The most important realization of my life hit me like a bolt from the blue, while I was sitting in silent meditation in a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand in 2010.
I had been meditating in silence for over a week, and I was beginning to experience a clarity of mind that I had never experienced before.
I was sitting in a state of bliss & ecstasy, but I felt that something was missing. Even in the most potent state of joy & happiness I had ever experienced in my life, it felt somewhat hollow, unsatisfactory, or incomplete, to sit in bliss while billions of people around the world are still suffering from the anxiety of the spinning mind. I felt selfish, sitting there in silent ecstasy, removed from the suffering of the world in a peaceful monastery.
The sudden realization happened in a moment, but it has defined my life path since that day:
The best way I can use my life is to help others rise out of suffering, enjoy the bliss of awakened consciousness, and make the world a happier place through meditation.
I had never experienced a calling like this before. It was not a thought or idea, as much as it was a realization of a fact: this is what I need to do with my life.
Thus began my life (and career) as a meditation teacher.
Phase 1: Big Impact, No Money
Flash forward to 2020.
I’d been through a lot in the ten years since that moment at Wat Suan Mokkh.
I’d created meditation programs in universities and hospitals, and taught thousands of students and patients there.
I’d written and self-published several books on meditation.
I’d traveled the world interviewing monks, nuns, gurus and masters from dozens of meditative traditions, and published a series of documentary videos on meditation, Awakening, and Enlightenment.
I’d created meditation courses that have changed hundreds of thousands of lives.
I’d even founded a publication called Meditation Magazine, which was picked up by Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Sprouts, Chapters/Indigo, Books-A-Million, and thousands of other retailers around the world. I’d interviewed world-renowned meditators like Wim Hof, Sadhguru, Deepak Chopra, Amma, and many more.
While my videos, courses and magazines had reached millions of people, I never cared much about making money. I saw my spiritual teaching as a calling, rather than a career, so I put 95% of my focus and attention on teaching, guiding, and helping people… while only a small part of my mind focused on “how can I make money from this?” Money was an afterthought, and honestly, kind of a distasteful one.
Looking back, it’s not surprising that I found myself taking odd jobs (mostly in real estate, management & tech) between 2010 and 2020 to support myself and make ends meet, while my meditation videos, books, courses, and magazines were making their way around the world.
But in early 2020, while I was working at a prop-tech startup in Manhattan (and building Meditation Magazine in my “free time”) I was hit by another life-changing bolt-from-the-blue: the Covid pandemic slammed into NYC like a tidal wave. My boss didn’t believe in the whole “work from home” thing, but Meditation Magazine was taking off like a rocket (or so it seemed at the time). We had recently published our first international issue and things were looking bright. I took it as a sign that it was time to dive head-first into Meditation Magazine as my full-time “career.”
Phase 2: Major Pivot To Sustainability
In early 2021, my wife Jovanna and I welcomed our daughter Sky into the world. Those first few months were exhausting, waking up every few hours to the baby’s cries. But in the cacophonic chaos of Sky’s infancy, something changed in my brain.
I was no longer living for my own pleasure, fulfillment, or even my own “higher purpose;” I was now urgently, physically responsible for a human being who was completely dependent on me (and Jovanna) for her sustenance and life. Suddenly, “making a living” was no longer a secondary mission; it took on a life-and-death importance that I had never understood before.
The pandemic and its after-effects dealt a crippling blow to the print magazine industry. Some of the world’s largest magazines went out of print, and Meditation Magazine took a major financial hit as well. But this, too, proved to be a blessing in disguise. As print economics collapsed, I was finally able to see the diamond in the rough — the jewel in the mud that had been there all along.
My online meditation courses, on udemy.com and kevinellerton.com, had been producing a significant amount of passive income for years, without me needing to do anything at all. I barely even noticed that money was coming in from those courses… but as I dug into the numbers, I realized that that income was actually keeping Meditation Magazine afloat! Even better: students often reached out to me after taking my online courses, and ended up becoming private coaching clients. Some of those clients have stayed with me for years, and I’ve been able to really help them grow in mindfulness and achieve their life goals at the same time. Between the passive income from the online courses and the revenue from my private coaching sessions, I’ve actually been able to pay the bills 🙌
Whenever I make decisions about my business and career, I try to consider the 80/20 rule: 20% of your actions produce 80% of your results (and vice versa). When you identify the 20% of your actions that are producing 80% of the results, you should pour more of your time and effort into taking those specific actions.
The tens of thousands of hours I put into Meditation Magazine had only drained our bank accounts… but the small amount of time I put into online courses and private coaching were producing significant profits.
So in 2023, we made a major pivot from printed magazines (Meditation Magazine) to online courses (Meditation University). Because the courses are profitable, they are sustainable. Because they are sustainable, they are able to serve more people, in more powerful ways. Overall, Meditation University is shaping up to be a much better vehicle for the mission I realized that day in Thailand: making the world a happier place through meditation.
Was It Worth It?
I’ve learned a lot in the past ~13 years of carving my own path as a meditation teacher.
I spent many years wandering in the wilderness, getting lost in the woods, and often finding myself in dead-end paths. I don’t regret a minute of it; I know I’ve made the world a happier place and impacted a lot of lives through all of these “mistakes.”
But if I’m honest with myself… if I’d had a clearer understanding, at the outset, of how to actually create a sustainable career as a meditation teacher, I would have had a much easier time over the past decade. I would have been much more comfortable financially, I wouldn’t have needed to work all those odd jobs, and honestly, with a more profitable business model, I almost certainly would have made a much larger impact as well.
Learning From My Mistakes
To this day, my Meditation Masterclass (meditation teacher training course) is one of the most popular meditation courses on udemy.com, with over 100k graduates. This course has helped thousands of people learn to become meditation teachers. But the #1 question I get from graduates is: “What now?”
Students who graduate from the Meditation Masterclass course have a solid grasp of how to teach several meditation techniques (mindfulness of breathing, high-intensity breathwork, body-scan meditation, etc)… but most have no idea how to create financially sustainable careers in the field of meditation.
That’s why, over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an extremely comprehensive Meditation Teacher Training program for Meditation University, that not only covers dozens of meditation techniques from all around the world (taught by 12 expert teachers from a wide variety of meditative traditions), AND gives students the opportunity to gain confidence by practicing teaching meditation together (something that my pre-recorded Meditation Masterclass could never do)… but it ALSO guides new meditation teachers with cutting-edge, up-to-the-minute strategies to build their meditation careers in a powerful, sustainable way, so that they can actually make a living by teaching meditation, rather than struggling and working at odd jobs for years on end.
Skipping The Struggle
If you are a meditation teacher and want to take your teaching practice to the next level, or if you are struggling to develop your meditation career in a profitable and sustainable way… you don’t need to waste years making the same kinds of mistakes that I did. Instead, learn from my mistakes, and my successes (and from the mistakes and successes of the twelve other master trainers who teach in the program as well).
If you really want to build an impactful, successful, and sustainable career as a Meditation Teacher, click here to check out our MTT program 😃
P.S: If you’ve already taken my Meditation Masterclass, you can get 50% off Meditation University’s MTT program by using the coupon code masterclassgraduate in the checkout page!