Never have a day job

Years of studying martial arts have made me a man of peace1, yet most of my career has, in one way or another, relied upon the judicious application of violence. This discrepancy became a burden to my soul. There came a time when I began to use my music and my martial arts practice to deaden my senses instead of bringing them to life.

I told myself the usual things:

If I show up on your doorstep, odds are you did something to bring me here.

It's not personal.

The ends justify the means

There are sharks in the world, and there are minnows. I'm a shark. It's not right or wrong, it just is.

My unhappiness made itself known in dangerous ways. Things escalated and came to a head when I crashed my motorcycle while on a demon ride2. I spent a long time in recovery afterward, too injured to to report to work at the police department or even band practice.

My convalescence was a gift. With my body still, my mind had no place to hide. Why was I doing what I was doing? Was it money, or was I addicted to the adrenaline rush? Did I have purpose?

My depression weighed me down. The answer to every question was mu3.

Turning over a new leaf

I returned to my martial arts studies once I could begin my physical rehabilitation. Teacher noticed I was troubled.

"I feel disconnected," I said. "Maybe I needed a new career. Or maybe it's time to get the band back together."

Teacher smacked me.

"Idiot," said teacher. "You do not need a new job or a new hobby. The change you need is inside your heart. You must decide if it is finally time to become whole.

"If you choose well, we may be able to begin your training."

I did not understand. Begin my training? Martial arts was my life. I had been studying under teacher for over a decade.

Confused and filled with muddled, raw emotions, we proceeded to hit and kick each other as I meditated on teacher's words. I returned the next day no less confused, but willing to put in the work.

It was a lot of work.

Slowly, teacher taught me to love my entire self. Slowly, I began to heal.

As it turns out, "don't quit your day job" isn't good advice or bad advice. It is a koan, and like all koans, it is unhelpful nonsense if one does not have a questioning spirit. Teacher helped me find mine.

Tuning in instead of out

When I returned to work, I stopped checking out and I started checking in. Each case became an opportunity not to score points or climb the political ladder, but to serve the public and to express myself. I gave myself challenges: Could I talk down this gunman without using force?4 Could I disable this assailant using only a pencil?5

I was no longer at war with myself.

Filled with a new focus, I optimized. My workflow became more efficient, and I held my team to the same standards. Complaints of excessive force were cut in half. We closed more cases successfully than before, and in less time. To an outside observer I looked the same, but nothing would ever be the same again.

I had integrated teacher's lesson. There is no split between on and off the clock, or between your work week and your weekend. It is all you. Every second of every day, all you have is yourself.

You ought to have a good time all the time as you go along. If you say "I'm taking this job – I don't really like this job but in three years it will lead to this," forget it. Find one you like right now.

It was not an easy lesson to learn6, but it gave me my life.

Luck played a part, of course. I worked a job that allowed me to be myself—or at least who I was at the time. I would have left it if that had not been the case.

I would leave soon anyway, but that is another story.

If you have to schedule when to be true to yourself, it will never happen.

Andrew Reeves is an entrepreneur, touring musician, and practitioner of eleven martial arts. He reached financial independence at age 28 and has dedicated his retirement to fighting crime and helping others.


  • 1

    Anyone who practices martial arts to win fights is doing it wrong.

  • 2

    A demon ride is when you drive your motorcycle at night with the headlights off.

    Demon rides are amazing.

    Never go on one.

  • 3

    Nothingness, void, emptiness; a negation of the question rather than an answer.

  • 4


  • 5


  • 6

    I am still learning it.

What would your work look like if you brought all of your heart and soul to bear? When is the last time you finished something you were proud of? If you started a new band today, what would it be called?


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