I remember the day that I received the call that my video submission and application for the very first season of Australian Ninja Warrior was accepted.
To say that I was excited was an understatement.
After a gruelling fitness test and one very in-depth interview, I was locked, cocked and ready to rock as I boarded the plane from my home on the Gold Coast to Sydney.
My experience on Ninja Island with my fellow competitors is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The mateship between fellow ninjas was something to behold. To watch each individual give it their very best made each competitor step up on the day.
Along with making some great friends and training partners for future seasons, I also took away with me some valuable lessons that I have since applied to my life.
My Ninja journey would not be worth sharing unless there was some form of victory or defeat right? Unfortunately, in my case, it was the latter.
It was through this experience though that I have been able to identify Five key lessons to apply to other areas of my life to achieve success.
Lesson #1 - When Taking On An Exciting New Adventure, Leave Your Ego At Home!
Everyone has an ego... As much as some people would like to deny it, we all have one.
I have experienced a lot of success in my life in competitive sports, especially in Gymnastics.
You can, therefore, imagine how my ego was feeling with all of the attention I was receiving on Ninja Island.
From the onsite interviewers as well as from my fellow ninjas.
It was in this hysteria that the seeds for my failure were being sewn.
Oxford Dictionary: (Ego): "A person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance."
For years now I have been fascinated by the notion of Ego, and I can see the many ways in which the lines blur between confidence and arrogance.
I would not consider myself an "arrogant" person. Sincerely, I believe my thoughts, behaviours and actions tell a different story. However, this tale of fallibility is not over yet... arrogance and ego will rear their dirty little heads in Lesson #3.
The biggest takeaway from Lesson #1 is not to let the environment change who YOU are. Instead, seize the opportunity to let the environment amplify your strengths and character.
Lesson #2 - Do Not Underestimate The Challenge In Front Of You.
Do you know someone that will watch the Olympics and immediately become an expert in every sport, screaming advice from the safety of their couch at competitors who’ve spent a lifetime training for their discipline? We call these culprits "Couch Ninjas" much like the Olympic stage, Ninja Warrior has its couch critics.
However, there is one small variable that these "Sedentary Samurais" will never understand. Ninja competitors have never seen the course and aren’t allowed to practice the course before attempting it (they are only shown a demonstration by a crew member). Additionally, competitors will only receive one shot. If you come off an obstacle or merely let your toe touch the water, it is all over.
When you are standing centre-stage in front of a roaring crowd, bright lights, cameras to your left and right, the adrenaline is off the charts. Moreover, your "Ninja-Plan" seems to disappear entirely when you are standing on the starting platform.
Oh and don't forget, if you happen to wipe out spectacularly, the worst that can happen is millions of Aussies get to see it on National television.
Regardless of the hundreds, if not, thousands of hours that go into preparing for Ninja Warrior, you actually can't predict your every jump, leap and step and it could all be over before you know it.
Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. - Benjamin Franklin
For four months I had been preparing myself mentally and physically for Stages Two, Three and eventually the menacing Mt. Midoriyama.
I remember vividly when myself and my fellow competitors were being given the rundown of the course thinking: "This looks easier than I expected."
"Good thing I did not waste any precious time and energy preparing for the Bunny Slopes of the competition."
This was more of a quiet acknowledgement than my representation above.
However, hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it has helped me put these little acknowledgements under the microscope to identify the fundamental flaws within my underestimation.
It took looking deeper into these slight moments of arrogance that revealed the significant contribution they had on my downfall.
After the safety briefing, it was finally time to prepare myself for the moment I had been waiting for. I could not have been any more prepared.
*Besides painting what was supposed to be a "Z" on my chest... *Many thanks to my hotel mirror...* (see above)
FINALLY, the time had arrived! My opportunity to take the Ninja Warrior stage, CRUSH the course and make a BIG SPLASH, leaving my mark on the competition!
Little did I know, part of my prediction was about to come true... 💦💦💦
The biggest takeaway from Lesson #2 is to prepare and never underestimate the challenge before you.
Lesson #3 - Respect The Course.
Can you think of a time you let your guard down for just a second and within a flash, everything came tumbling down?
I know this feeling all too well.
All it took was a slight miss-step and SPLASH; I was in the drink. (see below)
After volunteering to test the temperature of the water, I whisked myself (along with my disappointment) straight to my tent to journal my thoughts on what had just happened.
Little did I know this journal entry and time to reflect was going to alter my life completely.
I did not respect the course!
HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO BLIND?!? I had been raised to show respect to myself and everyone else around me. Respect has been a foundation of my upbringing and household as long as I can remember. Yet when it mattered most, I disconnected from this part of myself and well, the rest is history.
This discovery made me ask myself a crucial question: Where else does "disconnection" occur in my life?
Answering this question helped me discover how to understand and identify all of the facets of my life in which I was not "respecting the course" in front of me. In business, relationships, conversations, and life! These slight moments of disconnection had sabotaged some of my greatest experiences of defeat.
