Growth in Pursuit of A Childhood Dream

About a month ago a kind comment appeared on my blog. It was from “the 30 year old ninja.” You read that right, The 30 year old ninja! As you might imagine, I just had to see who this guy was and wandered on over to Izzy’s incredibly inspiring spot in the blogosphere. I was immediately won over by the fascinating tale of a man living his childhood dream. If ever you had a dream, or are wondering if pursuing “that crazy” one is worth your time you MUST check out Izzy’s place. Of course I’d love it if you checked out what he says here first!

Please enjoy:                                                                              


Follow your dreams, passion,“Are you serious?”
“… What does that mean?”
“You don’t look like you’re kidding…You have to be kidding”
“You are doing what!!??”

Welcome to a day in my life. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that my current “career move” may be slightly abnormal…

I am pursuing my childhood dream.

I want to be a Ninja.

The Childhood Dream

So what exactly does a ninja do? Well, first let me say the ninja I want to be isn’t a traditional ninja. He is the ninja from my 8 year old brain. So as far as I see it, a ninja moves away to a far away land, trains in martial arts, and lives life by his own rules.

So, I moved to Japan, train in martial arts, and am trying to rewrite the traditional rules of work and life.

Sounds great right? Near 30 year old dude quits his job and moves to a foreign country to pursue a childhood dream…

One problem… It isn’t always so great.

A Failure of a Dream

10 months ago, I naively assumed that by coming to Japan I would magically find the perfect martial arts dojo and be on my way to ninjahood – WRONG!

I have a job in the countryside of Japan. I have tried and tried different dojos (the training facilities) within my community and neighboring cities. None of them fit what I am looking for.

Has this all been a waste of time? Am I a failure? A fraud?


A pursuit of a dream is not about “reaching the end point” but rather the experience and growth that happens along the journey.

The Dream and Growth

It turns out it isn’t easy to move to a foreign country and become a ninja. Who knew? But there is one thing that is constantly pushing me through every barrier and struggle.

Every experience, every challenge, every barrier is all part of the process of getting me where I want to go. I can’t get “there” without being here. Everyone one of these challenges is an opportunity for me to grow, evolve, and develop… But only if I am open to growth.

Are you allowing yourself to grow through the pain and struggle of experience?

It seems so simple. Doesn’t everyone want growth? I would say most do. But wanting to grow isn’t enough. You have to be willing to push through the pain, challenge and struggle that often accompanies growth.

It hasn’t been easy moving to a foreign country. Communication can be difficult, I sometimes feel out of place, I still don’t feel like a ninja, and to top it off I really miss American Power bars!

But does this mean, I quit? I give up? I failed?

No! I have to take this experience and learn from it, grow from it, change from it. I am leaving my current job in August, moving to Kyoto (where there are many martial arts dojos), will train in martial arts full time, and pick up part time work.

How can you use your “failures” to move you closer to your dreams?

I thought when I first came to Japan I would be here for a year or two, train in martial arts, then head back to America and get a normal job…

I was wrong…

I don’t want this experience to be a short stint in my life…

I want “becoming a ninja” to be my life.

10 months ago I never would have dabbled with this idea. But with experience has come new learning and with new learning the dream has evolved.

How can I turn “becoming a Ninja” into a lifestyle?

I don’t exactly know… But I know that there is only one way to figure out. I must try, and grow along the way. The person I am now might not be able to do it, but I have faith I can become the person who can.

Are you allowing yourself to become the person you want to be?

5 Methods to Help You Grow

“Great, wonderful, lovely Izzy. You talk about all this ‘growth’. But how can I grow?”

Well I am glad you asked. I do not believe in a one size fits all formula. Therefore, some of these suggestions might work wonders for you, and others might not. Take the “good” and throw away the trash 🙂

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Write down 5 things every night that you feel “gratitude” for. These can be simple, small, tiny. You “had a good breakfast” , “enjoyed lunch with a friend” , “got the good seat on the bus”. The power in this is that you are practicing appreciating the moment. By doing this, you are teaching yourself to be more present. When you are present you are able to learn things in virtually any situation.

2. Read books
Reading books has truly changed my life. I read about 4 non fiction books a month. The information inside of these books provides me with insights, experiences, and applicable knowledge to immediately begin changing my life. If you don’t know where to start pick up The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It’s awesome!

