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Summary: The Tao of the Side Hustle: A Buddhist Martial Arts Approach to Your New Business by Don Hyun Kiolbassa


Today’s world often leaves people swamped in debt, and working a dead-end job with no chance of future financial freedom. But hope shines in the form of a side hustle you can grow into your new career. Lawyer and side hustle master Don Kiolbassa introduces a distinctive approach to starting your own business and building it into a viable company. Using the foundational concepts of the Tao and the Buddhist Warrior, Kiolbassa shows you how to start, develop and grow a business. His tips will allow you to gain control over your finances, express your authentic self and make a true difference in the world.


  • Taoism and Buddhism can help you move forward when you feel stuck in a dead-end job.
  • Find your skill and mobilize a team.
  • Manage your time, cash flow and health.
  • Cut your personal expenses.
  • Understand your market position.
  • Innovate for the future and build protections for your business.
  • Organize and grow your team.
  • Tailor your marketing and delivery to your customer needs.

Book Summary: The Tao of the Side Hustle - A Buddhist Martial Arts Approach to Your New Business


Taoism and Buddhism can help you move forward when you feel stuck in a dead-end job.

Lawyer Don Kiolbassa discovered the power of side hustles during a time of personal and career desperation: He was employed, but in debt and unhappy. He needed to make a change and find a way forward. Fortunately, he had studied martial arts with Taoist masters on Wudang Mountain, China, and with Buddhist masters at the famous Shaolin Temple, also in China. Kiolbassa’s journey toward success is shaped by the same dedication and balance exhibited by monks and martial arts masters. By making side hustles his Tao, or “Way,” he not only pulled himself out of a financial rut but found both freedom and happiness in his personal and professional life. If you make your side hustle your Tao – your focus and path forward – you can do the same.

Find your skill and mobilize a team.

In today’s climate, many people have student loan debt, a job that doesn’t pay enough and too many living expenses. Simply having a savings account has become extremely difficult. However, creating a side hustle can free you from both boredom and financial strain.

Finding a good side hustle starts with discovering a match between your passions and your top skills. For example, when Kiolbassa graduated from law school in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, the low-paying law job he managed to secure didn’t cover all his bills; so he began a side hustle doing martial arts motion-capture gigs for video game makers. It was a good secondary income stream, but not a long-term career path.

Later, hoping to make better use of his advanced degree and establish a new career trajectory, he leveraged his passion for property law into another side hustle. While continuing to work his day job, Kiolbassa learned all he could about property law, even working pro bono to gain more knowledge. He discovered a knack for fixing his customers’ realty pain points and began to see industry problems that his skills could solve. This side hustle, he determined, was something he could grow into a full-time career. In your own chosen field, ask yourself, and potentially interested customers, what kinds of problems could you fix?

Next, build a community of support for your growing business. Coaches build their teams by picking the best athletes for each skill, creating a team that balances out each member’s strengths and weaknesses. Make your approach similar, and choose the best talent you can find to balance out your weak spots.

Focus on a few key points with your first hire: Consider candidates’ attitudes, your chemistry with them and their ability to learn. Although financially compensating your first employee won’t be easy, try to find alternative ways to encourage them to stay on your team. Clue your employees in on your plans for success in order to keep their trust and loyalty.

“The Shaolin monks believe that the meaning of life is to find one’s purpose – a reason for being here. I learned my purpose by listening to my customers.”

Finally, build a customer base. Unlike in the past when businesses could advertise to a captive audience via TV, nowadays, screens are everywhere and customers hold all the power. For this reason, you must tailor your business around their needs. A happy customer will act as your “brand ambassador” and attract more business for your hustle.

Manage your time, cash flow and health.

Time is the most valuable resource you have in building your side hustle. Since time isn’t infinite, you’ll have to strategize very carefully how you manage it.

“If you lose money, you can make it back. Time can never be recouped.”

Pick your priorities and cut out anything that doesn’t contribute to achieving your goal. You can do this easily through scheduling. For example, wake up at 5 a.m. and work on your side hustle until it’s time to leave for your day job. Spend your lunch hour networking. Come home, spend time with your family and a few more hours on your business. This may feel like burning the candle at both ends, but as your business grows, your schedule will change and become less demanding. Use your business partners or employees to help share the load. Delegate the tasks that don’t need your expertise.

Hopefully, putting in the extra work will pay off, and your hustle will start earning you money. Tempting as it seems to reward yourself first, don’t. Reinvest that cash right back into the business. Invest in more employees, time to learn new skills or anything that will contribute to growth.

“The Tao is all about a path to balance.”

