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19 min read

Unleashing Your Inner Ninja: A Journey to Prosperity

unleash inner ninja for solopreneur success


Watch the Episode on YouTube

As we stand on the brink of a new year, the collective anticipation for a transformative 2024 is palpable.

In the pursuit of success, we often find ourselves exploring uncharted territories, seeking innovative approaches to navigate the challenges ahead.

However, what if the key to our most successful year lies not in the untested and novel, but rather in the ancient wisdom that has withstood the test of time?

Join us on a profound exploration as we welcome a true master in the realms of martial arts, meditation, and life transformation—Stephen K. Hayes.

A seminar leader and lecturer, Hayes doesn't just teach; he orchestrates a symphony of inspiration, empowerment, and success.

Behind his unassuming demeanor lies a world-renowned expert on ninjutsu, a pioneer in Japanese martial arts, and an esteemed author of 22 books translating Eastern wisdom into our everyday lives. Today, we unlock the secrets to prosperity through the teachings of the past.

Stay tuned as we pose intriguing questions to Stephen, unraveling the timeless principles that promise to make 2024 your most successful year yet.

Connect with Stephen K. Hayes

Favorite Quotes:

“It is almost impossible not to be happier or more successful if you really want to." - Ira Hayes

Going solo in business doesn't mean you're alone! Join our thriving Facebook community group exclusively designed for solopreneurs!  Connect with like-minded individuals who understand the unique challenges and triumphs of running a business single-handedly. Gain valuable insights, discover proven strategies, and unlock the power of networking as you engage in lively discussions and receive expert advice. We hope to see you there!

About Stephen K. Hayes

Stephen K. Hayes is a seminar leader and lecturer and inspires others by translating his extensive background in martial arts and meditation into practical lessons for handling the pressures and uncertainties of life. His participants have said that his teachings have brought them deep encouragement and empowerment, and inspired them to achieve new levels of success in their personal and professional lives.

Quick facts about Stephen:

  • World-renowned expert on ninjutsu and pioneering teacher of Japanese martial arts

  • Inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame and Martial Arts Hall of Honors

  • Author of 22 books on translating Eastern wisdom into everyday life

With his extensive cultural knowledge and spiritual insights, Stephen sharesperspectives on:

  • Achieving self-actualization through the ninja way

  • Finding purpose in a confusing modern world

  • Lessons learned from his travels with the Dalai Lama

  • Bridging ancient Eastern teachings and contemporary life

His unique blend of martial arts mastery, meditation expertise, and pragmatic wisdom will surely captivate our listeners.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!

Full Episode Transcript

Stephen K. Hayes (00:00):

The problems people had 2,500 years ago pretty much boiled down to what the problems they have today. It's either health, wealth, relationships, and there is a fourth one where every now and then you might run into an actual enemy, somebody who's got it in for you and trying to block you and so forth. That's timeless.

Intro (00:23):

Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast, the show for solopreneurs, consultants and contractors who are ready to take charge of their business and reclaim their freedom. Join us as we bring you inspiring stories, invaluable insights and practical strategies from successful solopreneurs and industry experts, empowering you to create a thriving business that aligns with your unique goals and allows you to live life on your own terms. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Carly Ries (00:53):

Welcome to the One Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (00:56):

And I'm Joe Rando

Carly Ries (00:57):

Joe with the New Year, people are trying to figure out new ways to make 2024 their most successful year yet, but maybe new ways aren't the best approach. Maybe what we need to do is go far into the past and bring out those best practices to make us our best selves in present day. With that being said, today we have Stephen K. Hayes on the show, and Stephen, I'm going to do a round of applause in a second, but I want to give your intro some true justice because you are so accomplished and I'm so excited for this interview. It's so different from anything else we've experienced on the show. Stephen is a seminar leader lecturer, and he inspires others by translating his extensive, and I'll get into the extensive part, background in martial arts and meditation into practical lessons for handling the pressures and uncertainties of the modern world.


Participants of his have said that his teachings have brought them deep encouragement and empowerment and inspired them to achieve new levels of success in both their personal and professional lives, which as solopreneurs a lot of the time go hand in hand. Now, I did say extensive background, and I really just want to say how extensive it is because I want you to know how qualified he is to talk about all of this. He is a world renowned expert on ninjitsu and pioneering teacher of Japanese martial arts. He's also been inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame and Martial Arts Hall of Honors, and he's the author of 22 books on translating Eastern Wisdom into everyday life. So you've come to the right place for this type of conversation. That being said, Stephen, welcome to the show.

Stephen K. Hayes (02:39):

Great to be here, Carly. Looking forward to it.