3. Experience New things
Join a book club, go to a local farmer’s market, start a sewing club, take salsa dancing, enroll in a course, train for a 10k, go on a hike. There are a bazillion things. The key is doing new things. In doing new things, you gain new experiences, and in new experience there is always new learning.

4. Weekly reflection meeting
Every week on Sunday, I sit down and reflect on my life and experiences over the past week. I think about 1)What went well 2) What didn’t get done and 3) the 3 major lessons from the week. I then write down these 3 major lessons in a word document. You can have a million experiences but if you don’t give yourself some time to think about it, you are missing out on some incredible lessons. Find a time to give yourself some serious reflection.

5. Just start
Whatever you want to do with your life, just start! It doesn’t have to be huge, start small. Do you want to travel the world? Skip out on your Triple Frappa Lappa Latte Express and save the money. Do you want to write a book? Write 1 page. Do you want to start a restaurant? Cook a good meal at a party. Want to run a business? Start a blog. Quit planning and start. Growth comes from experience not sitting on a couch thinking all day long.

What can you do today to grow?


Izzy is a former teacher from Los Angeles. He got tired of the traffic, the grind, and the stress. He quit his job, and moved to Japan to pursue his childhood dream: to become a Ninja. You can read more about Izzy’s journey at The 30 Year Old Ninja, where he writes to inspire others to pursue their dreams. You can also connect with him on twitter or say hello on Facebook.


9 thoughts on “Growth in Pursuit of A Childhood Dream

  1. It would be great to sit and chat, or run around in stealth mode, with you. I’m so appreciative of your post. I’m in awe of the decisions required and the inner journey of what you did and are doing. I was introduced to Parkour at 50. Now at 52 I feel a strong pull to Parkour. A light is burning that pushes me through all obstacles. More and more are doing Parkour, but you don’t really see anyone over 35 doing it outside the Parkour gym, climbing around like spiderman/woman. I love it when people are stepping out from the safety and/or comfort zone in pursuit of a passionate lifestyle. You are a maverick, as I see it. Bliss you!

    • Hi Michael,
      I think it is awesome that you have found something that you are pumped up about 🙂 On top of that, you say that you don’t see anyone over 35 doing it and you are 52… Excuse my french but that is kick a$$.

      I’ll share a little story with you that inspires me everyday. My dad is 67 years old and over the last year of his life he has dropped over 50 pounds. He has gotten intensely (SUPER INTENSELY) into walking. He now has developed a habit of challenging the top athletes from the local high school to “Walking Races”… The best part is that so far he is undefeated!

      Thanks for your kind words.

  2. Meg says:

    This is just plain awesome! I agree so much with being present, and being aware, as some key qualities to growing and learning from life. Thanks for the reminder about reading, too. It’s a past time I love yet don’t do nearly enough. Most of all, good for you for pursuing your dream. That is really cool and inspirational!

    • Thanks Meg,
      Reading has definitely changed my life. A few years ago before I had decided to take the plunge and “try to become a ninja” I was in a really painful job. I started reading a lot of non-fiction self hep type books and it completely changed my life. That is why to this day I continue to try and read a lot. Books definitely changed my life.

      • Kathy says:

        Yes reading has made a huge difference for me too! My entire positive outlook and interest in personal development comes stems from reading Earl Nightingale’s “The Greatest Secret” in my early 20’s. It truly changed my life!!

  3. When I first read about this guy, I was really frightened that I didn’t want to admit to people I knew a ninja. Ninjas are scary and dangerous. But Izzy, is your friendly next door neighbor kind of ninja. the type that drops in at your local coffee shop.

    Great work in following your dreams Izzy. You’re doing it everyday and encouraging others to follow your footsteps. Of course, they’re not all becoming ninjas thankfully but following their own passions & dreams.

    • Thanks Vishnu,
      Is there something wrong with me that I like being labeled as scary?

      I am a 5 foot 9 inch 168 pound dude that goes to bed between 9pm and 10pm most days of the week… In other words I rarely get called scary :). But I’ll take it!

      You are doing the same thing with your life Vishnu. You have taken a huge leap, moved to a super secret location in Costa Rica (apparently Google doesn’t know all), and following your dreams.

      You inspire me! And you also make me laugh quite a bit as well 🙂

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