Remember, getting your side hustle off the ground takes a lot of energy up front, but you also need stamina to keep it going. Under no circumstance should you risk your health during the process. In China, the concept of the Tao teaches you to harmonize your mind, body and spirit. The Tao is oriented toward balance in the universe, and only with balance can you perform well in your side hustle. Take a page from the Tao and balance your health in four ways:

  1. Avoid excess drugs, alcohol and unhealthy foods.
  2. Manage your stress by spending fewer hours on social media and avoiding temporary satisfactions like materialism.
  3. Keep healthy boundaries with people and avoid those who drain your energy.
  4. Be present and prioritize your time with those who matter most.

A balanced, calm mind will help you handle what comes next for your business. Ideally, you will achieve what Japanese Buddhists call “satori” or a form of “self-discovery” in which body, mind and spirit all connect.

Cut your personal expenses.

If you led an army into war, your first priority would revolve around maintaining provisions. After all, hungry soldiers don’t make effective warriors. The same goes for your business. If you run through your company’s resources, then you won’t have a company anymore. It’s better to live lean at first.

“You must cut your personal expenses down to the bone.”

Kiolbassa minimized his expenses by moving into his already paid-for childhood home, trading in his new car for a cheaper used one and cutting out all alcohol. He also avoided using his new income to pay off his student debts. Every penny his side hustle earned, he put right back into growing the business. Reinvesting all his cash flow saved him time and energy in the long run – particularly when it came to his staff. Happy, well-paid employees stay loyal, and won’t leave. In turn, you won’t have to deal with turnover or spend time hiring someone new.

Understand your market position.

The more time you can save, the more time you have to learn the rules of the business world. You can’t open a popsicle shop in the dead of winter or try to sell hiking boots at the beach. Understanding where your business will fit in the market and the conditions of that market can mean the difference between success and failure.

There are three types of conditions to watch for:

  1. “Emerging markets” – Markets exist in three categories: emerging, mature and dying. For example, today board games are a dying market, video games are a matured one and VR is the emerging one. Ask yourself which market your hustle fits into and where the opportunities for emerging growth exist.
  2. “Business cycles” – Look for ways you can take advantage of or protect yourself from “fat” and “lean” stages. For example, retail stores run on an annual cycle with their “fat” stage during the holidays and “lean” in the spring. Pay attention to the larger economy as well, and avoid launching your business in the middle of a recession.
  3. “Upstream versus downstream” – Where is your business in the supply chain? Do you draw customers in and then recommend vendors, or the other way around? Your answer determines the type of customer interaction that will work best.

Knowing your market’s terrain will shape how you run your business and help you survive any rough patches.

Innovate for the future and build protections for your business.

As your side hustle takes off, and you begin to gain more stability, start looking ahead for ways to innovate that will ensure the progress of your business. Your initial idea got you this far, but did you miss any customer needs that might lead to more growth opportunities?

Ask yourself about your customers’ biggest pain points. For example, when Kiolbassa started his side hustle, he noticed that the most common customer complaint was lack of time. Most people didn’t want to travel to a lawyer’s office, fight traffic or pay for parking. Kiolbassa decided to come to his customers instead, saving them time, distinguishing himself from the competition and making them feel valued.

To stay on top of your customer’s needs, develop a system of constant customer engagement. If you lose touch with them, your business will suffer. Consider Kodak: Its business model purely focused on film sales, and it ignored the rising popularity of digital cameras. Instead of adjusting to the growing demand for new technology, Kodak stuck with film for too many years and, ultimately, went bankrupt.

“It does not matter how small you are compared to your opponents. With the right weapons and the speed of a side hustler, you can outmaneuver bigger opponents.”

As you innovate, the competition will begin to copy your moves and take some customers away. Just as athletes study their opponents for weak spots, your competitors will look for yours. While you can’t fix every weakness, you can protect yourself by becoming irreplaceable. If you consistently deliver “leading edge” innovations to your customers’ changing needs, and listen and adapt to what they want, they won’t waste their time switching to the competition. Customers who trust and value your expertise will stay loyal and bring in more business.

However, as you gain more customers, you might take them away from other businesses. This can cause combative tactics such as a price war. It’s better to find customers in areas where big businesses aren’t operating. This way you can avoid the risk of major companies undercutting your prices, and you have time to grow.

Organize and grow your team.

As your business takes off, you’ll have to decide how big you want to grow. You may have hired more employees, your profits are good and scaling up seems like a good option. Maybe your growth goal is a corporate partnership; perhaps you simply want a steady income. Either way, develop a strategy for your team that ensures they can deliver whatever value you offer at the scale you want.

For example, if you’re a lawyer whose business focuses on building trust with customers, make sure your team understands what that means and how to execute it. Having a mission statement as a general guideline helps people stay on track toward the same goal.

Beyond your statement, your team members should understand and operate within a system that keeps the workflow efficient and their mental health positive. More customers means more work, and you don’t want to overwork your employees for the sake of more profit.

