Five Ninja tips for success

Five Ninja tips for success

I want to leave you with five ninja nuggets for a rewarding life. These are lessons I’ve learned over the course of 20 years in the most dynamic, challenging and exciting industry in the world – the ICT industry. Although my industry is unique in many ways, the innovators at the forefront of this field embrace core principles that apply to virtually every arena of study or work. I call these industry leaders “ninja innovators” – a term I coined to describe people who display the strength and independent thinking needed to make a difference in the world.


Be willing to fail. This also means when you do fail, learn from that experience. You’ve already made it over one of life’s hurdles – college. You will most likely enjoy many successes, but you need to know that you will also fail.


I’ve learned the most from my failures. Here is one example in my life. When I was a counselor at a sleep-away camp, I was fired because on my day off I violated a rule and brought beer onto the campgrounds. I will never forget my embarrassment and anger and the trip back with my father, who had to pick me up and take me home. In retrospect, I learned that actions have consequences, that it hurts to be fired and that my father was wonderful because he knew I was devastated and needed no further chastising. I failed, but I learned more from that experience than many of my successes.


What makes America different is that you can pick yourself up from failure and try again. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple and returned to transform the company and our lives. Many of history’s most respected figures – from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Henry Ford – failed countless times before they found success. Failure is part of life, so be prepared for that. Don’t be afraid of it. When it happens, don’t let it shatter you. Failure is how we learn about ourselves and about life. Think about that each time you fail.


Ask lots of questions. You will not get very far in your career – or in life – if you already know all the answers. Look for mentors. So many times I have seen young people start out thinking they can do it all on their own. Some of you might even be thinking you have to do it on your own. But you can’t, and you shouldn’t.


My very first mentors were my parents. They taught me the value of setting goals and hard work. Along the way I’ve had many more mentors, both inside and outside my industry. Their perspectives and strong examples have helped shape my approach on everything from how I run a meeting to how I structure my work-life balance.


Be passionate about learning. Just because you’ve finished college doesn’t mean you have nothing left to learn. A ninja innovator is always learning. That love of learning is the catalyst for innovation. It will help you stand out from the crowd, because you’ll have the knowledge you need to go into battle to achieve success.


Take risks. success requires doing battle, and doing battle requires taking risks. Some of the best and most innovative ideas in history have been the result of fearless leaders who took risks. Now, taking risks is not the same thing as being careless. Like World War II General George Patton said, “Take calculated risks.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a great example of a smart risk-taker. On a macro level, Bezos’ strategy for Amazon bucks public-company convention. He creates his own competition and forsakes immediate profits to invest in keeping his customers thrilled. His philosophy plays out on the micro level in services like Amazon Prime and products like the Kindle, both of which have turned out to be hugely popular and successful for Amazon.


The final ninja tip may surprise you: Don’t become a slave to your work. You will be better at your job if you have different interests outside of your job. Creativity itself is often the ability to find connections between unrelated things. You also need to take a step back, spend time with your family and loved ones, and do things you enjoy. Time spent away from work is crucial to success, because it allows you to focus on the things that matter most, and that gives you the energy you need to work hard and be successful.


Each of you can make a difference. You can make something happen. You will be our next innovators, our next leaders. Whatever career path you choose, keep these five tips in mind. Don’t be afraid to fail; look for mentors; keep on learning; take calculated risks; and make time to get away so you can always come back refreshed.