Carly Ries (02:44):

I know I kind of gave an extensive background because you've done so much and you're so qualified to talk about this, but I still feel like I didn't quite do it justice. Can you dive into your background and explain how you began teaching people to be more prosperous through the principles of martial arts specifically?

Stephen K. Hayes (03:03):

Well, actually at the very beginning, I had no intention of doing that at all. I got involved in martial arts. I was a very small child back in the fifties, and I would see other kids picked on. I didn't get picked on too much, but I saw other kids and I didn't feel that was right. Something was wrong about that, but I didn't know what to do about it. I couldn't do anything. I saw on some TV shows in the 1950s, Japanese martial arts. My little spirit was just, "wow, I've got to learn this. I've got to learn this." Of course, there was nobody in my area teaching at all. So it took me years to finally get a teacher and start to study and so forth. To answer your question directly though, what I find or have found is that a lot of times what gets in people's way is fear, various manifestations of fear.


Maybe I fear that I secretly don't have enough to compete with, or maybe I fear that I don't deserve success, or maybe I fear that some other people are lucky and I'm not lucky. Maybe I fear that if I'm successful, my friends will not like me anymore. Some form of fear and martial art training, interestingly enough, deals directly with that fear. I mean, at its most base level, somebody's coming at you with a knife or a gun or a group of people who are going to tear you up, scariest possible things that we could encounter. Through studying, slowly, slowly learning secrets of how to move the body, taking away or too much activity, streamlining it or just the right move increases the counter for those fears. So we study with our body, but the real payoff is in everyday life.

Carly Ries (05:28):

Yeah, absolutely, that is so fascinating. I want to circle back because in your intro we were talking about how people are always like, what's new? What can I do to better myself in 2024, which is when this will get released? You often discuss the value of bridging aging eastern teachings along with martial arts, with contemporary life. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Stephen K. Hayes (05:50):

Yeah. In the West, my perception of our primary religions, Christianity, Jewish, Muslim, they're based on faith. And that Japanese and Tibetan, like Buddhism is based not so much on faith, it's on techniques. I took these lists of techniques, experiences that you can check out, ancient things, but there's a three part a system for trying something with a lot of risk in it. There's an eight part personal development program, there's a 14 point code of ethics. There's a six point code of how to operate heroically. I took these, changed the language into modern English and added that to what I was teaching physically. And people loved it. It does not conflict with any of the religious teachings at all. It's about personal development or it's going to be very religious or totally unreligious, doesn't matter. So I think that's the key.


These are ancient codes, ancient systems, but the problems people had 2,500 years ago pretty much boiled down to what the problems they have today. It's either health, wealth, relationships, and there is a fourth one where every now and then you might run into an actual enemy. Somebody has got it in for you and trying to block you and so forth. That's timeless.

Joe Rando (07:45):

Stephen, you said it doesn't conflict with any of the kind of common religions in this country. If I'm not mistaken, Buddhism isn't really a religion, is it? I mean, in terms of worshiping of a God, they don't view Buddha as a God. Is that correct?

Stephen K. Hayes (07:58):

That's correct. I had the privilege of traveling with the Dalai Lama of Tibet for 12 years as this personal security escort and that was very eyeopening. We'd be sitting around a green room ready to go for an interview and in the beginning I asked a lot of questions, really goofy questions. I was so embarrassed. But he was always very patient with me. He always took the time to answer. And that was one of the questions I had. Buddhism, is it a religion? Is it a system? And the Dalai Lama told me, not a religion. It's a system, a method of developing, stripping away all the stuff that we think is true, but isn't true. Stripping that away and getting right down to what is the true nature of reality. That's what the Dalai Lama told me.

Carly Ries (09:11):

You said that so casually, by the way, "oh, for 12 years I traveled around with a Dalai Lama". I have to ask, if you could give us a few takeaways from those travels, do you have any that you can share with us that solopreneurs could apply? Not even solopreneurs, this is a selfish question, I just want to know.

Stephen K. Hayes (09:32):

Sometimes people ask, how did you get that job? And it is such a long, complex story with just wild, coincidental connections. So I'm glad you didn't ask me how.


It really was a real blessing in my life. One of the things I learned from him was that he has different roles that he'll play. In the West, when he's in the west, he is in exile. He's supposed to be the leader of his country, but China invaded in the fifties and he had to escape. So he is no country, he's not the leader. He is very humble, always bowing and very humble. So western people think of him as this very humble guy. But when I was in India where he lives, where the Tibetans are, he's the king. So he has a very regal bearing there, and his voice changes, because that is what the people are hoping, the king can somehow do something. Then when he is with me personally, he's very curious. He would ask me a lot of questions and I would give him my attempt at an answer, very short answer, then get back to asking him questions. It was a wonderful time of my life.

