What comes to mind when you think of the word ninja?
Things like pop culture, Japan, weapons, ninja turtles perhaps. When my son brought this cute ninja craft home this week, I was curious as to the popularity of ninjas and if I could try ninja thinking to improve as a translator and a human.
Ninjas are known for specialising in stealth and unarmed combat during the feudal period of Japanese history. As a translator, I of course looked up the etymology of the term. I discovered that “ninja” is actually originally a Chinese word made up of Kanji characters that literally translate as “the one who endures”. In Japanese, the same two Kanji that are pronounced “nin sha” in Chinese are pronounced “shinobi no mono.” “Shinobi” refers to quietness and stealth, essential qualities in a ninja fighter.
How can ninja thinking inspire us?
So if endurance, quietness and stealth are key characteristics of a ninja, how can this inspire us in our work and/or life?
You probably know how hard it can be to persevere. Endurance is tough and too often when something seems insurmountable, we resist or fight against it.
Instead of giving in to fear, try thinking like a ninja and:
– reach out to a colleague or friend to bounce ideas off,
– keep a positivity file to remind yourself of times when you did a job that seemed scary but had a great result/positive feedback,
– be consistent, even small amounts of action, if practiced consistently over time, will lead to results (I definitely struggle with this!).
Quietness or stillness. I think we all find it hard to quiet our minds and give something our full attention these days. There is great power in being able to focus. Putting your ninja hat on, why not try:
– choosing to be bored and let your mind wander instead of scrolling your phone while waiting,
– a 5 minute meditation in the morning and afternoon,
– doing one thing at a time (I need to keep reminding myself that multitasking is inefficient!).
The Cambridge English dictionary defines stealth as “movement that is quiet and careful in order not to be seen or heard”. Ninjas were often peasants who used their farm tools as weapons so as not to be detected. Now, as a translator and knowledge worker, I’m not out there physically fighting enemies, so what does stealth mean?
I think it can be:
– leveraging the tools you’ve already got (reflect on skills you aren’t making the most of),
– investing in your professional development to keep up your knowledge,
– taking some time out to plan how you can move your business forward or be a better version of yourself (don’t let a bad day become a long-term habit).
There’s even a book called How to be a Productivity Ninja by British author Graham Allcott. He sees ninjas as being ruthless in what they choose to do and taking an unorthodox approach to find the quickest, easiest and most efficient ways to do their work. I haven’t read it but I might pop it on my to-read list.
So, be inspired to get ninja like and aim to be consistent in your practice, leave some time for stillness and reflection and see how you feel. How will you be a ninja this week?
Feel free to contact me as a sounding board for your ideas.