I had a great job in sales in 1971 for a large corporation in Chicago. They had promoted me to a managerial position and I was in charge of sales for the western portion of Illinois. The job used a lot of my talents and I was very successful at it. Within two years I took a job with another company in Chicago, which offered me three times what I had earned at the previous company, plus a company car and generous expense account. Although both jobs utilized a lot of my talents and were very lucrative, I was dissatisfied. I even had nightmares about the job. All I cared about was getting off work at 5 pm and going to train in Taekwon-Do. I had started teaching Taekwon-Do at night for the Mt. Prospect Park District.
In 1973, I decided my path was to teach Taekwon-Do full time. Everyone I knew who had martial arts studios either sacrificed the art so they could teach hundreds of student at a time, or they were quality teachers but were starving. I knew I could do it, and it was the only thing I really wanted to do. I formed a business plan. I knew exactly how many students I would need to take care of the business, my personal expenses, and prepare for future growth.
As soon as I announced to my friends and family that I was going to leave that dream job and open a martial arts studio, I was abandoned and called crazy. My family was ashamed of my decision to leave a successful and secure job to follow what they regarded as a pipe dream.
On my studio’s opening night, the biggest snowstorm in 30 years hit Chicago. I lost my students because most of them couldn’t get to the studio. I had saved up enough money to live on for a few months and I immediately had to start using my reserves.
Despite the financial insecurity, I still loved doing what I was doing. I loved standing in the parking lot and looking up at the sign that said “Newton Taekwon-Do.” I loved answering the phone and designing the promotion tests and administering the tournaments. I loved every minute of it even though I didn’t have enough money to get a haircut or a new pair of shoes. Frequently I had to either walk to the studio or ride my bike to save what little gas was in my car.
Even though I struggled from hand to mouth for years, I was far happier than I had been when I had a job that everyone else envied.
Eileen Caddy says: Never be afraid to tread the path alone. Know which is your path and follow it wherever it may lead you
People think that when they make a decision to take a certain path, friends and family will automatically support them – but that is not necessarily the case. Often you will be abandoned and have to go it alone. Some people fear going it alone because they can’t stand the solitary environment.
However, the closer your path gets to the pinnacle, the narrower it gets. There’s plenty of room for people at the bottom because the base of the pyramid is wide. When you near the top, you will find there are very few people who walk that road.
I was convinced of the rightness of my decision and I never ever considered going back, even when I became penniless after the great snowstorm. Two years later the business did fail and I went back to working and teaching Taekwon-do at the Mt. Prospect Park District. I could have solved all my financial difficulties with a few strokes of a pen by signing a contract with my former employer, but I never even considered it. I was on my path and I stayed on it. It was right for me because I felt it in my heart.
Initially, I blamed my failure on that great snowstorm. But eventually I discovered that my struggles were due to my lack of business acumen in running my own business. I had learned how to be a corporate business executive, and many of those lessons helped, but I needed to learn more about entrepreneurship.
My assumption was that I already knew all I needed to know. But I failed because I didn’t have the information, I was undercapitalized and I didn’t have the experience. Still I stayed on my path until I learned what I needed to know.
How do you know if you’re on the right path for you? You know it because it feels right. How do you know if a vegetable is fresh? Because it is a bright color, it cracks when you snap it. It’s healthy. You don’t have to analyze its DNA to tell. I don’t have to overanalyze my path. I just know it because it feels right. If you are true to yourself, you know when you are on your path. Your instincts will tell you.
Your path will become a highway that will take you where you want to go. If you are following someone else’s footsteps, you are going to lead a life of underachievement and you will die feeling, as the song says – is that all there is?
The one thing that I did right when I first opened my own studio was to stay on my path. If I had not done so, I would not be here today and the world would be different if I weren’t here. My path has made differences in the world. And I firmly believe that everyone who stays on their path inevitably creates changes to the world.
Copyright Mack Newton. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.