Success lessons from American Ninja Warrior


My summertime fascination is once again American Ninja Warrior. I thoroughly enjoy tuning in each week to watch people of all ages and backgrounds attempt to conquer the crazy obstacle course that demands balance, grip, strength and stamina.

This competition has attracted elite athletes from the Olympic Games, college athletics and even the NFL; but it has also inspired regular folks to build obstacles in their backyards or join the gym and train with a nation-wide community that has fallen in love with this unique phenomenon.

From the city qualifiers to the national finals, the audience gains insight into many of the ninjas’ motivations for competing: one young man was looking for a kidney donor for an ailing child; others are inspired by life’s hardships: a divorce, an injury, or a lost loved one.

Some are just in it for fun.

But no matter what their motivation to try to conquer the course, some themes of sportsmanship and success shine through week in and week out:

n Set goals and celebrate the small victories.

Some Ninja athletes have found fame and fortune by being part of the NBC show (only one person has won the million-dollar prize, but some have started gyms; others have become professional speakers, fitness models or product spokespeople).

Still, most who take on the course seem to be in it for no more than the personal challenge. That becomes evident by watching them savor the success after every single obstacle.

As in real life, victories come in all sizes and no matter how seemingly insignificant, are worth noting.

n Bring your cheering section and join the community.

Each Ninja athlete is spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd and charismatic show hosts; but many are also joined by large families sporting customized t-shirts and signs, and sometimes holding up cellphones and iPads for loved ones back home.

The experience is obviously better when shared, and for those whose families can’t be there, their fellow Ninjas, sometimes even strangers, step in to become the support system.

n Success of others does not diminish your own.

A common sight during Ninja competition is athletes supporting one another. Even though there’s only one potential million dollar prize each year, the community spirit and attitude of sportsmanship seems more important for even the best Ninja’s than any amount of money.

This community of people who share a common passion seem truly committed to lifting each other up. The world in general could use more of that.

n When you fall down, get back up.

Watch commercials for this show and it might look like one big blooper reel; the obstacles often seem to be the winners.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Ninja Warrior world is that no matter what the obstacle course or the challenges of life may bring, you have to keep trying.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.


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