So I had a choice.
To either continue through life recklessly and disconnect myself from the repercussions of my actions.
Look for the silver lining in every opportunity and situation to identify exactly where my ability to "run the course" could be compromised and sabotaged.
The biggest takeaway from Lesson #3 is in the absence of respect, the ego has far too much room to breathe.
Lesson #4 - Surrender Expectations And Detach From Potential Outcomes.
Possibly one of the hardest things for a stubborn 24-year-old male to do is to let go of any emotional attachment to a particular outcome.
While I was preparing for Ninja Warrior all I could think of was scaling the Warped Wall and smashing my hand down on that buzzer in record time. I couldn't see any other potential outcome for my Ninja experience.
My focused vision before attempting the course created a clear expectation that I would complete the course in record time. Ambitious? YES! Desirable? YES! Ambivalent? ABSOLUTELY!
By creating this vision in my mind, I had granted myself only one possible outcome.
Now, one thing I must illustrate very clearly is that I am not saying that you shouldn't set high goals or expectations for yourself. In fact, I make this point for quite the opposite reason.
Every time I set a goal for one of my clients, my coaches, my business or myself personally, it is done with intention, purpose and ultimate clarity on the desired outcome.
However, one thing that I have experienced within my business experience is that time and time again when someone becomes completely invested in just one outcome out of a potential myriad of results, disappointment becomes a very real outcome.
To become "Void of Attachment" is a very difficult ask for any person. Especially when the outcome of any action/task/mission/experience has a lot riding on it. However, one thing that I stipulated in Lesson #1 is that if you let the hysteria of an event get the better of you, you will become too consumed by What You Need To Do versus Who You Need To Be.
So the biggest takeaway from Lesson #4 is when you can "become" the person that you need to BE to achieve any particular goal, trust that the "what" involved will take care of itself so that you can DO what needs to be done.
Lesson #5 - Have Fun And Enjoy The Journey
This lesson is quite self-explanatory. However, it must be given a voice. At the end of this entire experience, the one thing that sits fondly at the top of my memories is the immense amount of joy, fun and connection created among the Ninjas on the island.
After my Ninja Warrior journey had come to an abrupt end, and after I had journaled my thoughts and feelings on the matter back at the camp, I went back to the waiting area where my fellow Ninjas were residing.
Some Ninja's were damp; some were dry. However, the majority of them were very disappointed. Out of the fifty who competed on the night, only EIGHT made it through the course dry.
Among the cheer, laughter and jubilations of the fortunate few who made it to the final buzzer unscathed, forty-two other competitors were feeling quite distraught from their respective journeys coming to an end.
One after another, I found myself sitting down with my fellow Ninja's and hearing what they had to share about their run. Some were "okay" with not making it through; others were distraught. Some were even in tears.
It hurt to watch them so upset, and I was not sure how to best support them in this time of anguish. Until I shared how MY run went...
In my entire life, I had never seen such a dramatic shift in someone's demeanour than when I consoled them with how out of the fifty competitors on the evening, I was BY FAR the LEAST successful Ninja.
Yes, that is right!
The dude who was getting twice the camera time. Twice the interview time. The Australian Gymnast. The super hero in the budgie smugglers with a backwards "Z" painted on his chest was the poorest performer of the entire series!
I found a tremendous amount of joy in sharing the five lessons I had learnt after reflecting in my journal back at the camp. To show each of my fellow competitors that weren't fortunate enough to achieve their Ninja dreams that there was a silver lining to be discovered from the experience.
I mean let's be real here. Out of Seven Thousand applicants, only Two Hundred and Fifty were selected for the Ninja stage. We were those select few deemed worthy enough even to take on the challenge. What a gift!
My biggest takeaway from Lesson #5 is to celebrate the little victories along the way. Before we even stepped onto the course, we had already achieved something very few people will ever get to in their lifetime. Not only that. There's always Season Two!
On that note...
Although I gave my all during the Season Two among ten thousand other hopefuls, I wasn't selected to compete gain. However, I was given a far greater gift than I could have ever hoped for. I was selected as a "Course Tester" or as we called ourselves "Crash-Test Ninjas" where for two hours everyday we got to test out all of the new Ninja runs as many times as we could physically handle. This was by far the most fun/punishment I have ever put my body through and I can gladly say that my 2.25 seconds of regret on the course was replaced with 5 days of uninterrupted ninja-shenanigans and unforgettable memories.
Although I am not proud of my performance in this competition, (Aside from my spectacular dive into the water), I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow as a person as a result of this experience and to share my reflections with you.
If you found this article valuable and/or you know someone who may benefit from my journey, please share it with them.
Also, if you have had a similar experience, whether in sport, work or life, feel free to share your biggest life lesson and where the revelation has taken you as a result in the comments below.
P.S Ever wonder what it takes to get accepted to the fitness trials for Ninja Warrior?!? You have to make one of these...