“Your employees are the fuel for your machine.”

Break your business’s processes down into steps that you can then assign to a specific team member or group. For example, if you run a lemonade stand, you would break the process of selling lemonade down into three steps. One team handles the supplies and setup. A second team mixes and makes the actual drinks. And a third team sells the lemonade and collects profits. As each group handles their work, make sure they support and fix any weak spots. If team two makes cups of lemonade faster than team three can sell them, you’ll end up with a problematic bottleneck.

Hiring a proficient manager – a motivating but empathetic leader – helps keep your system running smoothly and your quality control on point. With your strong team moving in the right direction, you can continue to scale your business and expand into new customer bases.

Tailor your marketing and delivery to your customer needs.

Successfully marketing your side hustle necessitates building trust with your customers. If your clients trust you, then you never have to convince them to buy your goods. Building that type of relationship requires getting your message out in a way that makes people take notice.

Create or seek out a community for your customers. For example, if you have a physical therapy business, perhaps run some local marathons or join a gym to get to know like-minded clients right at the source. Your best advertisements are satisfied customers. They work like brand ambassadors, and keep building your company’s credibility. Thus, satisfying your customers should form the heart of your business.

Understanding customer behaviors and how your product relates to their world helps you determine the main point of your product or service. For instance, if you make the most comfortable chair in the world, you’re in the business of back support, not furniture design. Advertising to those with sore backs, rather than those who want fancy chairs, will help you reach the customers you really want. Blockbuster thought it was in the business of distributing DVDs, but its real asset was the content on the DVDs. So when Netflix eliminated the hassle of having to drive to the store, they thrived and Blockbuster withered away.

“We must take lessons from the past to build our future.”

After all your hard work, your side hustle may fail or succeed. Only you can determine what success looks like. Not all side hustles will become viable careers. Too, you might make less money than you’d hoped. Instead of feeling badly about your side hustle’s shortcomings, measure what kind of impact you’ve had on those close to you, and your community.

About the Author

Donald Hyun Kiolbassa is an attorney and certified public accountant. He is the managing partner at Donald Hyun Kiolbassa, Attorney at Law. When he is not practicing law, he is an avid martial artist.


Sure, here is a brief review of the book The Tao of the Side Hustle: A Buddhist Martial Arts Approach to Your New Business by Don Hyun Kiolbassa:

The Tao of the Side Hustle is a book about starting and running a successful side hustle. The book is written by Don Hyun Kiolbassa, a Buddhist martial artist and entrepreneur. Kiolbassa draws on his experiences in both business and martial arts to provide readers with a unique perspective on side hustling.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part One: The Mindset of the Side Hustler discusses the importance of mindset in starting and running a successful side hustle. Kiolbassa argues that side hustlers need to have a strong belief in themselves and their ability to succeed.
  • Part Two: The Tools of the Side Hustler covers the practical skills that side hustlers need to develop, such as marketing, sales, and customer service. Kiolbassa also provides advice on how to find the right side hustle for you.
  • Part Three: The Journey of the Side Hustler discusses the challenges and rewards of starting and running a side hustle. Kiolbassa encourages readers to persevere through the tough times and to celebrate their successes along the way.

The Tao of the Side Hustle is a well-written and inspiring book that provides readers with a practical guide to starting and running a successful side hustle. The book is not easy to read, but it is worth the effort if you are serious about starting your own side hustle.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

  • Have a strong belief in yourself and your ability to succeed. Kiolbassa argues that side hustlers need to have a strong belief in themselves and their ability to succeed. This belief will help you to overcome challenges and to persevere through the tough times.
  • Find the right side hustle for you. Not every side hustle is right for everyone. It is important to find a side hustle that you are passionate about and that you are good at.
  • Be patient and persistent. Starting and running a side hustle takes time and effort. It is important to be patient and persistent and to not give up on your dreams.
  • Celebrate your successes. Along the way, you will achieve small successes. It is important to celebrate these successes and to keep yourself motivated.

If you are serious about starting your own side hustle, I recommend reading The Tao of the Side Hustle. It is a well-written and inspiring book that will provide you with the tools and guidance you need to succeed.

Here are some additional thoughts on the book:

  • I appreciate that Kiolbassa draws on his experiences in both business and martial arts to provide readers with a unique perspective on side hustling. The martial arts concepts of discipline, focus, and perseverance are especially relevant to side hustlers.
  • I also appreciate that Kiolbassa is honest about the challenges of starting and running a side hustle. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, but he also provides readers with the tools they need to overcome challenges.

Overall, I thought The Tao of the Side Hustle was an excellent book. It is a must-read for anyone who is serious about starting their own side hustle.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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