented, or amazing. But there is one thing that I do, that allows me to constantly move forward. I get up everyday and I do the work. Monday thru Saturday I'm writing, training, emailing, reaching out to people, doing whatever I need to do to get where I want to go. I knew I couldn't come to Kyoto overnight, but I knew that if I was focused and committed it could happen. Everyday I sit down and write. I work hard to provide the most valuable content I can give you. I don't plan or even think about a post going viral. I'm not banking on a miracle. Everyday I get a little better. With improvement comes new opportunities.

I am where I am because I am willing to get up everyday and do the work.

Lesson 3: Do Compelling Sh--, Then Write About It.

If I sat around all day staring at my computer, playing on twitter, "mastering" facebook, would you read my content? No, you wouldn't. Because my content would suck. Everyday I try to go out and move towards the life I have always wanted. Then I write about my experiences. I don't just copy what I read in a book or another blog. I write about things that have changed my life and can hopefully change yours.

I am simply sharing my story in hopes of inspiring you to live an awesome life.

I enjoy writing because it gives me the opportunity to communicate a message that I feel is important. But it is only important because I live what I write.

Click here to access free resources to help you pursue your dreams.  

Lesson 4: Don't Trust a Fat Person When They Give Dieting Advice.

When I decided to quit my secure job in Japan I was given a plethora of reasons why it would be difficult to near impossible to do what I wanted to do. 6 months later I can say: Yes, it was difficult, but it was far from the impossible many people made it sound like. Eventually I realized I was getting advice from a bunch of people who had NEVER done anything like this. Of course they didn't think it was possible!

Lesson 5: It's Not My Job To Prove to You I Am Right.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been told "You can't be a ninja!". Initially when this happened I would try to explain my idea. I wanted to show them it was possible. It was a pointless conversation. At some point it dawned upon me:

Becoming a ninja is not contingent upon others believing it.

Some people disagree with my philosophy. That is perfectly fine. I don't need to convince them that I am right.

Are you wasting time trying to prove the doubters wrong?

Lesson 6: Ideas Are Overrated

When I first came up with this whole "I want to be a ninja" thing it made zero sense. I would say it but I had no clue what it meant. How the heck does someone become a ninja? 3 years ago my here was my answer:

I have no F'ing clue.

2 years ago it evolved:

I'll become an expert in martial arts.

1 year ago the idea took another transformation:

I moved to Japan to train in martial arts.

Now, the idea is in it's present day form:

I train in martial arts full time in the historical capital of Japan. I share my experiences to prove to you that we don't need to live a conventional life.

I want to become a straight up bad ass in martial arts while proving to the world that we can live an awesome life.

Excecution is king. If you have a small, tiny, baby idea then move forward with it. What can you do today?

Lesson 7: It Has to Be Bigger Than Me.

Initially when I came to Japan the entire focus was on me.

I want to be a ninja. I want to live in a foreign country. I want to learn Japanese.

Yes, these are all good things. But I have learned that if I truly want to make an impact in this world it has to go beyond me. What if I can actually become a ninja? How does that change the meaning of work? How can this change your life?

If some dude from California can go from depressed to the pursuit of a childhood dream THEN SO CAN YOU!

I am not special, unique, nor gifted. I'm a dude who has a dream and has followed it. I want to prove to you that you can go out and live a kick ass life. I don't need a blog to be a ninja.But if I want to communicate my message I do. Every morning when I get up and I write, I do it for you. You inspire me.

How can you change the world?  

Lesson 8: Success Requires taking Action Everyday

I once had a friend say to me "Izzy, you just need something on your site to go viral." He then tried to convince me that it would be of benefit to "find an old man doing something funny and post it" on my site. What the hell!? He was trying to come up with a homerun.

I don't swing for homeruns. I hit singles. [Tweet This]

I write everyday. I guest post at other sites. I connect with my readers. I reply to every email and every comment. Everyday I take small steps. This is success everyday. Martial arts is no different. Everyday I focus on the basics. There is nothing I can do that will magically make me a master in one day. Every single day I must improve my form, my technique, and my focus. This is success.

When I go to bed I ask myself a simple question: Today did I write? Did I train? Did I improve? This is success.

Lesson 9: Happiness is a Side Effect of a Meaninful Life.

A few years ago when I hit depression I began to directly search for happiness. I would often say to family members and friends:

"I just want to be happy"

It took me a while to realize that I cannot directly search for happiness. Okay, that is wrong. I can directly search for it. But I won't find it. A few months back, I was writing and it clicked.

