July 12, 2013
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks
Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity by August Turak, Columbia University Press, 200 pages, $29.95, Hardcover, July 2013, ISBN 9780231160629
At first glance, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks might seem antithetical. In fact, consider this from the book’s first chapter, “The Economic Miracle of Mepkin Abbey:”
The reason for Mepkin’s success is that the monks are not actually in business at all. Instead they are utterly committed to a high, overarching mission and a management philosophy this book will refer to as service and selflessness. Business success for the monks is merely the by-product of a life well lived.
“Not in business?” “Business is merely the by-product?” Why then even attempt to write this book? August Turak makes it clear that while the Trappist Monks at Mepkin are a successful business organization, they are successful because the money doesn’t matter. For over 1500 years, they’ve produced “me too” products like eggs, beer, mushrooms, and more, with consistent success. The monks don’t get paid, but the sales sustain their lifestyle.
And that’s the takeaway here: Turak shows, by the monastic examples throughout the book, you don’t need to be focused on money in order to make lots of it. “Service and selflessness is not about sacrificing growth and profitability for some abstract and elusive ‘common good.’ It is just damn good business.” Combine selflessness with the act of serving others, and you’ve got the recipe for ultimate customer service. Doing good is good business. What company doesn’t want the kind of results seen by the Trappist monks?
This is an interesting book because it balances business and human potential in such an insightful way. Most of the books we review here attempt to simplify the complexities of business, but few do it as deeply as this. Part philosophy, part economics, and very much about service, The Business Secrets of The Trappist Monks will guide you to a better understanding of why you do what you do. All of us, monks included, are working for the life of our choosing. Turak concludes that by removing results as the prime motivator for our work, and by instead focusing on serving others, we too can reap rewards of prosperity.