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When I was a boy, I was at the bottom of the school hierarchy. I was a bullied child.
I loved TV programs like Power Rangers. In that kind of program, the hero rescues someone in distress. But in the real society around me, there was no organization of evil. In my school, boys who were good at sports were treated like the heroes. But I was not good at any sports. I hated all sports. I couldn't become a hero.
One day, I bought a yo-yo. When I first tried, I wasn't too dexterous -- the simplest yo-yo trick was impossible. But after one week of practicing, my throws became a bit better. "Yo-yo is something for me to be good at for the first time in my life," I thought. It was the moment for me to find my passion.
I spent all my time practicing. It took me hours and hours a day to build my skill up to each new level. Then one day, a dream came to my mind. I said to myself, "I want to be world champion."
This dream came true in 2001. When I was 18 years old, I won the World Yo-Yo Contest. "Yes! I did it! I became a HERO!" I thought. But after coming back to Japan, nothing in my life had changed.
I had reached the highest title in the yo-yo world -- but yo-yo is not in the Olympics, and it is not a major sport. Even the title of world champion had no value in society. I was crushed. I lived many spiritless days for many years.
After graduating from university, I became a typical Japanese worker, a systems engineer, even though I was a world champion. I felt my passion, heart and soul had left my body. I felt I was not alive anymore.
I started to consider what I should do. And I remembered a very impressive juggler from Cirque du Soleil. I thought, "I want to do that. I want to make my performance better, to show how spectacular the yo-yo can be, to change the public's image of the yo-yo."
If I could do that, then future champions might be able to live in a better environment -- this was the way I could become the hero. I felt my passion return to my mind.
I quit my company and started a career as a professional performer. I watched the video of Cirque again and again, and I practiced and practiced. In 2007, I became world champion again, in the artistic performance division.
I was still on the same stage. Just a world champion. So, what should I do next? What would be my next dream? It was Cirque du Soleil, the organization that had inspired me to follow my passion.
I started to learn classical ballet, jazz dance, acrobatics, and other things to make my movement clean and my performance look better. It surprised me a lot -- as a boy, I had hated all sports. I couldn't have imagined such a future.
As a result of these efforts, and the help of many others, it happened. In 2009, I could pass an audition for Cirque du Soleil. And not only that, I performed on the TED stage this year.
What I have learned from the yo-yo is that if I make enough effort, with enough passion, nothing is impossible.
To see my passion through my performance, please watch the video above.
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