Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

Books — By on September 25, 2013 at 8:00 am

Most people I know, across virtually every political, philosophical and economic spectrum, consider faith and business distinct, if not polar opposites.
After all, we work on week days and worship (if we do) on Sundays. The schedule most of us live on demonstrates perfectly this divide.
But could we even begin to imagine a world where commerce and money and work merged seamlessly, painlessly (and even joyfully) with earning a living?
The ever-so-brief opening scenes of Genesis offer us a view of what could have been.

Business Secrets of the Trappist MonksBusiness Secrets of the Trappist Monks (by August Turak) shows us not only what could be, but shows us in a variety of practical settings, that work need not be toil and that our earning a living need not be at someone else’s’ expense.
Our work, Turak asserts, could and should be, truly a service to others. And our work, at its fullest, could be rewarding in areas far more than merely financial.
What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind? What kind of a community do we wish to live in? What is the world/economy/neighborhood/reputation that we will be leaving to our children and grandchildren?
What if we could make a living – and provide a good or service – and actually build good will and respect in our businesses and communities?
The focus of this particular book is as radical as it is commonsensical, as futuristic as it is historic, and as profitable as it is sacrificial; service and selflessness.
Turak explores these two concepts as aspects of the universal (yet absolutely personal and individual) human journey of transformation.
Turak expands the idea of transformation into three core areas; condition, circumstance and being.
An example of condition transformation might be hunger. Once you eat, your condition of hunger is eliminated, however temporarily. If you get a new job, move or develop (or lose) a relationship, your circumstances have been transformed, and if you have a life-changing experience, you might have a transformation of being – you are a different person because of that experience.
Businesses can, and do, or promise to, address any one of, or all of these levels of transformation.
Bu the real problem (or temptation) is to confuse these three levels; how often for example to we seek transcendence or escape (or even comfort) from something (or someone) when we know that they can never give it?
There are entire industries built on our spiritual or psychological longings, but all they really give us is sugar water and distractions. How many people do we all know who find some level of comfort in food, drugs, sex and shopping when what all they really need is someone who cares or listens?
What if we worked, or ran our business, in a way that people actually looked forward to doing business with us? Could there actually ever be a sense of mutual respect and appreciation in an everyday business transaction?
There’s nothing mysterious here – unless embracing the unknowable and unforeseeable, and ever-contradictory human psyche is considered mysterious.
And there is nothing more memorable, and Turak would argue, more profitable in the long term than honesty and authenticity.
There’s something approaching a monastic vow in Turak’s exploration of service and selflessness, but I can’t help feeling that the world – especially the market place – would be a far better place if more people adopted it.
Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, August Turak, Columbia Business School.

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    1 Comment

  • August Turak says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful piece. Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks has been reviewed many times. I am grateful for them all yet only this one left me profoundly moved. I felt like I have met far more than a reader. I have met a kindred spirit. August Turak

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