Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity (Columbia Business School Publishing)
by August Turak

Published: 2015-04-21T00:0
Paperback : 200 pages
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August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, and award-winning author who attributes much of his success to living and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey for seventeen years. As a frequent monastic guest, he learned firsthand from the monks as they ...
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August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, and award-winning author who attributes much of his success to living and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey for seventeen years. As a frequent monastic guest, he learned firsthand from the monks as they grew an incredibly successful portfolio of businesses.

Service and selflessness are at the heart of the 1,500-year-old monastic tradition's remarkable business success. It is an ancient though immensely relevant economic model that preserves what is positive and productive about capitalism while transcending its ethical limitations and internal contradictions. Combining vivid case studies from his thirty-year business career with intimate portraits of the monks at work, Turak shows how Trappist principles can be successfully applied to a variety of secular business settings and to our personal lives as well. He demonstrates that monks and people like Warren Buffett are wildly successful not despite their high principles but because of them. Turak also introduces other "transformational organizations" that share the crucial monastic business strategies so critical for success.

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For 1,500 years monasteries all over the world have been calling men and women to a life of prayer and work according to the Rule of St. Benedict. The monastic motto, ora et labora (“pray and work”), tells us that these twin pillars of the monastic life are of equal importance— so much so, in fact, that for a Trappist monk, work is a form of prayer and prayer is a form of work. But while many authors, like Thomas Merton, have taken us behind the cloister walls to explore monastic prayer, very little has been written about the “work” half of the monastic equation. Similarly, although much has been written about the tremendous intellectual debt that Western civilization owes monasticism for preserving Greek philosophy and drama during the Dark Ages, very few have explored the highly successful business methodologies that the monks have preserved and prospered by for centuries. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

Preface and Chapter 1: How do you define success? How does this compare to your definition of success? Here are a few additional questions to consider for the preface and first chapter of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks:
Can you think of a time when you took a more quantitative approach to an important decision? Can you think of a time when you took a more qualitative approach to an important decision? How did they differ?
"Trappist Monks don't just make success happen, they also let success happen." What does this mean to you?
Have you ever had a “Father Malachy” in your life? Who was that person? Did that person change you and how?
Do you actively seek out opportunities to be a role model or mentor to other people? Why or why not?
If "it is in our own self-interest to forget our self-interest," why don't we do it more often?

Chapter 2: Turak defines the major stages on the Hero's Journey as The Call, Resistance to the Call, The Desert, The Great Trial, Death, and Rebirth, and Return to Help Others. Using this model, where are you on the Hero's Journey?

Chapter 3: What would others say is your biggest weakness or difficulty from their point of view? Are you brave enough to put yourself out there and ask others for honest feedback? Sometimes our perception of ourselves and how we are perceived by others can be quite different. Understanding others' perceptions of ourselves is one way to gain greater self-knowledge. Asking friends, colleagues, and family members for a “360 review” will turn them into useful mirrors, revealing those character traits that are too close for us to see.

Chapter 4: Would you classify your current organization or experience as an NT, UT, and CT environment? Why? Is it possible to have a transformation of being with a NT experience?

Chapter 5: The four questions in Truliant Federal Credit Union's "delight index" are listed on page 59. We've modified the questions for personal reflection.
Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?
Consider how you spend your time, energy, and money (dollar votes activity): whose best interest do you have at heart?
How likely is it that you would recommend the life that you are living to a friend, family member or co-worker? How likely is that your friends, family members or co-workers would recommend the life you are living to someone else?
Do you feel like you are living life to the fullest? Or to put it another way: Are you auditing your life, or are you taking the course for credit?

Chapter 6: Can you produce any examples from your own life where you are enjoying the benefits of positive peer pressure?

Chapter 7: Recalling the section on, The Power of Sacrifice. Do you look for situations that require sacrifice or avoid them? Why? What is the greatest sacrifice you have ever been called to make? What did you learn from the experience?

Chapter 8: Most people are ethical when it is easy to do so. Can you identify a time in your own life when you behaved ethically even when it was difficult to do so? What was the outcome? Can you identify a time when you didn’t live up to your ethical standards? What was the outcome?

Chapter 9: A large part of the Trappist business success can be attributed to faith. Not just faith in concepts and ideas, but the faithfulness that keeps us putting one foot in front of the other – even when there seems to be little hope. Has there been a situation in your own life where you acted on faith. How did it turn out? What did you learn?

Chapter 10: Real leadership is built on persuasion, and persuasion relies on trust. Using the criteria for trustworthiness enumerated in Chapter 10 (pages 148-150), on a scale of 1-10 how trustworthy are you? How much conscious time and energy do you spend trying to become a more reliable person towards yourself and others?

Chapter 11: Turak includes David Breashears quotation and later makes the argument that pressure doesn’t only build character it also reveals it. How do you respond under pressure? Can you think of a situation in which pressure brought out aspects of your character that surprised you?

Chapter 12: Most people think inspiration leads to action, but action can also lead to inspiration. What's the difference between the two approaches? Do you tend towards one over the other?

***Note: We have an entire Business Secrets Leadership Development Course and an entire Online Course built around this book which can be offered to the book clubs.

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