Everyone Can Be a Ninja with Akbar Gbajabiamila

Ep72: Everyone Can Be a Ninja | with Akbar Gbajabiamila

How does someone go from retiring as an NFL player with over $300,000 in the bank to offering his time and services for free (and surviving off less than $25k per year) just so he can “get his shot?” If this story sounds crazy, then you’ve haven’t met Akbar Gbajabiamila.

Akbar Gbajabiamila is the host of American Ninja Warrior (alongside Matt Iseman) who is also a former NFL player for teams such as the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and Miami Dolphins, as well as the host of the NFL network’s highest rated show ‘NFL Fantasy Live.’ Akbar is also the author of the soon-to-be bestselling book “Everyone Can Be a Ninja: Find Your Inner Warrior and Achieve Your Dreams.”

Whether you’re an athlete who aspires to be or who has already competed on Ninja Warrior, a weekend warrior who enjoys the occasional Spartan Race or triathlon, or a sedentary office worker looking for something to inspire you to get back in shape, Akbar’s story is one of the most compelling and motivating I’ve ever come across. From the outside it might appear his path to stardom just makes sense and was pretty simple, but once you break down the challenges he’s faced since the very beginning of his life growing up in ‘the hood,’ you realize Akbar’s career path is anything but ordinary.

The biggest reason I’m excited about this interview and Akbar’s book is that it’s not just an inspirational story…it’s also a roadmap to help you overcome the mindsets, limiting beliefs, mental barriers, and outright excuses you might be making to stop you from pursuing something difficult and frightening.

Get ready to step outside your comfort zone…because that’s where the magic happens.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • How Akbar got his first job in television even though he wasn’t a “hall of famer”
  • Taking a monetary loss for the sake of your ideal career plan
  • Realizing that the work you get paid more for might fail to fulfill you
  • Learning to reject your circumstances and do what you can with what you have
  • Counteracting the negative narratives that you’ve been give about the cards you’ve been dealt in life
  • How to stop using the obstacles and low expectations in your life to keep yourself from improving
  • Recognizing when you’re afraid of being successful
  • Learning how to accept and even take joy in failure without watering down how painful it is in the moment

Useful Resources Mentioned:


Akbar Gbajabiamila’s Ninja Warrior Run for Red Nose Day

GO FAR Official Theatrical Trailer

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:


As one of television’s most compelling personalities Akbar Gbajabiamila reigns supreme as host NBC’s 5-time Emmy® nominated, heart-racing obstacle course competition series American Ninja Warrior. In addition, a former NFL star player, Akbar hosts NFL Networks’ highest rated show NFL Fantasy Live.

His debut book “Everyone Can Be a Ninja: Find Your Inner Warrior and Achieve Your Dreams” will be published by Gallery Books (A division of Simon & Schuster) on May 7th of this year.

Akbar is honored to leverage his formidable professional platform to inspire and motivate others as well as advocate for those in need. Currently, he serves on the board for the Asomugha Foundation, which provides pathways to college for disenfranchised youth, as well as for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He is also privileged to be a celebrity ambassador for Red Nose Day, which since its inception in 2015 raised more than $150 million dollars to fight child poverty. Moreover, Akbar is a strong proponent of financial literacy, lending his time and energy to educating young people and pro athletes.

Akbar grew up in hard-scrabble South Central LA, one of seven children of Nigerian immigrants. A solid family foundation coupled with a natural athletic ability made him a stand-out high school student athlete, excelling in both basketball and football. Akbar went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media Studies, while attending San Diego State University on a football scholarship and then spent five years in the NFL as a linebacker and defensive end with the Oakland Raiders, Chargers (San Diego), and Miami Dolphins before retiring in 2008.

Akbar began his broadcasting career while still playing for the Chargers as a contributor to KLSD 1360 AM and as a co-host for Football Night in San Diego (NBC 7). He went on to serve as an analyst on the MountainWest Sports Network (formerly mtn.) and CBS Sports before joining the NFL Network.

He and his wife live in Los Angeles where they are raising their family.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Elyse Rintelman. The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”