You are not a ninja (or a maven)

I’ve noticed people around the web calling themselves a “product ninja” or a “networking maven” or even a “social media titan.”  Sorry to burst your bubbles, but something must be said about this trend.

A ninja in feudal Japan was a pretty scary person. He or she had deadly skills. Using stealth tactics and disguises a ninja could destroy their targets and disappear without a trace. They were also trained in espionage, arson, assassinations, and other nefarious arts. In short, you did not mess with a ninja.

Ninjas were skilled in uzura-gakure — a disappearing technique where the ninja curls into a motionless ball to look like a rock or stone. Is that something that you, self-proclaimed ninja, do regularly in the workplace? No? OK then.

So unless you were trained in traditional ninja skills, some 800 years ago in Japan, you are not a ninja.

I have data to back this up. There are more than 20,000 people on LinkedIn with the word “ninja” in their job titles, in either their current or previous positions. That constitutes a global ninja army. Yet none of them are truly ninja certified according to the ancient ninjutsu ways.

In my mind, there are only two acceptable reasons for you to call yourself a ninja.

1. You are a musician associated with the Ninjatune record label in the UK.

2. You were granted the title of “ninja” by your employer or colleagues, AND (this part is critical) you show up to work every day dressed in traditional ninja attire. This consists of, at a minimum, a black robe, lightweight armor, and lots of ninja tools like ropes, hooks, spikes, and wooden shoes (needed to walk on water when the situation demands). If you do not meet either of these criteria, you cannot call yourself a ninja.

By the way, you are also not a “maven.” More than 1,000 people on LinkedIn have that word in their job title. You are only a maven if Malcolm Gladwell himself has specially anointed you as one. If he hasn’t, and as far as I know it’s not a blessing he has bestowed on anyone, then you should not call yourself a maven.