August Turak is convinced that selflessness and service can make for successful business. As proof, he describes the monks of Mepkin Abbey who once ran a successful egg business with 40,000 laying chickens and then transitioned to a successful business growing mushrooms, selling organic fertilizers, managing a renewable supply of timber, and running a gift shop. Other Trappist monks have been equally or even more successful, like the monks of St. Sixtus who brew and sell their own specialty beer.
I appreciate the way this author tells stories from his own experience in business and as a regular visitor to the Mepkin Abbey. His time spent living and working alongside the monks gave him a unique opportunity to observe their way of life and learn from them. Brother Robert, Father Malachy, Dom Francis Kline, and others lived faithfully, authentically, and successfully. I can see why Turak was drawn to them, and why he wrote this book to share what he learned.
But is it possible to extract certain principles from the Trappist way of life and apply them to business? Can we take the qualities of selflessness and service and apply them to our work without also living the community life of prayer that is part of the Rule of St. Benedict? Will these principles “work” in business unless they are also a part of our lives?
The author hints at this in his preface where he warns readers not to see this book as some kind of business “formula,” and this becomes even more clear as the book progresses. In the last chapter, “Living the Life” the author writes (page 74):
Reading this book and a thousand like it will prove of little or no use if you don’t commit to living the life. It is only through the long, slow process of living the life that the living waters of spirit permeate our rock-hard heads, until they finally reach our hearts. Once again we will never really learn service and selflessness until we become it.
Although I’m not in business like the author, I can identify with much of what he says about mission, personal transformation, service, community, and other lessons of Trappist business and spirituality. These are life lessons for business and beyond.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Speakeasy blogging book review network in exchange for an honest review.