Don’t Call Yourself a Ninja

There are many ridiculous phrases that are tossed around these days to describe someone’s abilities or skills in the workplace. Some of which include: ninja, guru, wizard, and rockstar. All of which are supposed to denote some sort of monumental ability to accomplish something in ways that others cannot.

Here’s the thing. You can call yourself whatever you want, but at the end of the day all that matters is whether or not you can deliver the goods. If you succeed in doing so, people will begin to refer to you with the hyperbole that you so desperately seek, without you having to look like a total tool in the process.

The same holds true for being thought of as a thought leader in your industry. Thought leader isn’t a descriptor that you give yourself, it’s one that is earned over time with the respect and admiration of your peers or community. Think of some famous visionaries from your generation. For me, that would be someone like Steve Jobs. The man was brilliant, but not flamboyantly so. At no point in time did you hear Steve Jobs refer to himself as a design ninja or product marketing wizard, though he was (and is still) widely considered to be such a person. He earned those stripes through a series of successes and failures that defined his career. Did he know without question that the iPod would change the world forever? Probably not. Did he truly believe that the iPad would become the computer of the future. Maybe, but the fact that he had the guts to make that bet, alone, says more about him than some bullshit monicker ever could.

Even with all of this being said, there will still be those who refer to themselves as gurus, prophets, or what have you, and that’s ok. You guys just keep on doing what you’re doing while the rest of us actually make a difference and find ways to change the world. If nothing else, at least by adding this line to your bio I’ll know who not to hire or which sessions to avoid when I attend my next conference.

Justin Seeley is a graphic designer, author, and online content creator. His work can be seen on platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Lynda.com, CreativeLIVE, and Pluralsight. Justin loves helping both individuals and businesses reach their professional goals through education, creative services, and social content strategy.

11 comments On Don’t Call Yourself a Ninja

  • Haha! Your assessment seems a bit harsh! When I decided to use the “wizard” branding for Gravity Wiz it just seemed like a fun way to brand my Gravity Forms expertise; not an egotistical claim of superiority. Some of those phrases certainly have become a bit played out but I don’t think using them automatically makes you a tool. Calling attention to your expertise in a fun, light-hearted way isn’t a big deal.

    • Actions speak louder than words I’m afraid. I’d rather know WHY you’re so good and WHY your expertise will help me or my business. I’m not trying to be harsh, just realistic. I understand you disagree, but that’s mostly because it appears you’ve gone all-in on using this as a part of your branding, which is fine. My main point was to illustrate that you don’t have to call yourself something “magical” in order to be considered an expert. Just let your work and credentials speak for themselves without the need for pretentious nicknames. That’s just my personal philosophy, and it’s ok that you don’t share that opinion. Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Also, I’m not calling YOU a tool. I’m mostly referring to those who use these terms as some sort of badge of honor. I see that you’re using it in a light-hearted manner, and I think that’s fine. You don’t take yourself too seriously, unlike most who adopt these taglines.

    • If your main point is “you don’t have to call yourself something ‘magical’ in order to be considered an expert” then you and I are completely agreed… but it sounds like your point really is, “You’re a tool if you use x, y, z to refer to yourself and/or brand.” To which I say, lighten up. I don’t disagree because I used “wizard” in my branding. That almost implies that I would have renamed my brand had I read this article before launch. I disagree because you are being harsh and making some pretty broad statements about people/businesses without appropriate exception.

      It seems the primary point that we disagree on is whether people who use phrases like ninja, guru, wizard, and rockstar are taking themselves too seriously. In my experience, most people/businesses I’ve seen and interacted with using such phrases are just having good fun. And often times, they do have the pudding that proves their worthiness of such lofty (and playful) titles.

      Love your stuff, Justin. Hope none of my comments have come across overly defensive or antagonistic. 🙂

      • My point is that I don’t believe these names or others (thought leader, expert, visionary) are terms that should be given to yourself as some sort of serious credential. That’s what certifications and degrees are for. If you’re doing it light-hearted, as you are, I have no problem with that.

        I’m not saying you or anyone else should change your branding, that’s up to you. Just know that I, and many others in my circles, don’t feel as though these titles hold much weight and would rather see a clear demonstration of capabilities than just rely on some imaginative headline.

        Your comments are welcomed and appreciated! I love debate and respect the opinion of all who read and participate in discussions here. Oh, and btw, your content is really good. I checked out your site this morning 🙂

  • Great article! I couldn’t agree with you more. A little humility goes a long way.

  • You’re a total rockstar ninja wizard, Justin!

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  • Hey brother, I believe you meant to use the word “prophets” instead of “profits” in your last paragraph. All the best.

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