Carly Ries (11:11):

Is there anything that he taught you? I mean, he teaches everybody so many things, but anything that he taught you that you would tell the people that listen in on your seminars or that follow you? What big takeaways could you apply to life from his wisdom?

Stephen K. Hayes (11:31):

If I really paraphrase in the spirit of the show here, two things that he really emphasizes as basic to his practice and study. Number two is compassion. Just care about other people. I think that would be very valuable for any business person. If I'm in business and I'm running a business, I got my shingle out in the front. I'm waiting. Anybody who comes in has some kind of a need. Depending on the kind of business I have, it may be a real urgent need. I need to be connected with that. I need to feel what it is. If I have a roofing company, let's say somebody's got shingles that blew off and rain's coming through, and it's the worst thing they've ever had. They're angry and panicked.


I've got to recognize that and reassure them, I'm the right guy. Here's how we're going to handle it. You'll be fine. So a compassionate approach as opposed to a cold business-like approach. If I'm a doctor, I can be compassionate, I can listen. If I'm an accountant, I can hear what's important to this person. So compassion is the number two thing. I think that works really for everybody. Wouldn't you rather deal with somebody who shows that they actually care about why you're there as opposed to a function.

Joe Rando (13:20):

Think about going to a restaurant. Sometimes you go to a restaurant where the food is just okay, but they're so glad that you're there and they're so caring, and you go, wow, that was really great. It wasn't the best chicken parm I ever had but the experience! Because they cared, it makes a huge difference.

Stephen K. Hayes (13:39):

That's right. If we could get everybody to just enjoy what they do. I am proud of what I do. I'm the best. I'm in Japan every year. My wife is Japanese. We go over and spend a month or two every year and that's one of the things that I see is different between the US and Japan. In Japan, everybody's proud of what they do. Even the trash collector. Trash collector has a uniform and it's clean, and he's proud. He's doing his job, he's helping his community. It's really remarkable. We're so casual in America, we can forget that compassion. the first thing that he teaches, he only talks about compassion in the west. I asked him one time, I said, "why don't you ever talk about the first part? You always talk about the second part."


And he says, "well, the second part, compassion, everybody can agree on that. All the religions and non-religions, everybody can agree on that. The first part is what people go to war over." And that is, bottom line, the true nature of reality. People have different theories and different belief systems as to how we got here, why we're here, where we're going after we're not here. He said, "that's what everybody gets in wars about. So I don't talk about that in the west". But it's important I think, to really look at that. So many times we get involved in conversations with people and we're talking about surface level stuff. We've got limited number of days on the planet, limited number of encounters with people you have. Why not brush away all the silly small talk and just appreciate them and talk about stuff that's real.


What is real for you? Carly, you mentioned you have a 1-year-old. It's cool to me. I've got a 6-year-old grandchild, but I remember when I had a 1-year-old, and we can identify with that. And Joe, you mentioned you had a dog that could interrupt the show. I mean, real things, real things that we all share. So what's really true, what's valuable? And compassion. Those are the two things I think really every modern person could tune into that kind of upgrade the way they operate every day. The last thing I'll mention is it's a whole lot more fun. It's really fun you to connect with people and to keep looking for what can I learn new? What don't I know. It makes life a lot more fun.

Joe Rando (16:55):

My wife was telling me she watched a masterclass with David Sedaris. David is a comic writer. One of the things he does to get material for all his stuff is he'll ask questions of people like the one you gave an example of, he'll just meet somebody out of the blue and he'll just say, "do you ever want a monkey?"


And he got a yes, but he just asks crazy questions. Then people go, "well, I guess we could talk about anything we want to, because he just asked me if I own a monkey." It's hard because when you meet people, you have to let your David Sedaris side in, you have to kind of prove that you're not crazy. So step one is I'm saying I get it, but it does sometimes get really hard to go from step one to that step of now talking about real things instead of the weather and that kind of stuff. It does make such a difference in relationships.

Stephen K. Hayes (17:55):

Yeah. I totally agree.

Carly Ries (18:00):

I have a question. We are kind of talking about how all this can apply to solopreneurs specifically, and I think being real, being compassionate. Joe and I, we've seen our success from trying to apply those things to how we interact with people. We don't put on a facade with our company. They know what they see is what they get, same with this show. But we're solopreneurs. Another issue that a lot of them come into is, they have a hard time achieving self-actualization or figuring out what their purpose is. How can your teachings apply to those issues that solopreneurs face?

