The new book by August Turak, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity, is perhaps the most truly unique nonfiction book I have ever read. The author, a corporate manager, entrepreneur, and advocate of spiritual retreats, offers incredible insights to business leaders and likewise gives general, time-tested advice for living a life on purpose.
Turak is not shy about sharing testimonies of personal growth from his own story, starting his career out laying carpet, then as an MTV senior executive, a technological consultant and finally as the founder and president of a software engineering company.
Turak, who is also the recipient of the John Templeton Foundation’s Power of Purpose essay contest, is an amazing storyteller. In expounding upon ethical principles for business, he weaves together illustrations from movies like “The Devil Wears Prada”, “The Matrix”, and “Star Wars”, as well as giving organizational examples of excellence from the Marines, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Microsoft. In addition, Turak quotes as diverse voices from intellectual mystics like Thomas Merton to the highly innovated Steve Jobs.
In addition to the video imagery, Turak synthesizes the growth process with Joseph Campbell’s seminal work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” Campbell’s outline of stages include the call, resistance to the call, the desert, the great trial, death and rebirth, and then returning to help others. When translated into the religious nomenclature of the Trappist monks, the process could be identified as vocation, discernment, asceticism, and the dark night of the soul, solemn profession, and renunciation of the old self. In the end, the result of the six step sequence is a “transformational journey from selfishness to selflessness” (p. 29). The three primary kinds of transformation Turak addresses include a change in condition, circumstances, and finally, being. This truth of total transformation is congruent with old adage that “being” is more significant than “doing”. The spiritual term “holiness”, could also be translated as “completeness”, which is the holistic mindset of the Mepkin Abbey, a monastery that’s biggest secret for success is to seek piety over profit.
Essentially, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks is a reflection on Turak’s monastic experience and corporate endeavors, birthed out of his award winning essay “Brother John” and a four part Forbes.com business article. At the book’s core, is the emphasis on establishing a mission larger than oneself, personal transformation, and accountability through an encouraging community of peers. Whether implemented in one’s personal life, or from the corner office, these practices are sure to create a deeper sense of meaning, authenticity, and vocation that is both satisfying and significant. As a former corporate manager and a current church minister, I can’t recommend Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks highly enough!
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through the Speakeasy book review and blogging program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but simply shared my honest reflections.