Ninja Warrior

My boys love watching American Ninja Warrior. They’re fascinated by the athletes and the seemingly impossible obstacles and adversity that are overcome each and every show. I am, too. They know the names of their favorite ninjas, and they spend an inordinate amount of time jumping off of stuff around our home after watching each episode.

In case you’re not familiar with American Ninja Warrior, here’s a quick example of what the show is like:

In no uncertain terms, what they do is amazing. Absolutely incredible.

As much as I don’t love some of the side effects (mostly how everything in my house has the tendency to end up pushed a few inches from where it previously rested as my boys jump from “obstacle” to “obstacle” imitating their favorite ninjas), there is a lot that I really like about my boys watching American Ninja Warrior.

Here’s a bit of what I like most:

Unpredictable challenges
On American Ninja Warrior, the courses always offer unique challenges. No two courses are exactly alike. One course might rely heavily on upper body challenges, while another forces athletes to overcome obstacles that require intense upper body strength. The obstacles are unique and provide a reasonable (even if they initially seem insurmountable) challenge to stretch the ninja warriors to do more than they thought they could before.

Learning from each other
Nearly every successful ninja who shares his or her story includes the team that is vital to their success. The hours of preparation, the practice to develop the strength and skills that these athletes need to do the seemingly impossible is rooted in a community of folks who are dedicated to doing the little things to develop those qualities that will allow each ninja to perform under pressure.

Shared success
Watching the event is unlike any other sporting event I’ve come across. In most instances, there is a clear cut winner and loser. That’s not the case here. Certainly it’s clear who accomplishes the most in the competition, but the camaraderie between the ninjas and the genuine excitement they share for each other with each passing obstacle is something unique to this show. The greatest excitement is in seeing who can conquer the most obstacles, who can do what’s never been done before.

Everybody falls
This is probably my favorite part about American Ninja Warrior. The show not a contest where you can outlast your opponent. You can’t strategize and run out the clock. It’s just you, the obstacles, and all the people who want to want to see you succeed. Still, everyone ends up in the water. If you conquer all the challenges on one night, more await you. They’re welcomed. Even sought after. Because that’s the point. The show exists to help athletes push themselves to do what they thought impossible.

As we watched the show together, though, I began to realize that not only do I want these qualities developed in my kids, I also want a deeper understanding and a greater display of these qualities in myself.

It’s kind of a requirement for us to be successful in our roles in schools, right?

Think about it: When have you not had a week that came without unforeseen obstacles? When have you not spent time watching other educators in their element and not come away better for it? How often have you heard a story of success in another classroom and been energized to go and do likewise in yours?

Maybe there’s a tiny bit of room for debate on the other qualities, I am sure about this. Every single last one of us has known failure. And the nature of our work means that those are not experiences that are had in private. They’re as public as watching an athlete falling into the water after an attempt at doing something amazing.

So, hardworking educator who feels like the obstacles keep coming:

You are not alone.

Learn from those around you.

Watch for those educators who will inspire you.

Share the stories of your successes.

Be honest about the reality of setbacks faced, but use them as the springboard toward your next success story.

And don’t forget: When we’re pushing ourselves to do amazing things, everybody falls. Keep tackling those obstacles, no matter what they may look like.

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