Stephen K. Hayes (18:40):

I have a feeling that there may be four conditions in terms of generating success. Number one, you've got to have some kind of a passion for something, something you're excited about. When I talk to grown adults, I ask go, what'd you want to be when you were a kid? And so a kid mentality will have a kid answer, oh, I'm going to be a fireman. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a cowboy lawyer. Okay, well, that's symbolic of something, wanting to be a cowboy. So you want to be on your own. You're making minute to minute decisions that change the condition of the world. You're working for somebody, but it's up to you. And oh, okay, so that's what that symbolizes, some freedom. The second consideration is, are you good at it? What are you good at doing? I know some people who love to play the guitar, but they're not good.


So what was my dream? What do I want to do to where I no longer work? I no longer have to look forward to a vacation to get away from. I haven't worked a day in my life for 44 years. I don't consider it work. And are you good at it? Then, what does the world need? What is there a need for? And can you make your passion and what you're good at, fit that need in some way? So those four conditions that really could determine, help a person find themselves in life. Because it could be that they are really good at doing some obscure thing that you can't really make a living doing. You don't give it up. You find something related that you can be enthusiastic about. Here's what I do for a living.


Here's what I do for my hobby. There's nothing wrong with that. I didn't do that in my life. My hobby is my occupation. So I think that's one thing. But the most important, well, not most important, all four of those points are important. But a very important point is what does the world need right now? People are constantly checking the internet. What should I study at school? Should I study math? Should I study IT? Should I study AI? What should I study? Keeping up with what does the world need now? And it changes so fast now, doesn't it? It's really changing rapidly. There's kind of a countertrend to college now where you may want to get into a highly skilled trade. You can charge a lot of money. A finish carpenter who can do fine carpentry. Try to find one of those in your neighborhood. You're going to pay a lot of money for that guy. He put a few years in as an apprentice, and he's golden. So there's kind of a counter to the university necessity that changed in the past.

Joe Rando (22:45):

Well certainly AI isn't going to replace a finish carpenter anytime soon.

Stephen K. Hayes (22:49):


Joe Rando (22:53):

Mediocre copywriters are in trouble.

Stephen K. Hayes (22:56):

Yes. Maybe you don't want to lead in that direction. So stay in touch with what is needed, and now how can I, in as direct a manner, what I usually suggest. "Don't make it complicated. Make it as direct as possible." Here's how I can help. I understand your situation. Uou may even turn a client down, which "I understand your situation. What you're looking for is not what I'm the best doing. I do have a few other people I could suggest for you." But if it's right up the aisle, then you say this to your client "I'm so happy you found me. We can do some wonderful things." And you mean it because you are tuned in, you're paying attention to them. So that's actually a kind of complicated question. How do you self-actualize in today's world? And that's usually what I suggest to people, those four key factors. That'll at least get you on the path.

Carly Ries (24:22):

Yeah. I mean, solopreneurs, they can feel so much pressure. Are they doing the right thing? They're the boss and they're the company creator, and they're like, am I doing the right thing? Am I doing something that will support my family? Am I doing something that will make me happy the rest of their lives? A lot of times they'll leave their current jobs with the false safety net that they've had for years, and they need that reassurance. So it's good to have that direction. I also want to talk about, on that note, they do have a lot of pressure. You also are big teacher of meditation, and I know that meditation has kind of been a buzzword the past few years, but it is not a buzzword for you. You've been doing this for a very long time. For people that kind of want to calm down, get away from those pressures, recenter themselves, do you have any tips or best practices that people can follow, for the ones that want to get into meditation?

Stephen K. Hayes (25:23):

Yeah. I have a very beginner exercise. We can do it right now. Sit with your back straight. So put your butt all the way back as far as it'll go in the chair and feel your back straight. Keep your eyes open, but very slowly and deeply, take a deep breath in. Feel your vertebrae, feel your rising, your energy's building. And when you're ready, let it go out. And just feel yourself, settle down, your shoulders, relaxed back until all that breath is gone. We just did a meditation. I think that stuff, the kind of humorous way of approaching it. Sometimes people go to a meditation class. Okay, sit here for 20 minutes and think of nothing. That's impossible.

Carly Ries (26:32):

That is when your to-do list comes in full force.

Stephen K. Hayes (26:35):

Exactly. So we take a deep breath in. Were you thinking of anything other than the breath when we were doing that? No! Oh, we'll do another one. Okay. Take another deep breath. I think what this does is it allows us physically to put our body in a proper human posture. So many times we're on a keyboard, we're like a T-Rex. Or we feel like urgency so the body tightens up. We lean forward if we're trying to sell somebody something and we lean back if somebody's trying to sell us something. Just get into a natural posture. You can see people walking around where the head kind of comes out, and they've got a hump back, and this is normal to them. No! This is normal, the nerves in the neck and back are kind of neutralized and balanced.