I am happy.  

I was rather surprised. Not because I am a sad or depressed person. I'm quite the opposite. I was surprised because over the past 2 years I haven't tried to be happy.

I have simply taken steps to create a meaningful life.

I then asked myself "why are you happy?"

The answer was simple.

Because my life matters. 

Are you searching for happiness when you should be searching for meaning?

Lesson 10: A Budget is Insanely Important

Money matters. It would be great if I could just ignore money. But I can't. The reality is that money provides freedom.I sit down and run a budget every month. I know exactly how much I need to live the life I want. Over the last 3 years I have had many transitions. I quit my job back in 2010. About a year later I moved to Japan. Just recently I quit my job in Japan. During each of these transitions I have known exactly how much money I need to do it comfortably, without stress.

A monthly budget has given me a sense of peace that goes beyond words.

If you are interested in starting a budget I highly recommend checking out my post that describes how I do a budget as well as a free downloadable budget spreadsheet that I created. Check it out here.

Are you admitting the role that finances play in making your life awesome?  

Lesson 11: Failure is Wonderful

Failure is truly a superb teacher. Failure provides instant feedback. Failure teaches what doesn't work, and in some cases what does work. I can't get this type of learning from a book or from a class. It's the school of hard knocks. I thought if I came to Japan I would magically become a ninja. WRONG. So, I changed the plan. I thought people would love this post. WRONG. It was shared 3 times  on twitter and liked 1 time on Facebook. But this is all wonderful because now I know. I have grown from each of these experiences and that is beautiful.

Are you using failure as a tool to learn? 

Lesson 12: "It is hard" is a Bullshit excuse.

If you want to live an awesome life it is going to be hard. If you want to make a difference in this world it is going to be hard. When people say "I don't know, that will be really hard" it qualifies as the lamest reason EVER to not take action. Anything worth doing is hard!

Hard is a prerequisite to doing great things. [Tweet this]

Are you allowing "It is hard" to prevent you from taking action? 

Lesson 13: Discovering Your Passion is a Process not a Miracle Event

I have read more books than I can count on "discovering your passion". Most of the books claim to have some magical answer to helping me figure it all out. Few of them are willing to acknowledge what I believe to be the real truth. I had no idea that I was passionate about writing, helping others, working with kids, and even training in martial arts 5 years ago. Slowly over the course of many years as I experienced more of what life had to offer I started to realize "Hey, I like this" Overtime as I explored these things on a deeper level "like" turned to "love". Love takes time.If you don't know what you want to do with your life start with those things you like. In the midst of all those "likes" is your passion.

Are you trying to discover your passion overnight? 

Lesson 14: Investing Money in Myself is The Best Way To Spend Money.

This is something I feel extremely strong about. Over the past 3 years of my life I have invested well over $10,000 in myself. If I include graduate school (Which I don't!) The number would be well over $30,000. What do I mean by "invest in myself". I buy books, take online courses, travel, go to seminars, talk with experts, the list goes on and on. This idea of becoming a ninja isn't something I just magically made happen. I have invested time and money to learn how to make this happen. Think about it. If we are willing to pay $25,000 for a car why the heck aren't we willing to spend $5,000 on ourselves?

This is your life! When you invest time and money into your personal growth you are making a choice that can  forever change your life.

Are you investing time and money into yourself?

I share these lessons with you for 2 reasons.

1. I want you to go out and live an awesome life and I hope these can help. 2. I want to share with you that when we go out and pursue our dreams we can learn crazy things that we never expected.

Which of these lessons most deeply resonates with you and why?


Which of these lessons do you disagree with and why? (I would love to hear how you would change these!) 

Are You Missing Out On the Life You Could Live?

Click Here to Access The Ninja ToolKit


These  are resources that were created to help you live an awesome life.


Will you continue to miss out on the life you could live?


It's your choice...


Click Here to Access The Ninja ToolKit


Izzy lives in Kyoto and is becoming a ninja. If he can follow his dream so can you. Click here to access free resources to help you pursue your dreams.  

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Comment by Ann Musico on September 10, 2012 at 6:22am

Those are outstanding "lessons"!  I congratulate you on taking these amazing steps to fulfilling God's call on your life and creating a meaningful life for yourself!  Very exciting and I look forward to hearing more!

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