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Izzy currently lives in Japan where he is pursuing his childhood dream to become a ninja. He hopes to inspire others to conquer the universe. To read more head on over to The 30 Year Old Ninja.

Early 2010

I'm wide awake, but my eyes are closed.

I can't stop running the previous day through my mind.

I can't stop running the previous week through my mind.

I can't stop worrying about tomorrow.

It's 2 in the morning. I will spend the next 4 hours with my eyes shut, but unable to fall asleep.

This wasn't one day in my life. This was my life. Every night I would wake up around 2 am and be filled with such intense anxiety that I was unable to fall back asleep.

What was it? What caused it? Why did I feel this? I could probably write an extensive layered detailed analysis to specific events but that is not necesssary... And it would be boring.

The reasons was actually quite simple: I hated my job.

It was my 4th year teaching and I don't know exactly what changed but I knew one thing: I hated my job.

I couldn't sleep and I spent most of my day overwhelmed with anxiety. I would often break down in tears at night because I was so overwhelmed. To say my life wasn't fun would meet all definitions of a MASSIVE understatement.

The purpose of this post isn't to create sob story or for me to complain. In fact, the purpose is  quite the opposite... 

This experience has impacted my whole being to this very day. I can say with zero hesitation, it is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.


The situation was so painful that I had to make a change in my life. It was not possible for me to continue to function in that manner. I had no choice but to change something. It made me step back and question everything.

I had done everything right... or so I thought... I had started teaching right after college, gots lot of praise from school administrators, decided I wanted to be a principal, enrolled in a Masters in Education Program... And yet I was a stressed, depressed, mess (definitley not something to put on an online dating profile).

Over the course of that year, I stepped back from my life and began to explore the question of "if not this, then what?" As the year progressed I started to succumb to the idea that "I'm going to do what I want to do." I had already tried the ambitious, move up the ladder, get more schooling route... it left me depressed.

Over time, after some intense exploration I realized it was so simple. It turns out my 8 year old self knew the answer - I wanted to be a ninja... 

Yes, I get that it may sound a little crazy. But you know what sounds crazier: spending 40 years of my life 40 hours a week doing something I hate. That sounds to me like a sadist.

Now, I live in Japan and will be soon moving to Kyoto where I am going to begin training in martial arts fulltime... Hence become a ninja. I am going to find a way to make this financially profitable. How? I don't know. But I can promise you I welcome this ambigouity any day of the week over a job I hate. I can say with sincerity I wake up everyday thrilled about the opportunities that it presents. But none of this would be possible if I had not experienced that intense pain of overwhelming stress and axiety a few years ago.

It is amazing to me that such a painful experience has become one of the greatest things to happen in my life.  

Have you had experiences that you initially thought were bad that turned out good? Have you experienced intense pain only to find that it has led you to joy? Are you going through something right now that can be turned into one your lifes greatest blessings?

If you enjoyed this. Head on over to The 30 Year Old Ninja and sign up for Izzy's email list. You'll get fun and awesome tips on how to take over the universe.

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Comment by Izmael Arkin on April 25, 2012 at 8:41pm

Thanks Gary. I look forward to that day as well :)

I agree with you that in time pain becomes substantially easier because we begin to see it as part of the process rather than "pain". I guess that is what all those quotes are talking about when they say "enjoy the journey..."

Comment by Gary M Foote on April 25, 2012 at 12:31pm

Another great post! I'm looking forward to the day where yo will write, "Becoming a ninja was the best and most lucrative decision I've ever made." I really applaud you for going after something that you love. I know that in my life pain has too often been the motivator to make the necessary changes. I guess where real wisdom comes in is where you can see the pain BEFORE experiencing it and then take the steps towards the better path without having to learn from the "school of hard knocks." I'm not entirely there yet, but hope to be some day and will look gratefully on the lessons that I did learn from the wrong painful decisions that I could have avoided.

Comment by Izmael Arkin on April 24, 2012 at 8:58pm

Hi Nate,

I definitely agree with you there are opportunities with this (i better because I moved to Japan to pursue it!). I am open to whatever doors open as I progress through the process. I am very open to teaching martial arts as I become more experienced and knowledgeable about it. My issues with teaching (back in 2010) had more to do with the strucuture of the job, politics, and other things. The actual teaching aspect was quite enjoyable.

I hope you have been able to put some inspirational music together this week.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

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