So just sit for a couple of minutes in a good posture, that does wonders. And other people see a good posture. They see you creeping around talking like this or that. They see you in a good posture. That breath just lets you concentrate on what I'm feeling. What am I experiencing right now? Even if you only meditate for three minutes. What am I experiencing? What do I need to let go of right now to be a little bigger and freer? I think that's the real key. What do I need to let go of rather than add on? You might say, well, I'm under a lot of financial pressure, or, oh God, we've got staffing problems. Or Man, something just happened in my business where the marketing is totally turned around and I've got to catch up with that. We're under all these pressures and how to, what I call, be above the fray. Above all that, looking down, How can I use a change in culture to enhance and enrich my business?


Would you agree in the past eight years, maybe, a very different culture in America now. The young people have their own views of what's right and what's wrong. It's very different from when I was young. Oh, yeah, when I was young, the parents thought we were on the way to ruin it. I was a weird guy. I was a ninja the whole time. But yeah, a lot of the hippies. The hippies became the yuppies. Then the yuppies, became the angry baby boomers. And when you think about it, the baby boomers, were very involved in the civil rights movement and the whole civil rights thing came in with the baby boomer energy and the laws were passed.


Hey, we accept everybody. You're a little darker than me. Great. You're a little lighter than me. Great. We accept everybody. And that was going great for several decades. It's a little controversial at this point here, but now all of a sudden there's this tumultuous nervousness about race. What? We handled that back in the sixties. What are we doing? And that's the reality that a lot of your customers are operating under today. They believe they see what they see right here, right now. I see decades of progress. So how do I fit in with that reality? How do I adapt what I'm offering, hopefully in a positive way? I mean, there are opportunists that figure out ways of conning people out of their money. Nobody like that is listening to this podcast.


No. You've got good people who want to make a difference, who want to enhance their life, have an exciting life, provide a value out there. And at the end of the game, come away with some sense, "Hey, I made a difference in my work. I made a difference in my world." So how do we look at the modern at culture and adapt that to our business as a solopreneur? How do we adapt that to where we come ahead? We're helping the world. We're making people feel better about what they're doing and we're providing our service.

Carly Ries (32:32):

Yeah. Those are such great points. I feel like I can just learn so much you and have already done so in this short half hour that we've been talking to you. But I feel like that's a great stopping you point, just to end it on such great words of wisdom. But before we officially end it, we ask all of our guests this, and you have traveled the world. You traveled the world with the Dalai Lama like you so casually said. If you had a favorite quote about success, what would it be?

Stephen K. Hayes (33:06):

I'm going to quote my dad. My dad was Ira Hayes. He was a motivational speaker back in the days when like Norman Vincent Peale and Art Linkletter and all those guys, they used to call them motivational speakers. My dad didn't like that term. He said, "Only you can motivate you. I can give you techniques for what to do." He's been gone for years but one of his favorite quotes is, and this sounds so obvious, but then when you really think about it, it gets a little more challenging. "It is almost impossible not to be happier or more successful if you really want to." I think I'm going to identify with a couple of people who come to us. You're the experts. They're going to challenge you. Well, I am having this problem. What are you willing to change? Well, I'm not going to have to change. Okay. What inner reality are you working from? You're talking like a 4-year-old, you're 43, but you're talking about 4-year-old.


Yeah. It's almost impossible not to be happier or more successful if you really want to be. What excuses are you using? And it really kind of cuts to the bone.

Carly Ries (34:53):

Well, your dad was a wise man. I love that quote. And Stephen, as are you. If people want to learn more about you or attend one of your lectures or anything, where can they find out more about you?

Stephen K. Hayes (35:08):

I'm kind of ramping up some stuff here now in the immediate future. So there'll be more and more stuff coming out. Right now, my suggestion would be they could just go to my website. It's I have some books that are available there that aren't available on Amazon or eBay. There's a little calendar and some stuff of what I'm doing right now and how to contact me. Somebody may be so motivated they want to contact me. My contacts are on there as well.

Carly Ries (35:58):

Wonderful. Well, we cannot thank you enough for coming on the show. This has been so eyeopening. I would love to have you on again at some point. This chat has been too short. I want more time with you.

Stephen K. Hayes (36:12):

I'd be delighted. That was really great. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed myself.

Carly Ries (36:20):

Yeah, likewise. Us too. So we will see you next week on another episode of the One-Person Business Podcast.

Closing (36:31):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes running a one person business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures? At Lifestarr, we're creating a one person business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at