By Jeff Eisenberg
I’ve always seemed to know what my passions are and have understood how to integrate them into my life.
I have always known that even when I love to do something, it wasn’t healthy if I did it too much, and applied this specifically to my work life. I have always chosen to make a living doing a few things that I was passionate about part-time, rather than being stuck in one thing full-time, and that no matter how passionate I felt, I would eventually burn out, as it too would become just a job.
I was always conscious of my need for diversity and change so my work life always reflected and supported this need. Most of my life I have spent dividing my time between my passions of owning a martial arts school, teaching classes and private lessons, doing executive protection and private investigation, traveling the country teaching defensive tactics to law enforcement and high-end security personnel, and of course writing. While doing all this, I was also going to Buddhist centers to study and participate in their programs, as well as doing my own martial arts and fitness training while maintaining a marriage and all that goes along with that. While my schedule can always be hectic and often my days can start at 4:00 AM and end at 9:00 PM or later, I have never felt out of balance or that my quality of life suffered.
This all changed when I was blindsided by suddenly losing the lease of my martial arts location. I had just gotten back from vacation to the news that the owner of the property had died and his children decided to break their leases with all the businesses in the location and evict us all, so that they could sell the property to developers. Karma is definitely a bitch, as today some 12 years later the property sits fenced in, abandoned and crumbled in disrepair as the town not only refused to zone it for residential building, but condemned it for numerous ecological violations and fined them to the point that they not only couldn’t address the violations.
This situation put me at the proverbial crossroads. With little other retail space convenient to move the dojo to a place that would accommodate a membership and a location that wouldn’t add unreasonable travel time to my students’ busy schedules, and my reluctance to put myself on the hook for a big, long-term lease when I wasn’t convinced all my students would follow me too far, I took it as a sign from the universe that possibly after 25 years of teaching, and almost 15 with my own school, it just might be time to take a break.
So I went to the investigation company and asked them to make me a full-time offer. And just like that I was suddenly the director of operations, making a ton of money, and of course suddenly miserable—not months later, but days later. But I had closed my school, stopped working for the tactics training and bodyguard companies, had no private lessons to teach, and since I had a huge amount of financial responsibility, I was left with no choice but stay in the position. But as they say when one door closes…
My wife and I had always been having an ongoing conversation about getting out of the rat race, renouncing, downsizing and moving for a better quality of life. So much to her credit, in response to my misery she suggested that we sell the house and move to a small place on the beach like we had always dreamed. Doing this would enable me to quit my miserable job, and while I re-established myself with my career, she could pay the bills. So that’s what we did!
We sold the house, and got a place on the beach. Except just as I was about to quit my job…BAM…her company went out of business and I was now not only forced to keep the job, but by moving to the beach I had just added another two hour commute to my day, which I did for another year and a half till she re-established herself and I could finally quit. And quit I did, happily ending up managing a retired UFC fighter’s gym, where I also helped teach the adult classes, started a kids program, and began teaching privates and seminars again. While my route to this outcome took a huge detour, the point was that if I, (and my wife), hadn’t been willing to make some tough sacrifices, it never would have happened.
So the most important point is being able to roll with the punches (martial arts pun intended), to ebb and flow with the drastic changes—whether they were by choice or thrust upon me by life—and to not only survive them, but thrive from them during the ebb and flow process. It requires being willing to endure making the constant, immediate changes and sacrifices needed to stay the course and create the life that I aspired toward.
But there is more to this crazy story! All the changes and sacrifices made, namely downsizing from a house to a tiny apartment, quitting a lucrative job for a much less lucrative job that made me extremely happy, and giving up certain aspects of our lifestyle because it was no longer within our means, finally allowed me to dedicate the time that I needed to get serious with my writing, which ironically wasn’t even a part of the motivation behind any of it.
And honestly, had I not been screwed out of my lease and taken a job, albeit lucrative, but that I then hated, and had we not moved, and had I not quit that job, and had I not landed at the MMA gym, I’m convinced I never would have ended up becoming a published author which had been my goal my whole life.
So now fast forward a few years and it’s all come together, better than I could have ever imagined. I’m still at the beach, and have kept the overhead and my lifestyle as simple as possible. I’m teaching martial arts, training jujitsu 4-5 times a week (more than I’ve ever trained before in my life), and doing a few hot yoga classes around my jujitsu training. I’m studying weekly at a local Buddhist center, taking mindfulness workshops, volunteering, hanging out on the beach, and of course writing more than ever. I’ve got two books published that are doing so well that they’ve added enough income that to make sure I can pay the bills and I only have to work 8-10 days a month of investigation to fund this great livelihood I’ve got going. But it’s been a long, long road to get here with much hard work, especially renunciation. Remember that the whole point of this chapter was right livelihood and how to achieve it through renunciation.
Perhaps a new perspective of right livelihood should not be based on what we do to make money, but what we do with that money to make our lives.
Do what you have to do for yourself and your loved ones to make your life. Even if it isn’t by doing the Buddhist service that you think that you have to do, you’ll find that if you only have a little time to do a bit of service on the weekend, nothing in your life will ever seem like work, and that’s what makes it right!
Or in my case, you might say that what makes my livelihood “right” is that I found my “write” livelihood.
Editor: Dana Gornall
Jeff Eisenberg is a Grand Master level martial arts and meditation teacher with over 40 years of training and 25 years of teaching experience. Trained in a variety of disciplines, he has run his own Dojo for nearly 15 years and has trained thousands of children and adults in martial arts and meditation. He is the author of Fighting Buddha: Martial Arts, Buddhism Kicking Ass and Saving It and Buddha’s Bodyguard: How to protect Your Inner VIP. Check out his website here.
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