Book Review: Business secrets of the Trappist Monks can help us be authentic

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

August Turak’s Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity (Columbia Business School Publishing) discusses the enormity of the business of storytelling, the importance of building authentic communities and organizations having large missions.

Millions of dollars are spent each year by people going to the movies, buying books and going to plays. People love stories and people especially love stories that show somebody’s transformation, Mr. Turak says. But when we walk away from consuming these stories, personally we haven’t transformed.

But, Mr. Turak mentions that we can transform when we set high-enough missions for ourselves personally and our businesses that allow us to change and adjust and in turn live authentic stories. The first step to telling an authentic story, of course, is living one.

Mr. Turak uses the example of the Trappist Monks to share how to do this.

The Trappist Monks have built successful businesses while ignoring many conventional so-called business requirements, other than the commitment to quality and their mission.

Mr. Turak talks about how the monks are selfless – not selfish – and how this behavior helps them build strong revenue streams.

At one point the monks completely stop one revenue-producing project because they feel it’s the best choice for their extended community. How will they make up for the revenue? They don’t know but they believe this is the best decision. They soon come up with another revenue-producing project that quickly makes up the lost revenue and more.

“The shortest route to achieve individual goals is by serving the overall community and its mission,” Mr. Turak writes.

He also discusses the importance of overall missions for businesses and people. The bigger the mission, the more meaningful it is, the easier it is to adjust to changes and also to weigh decisions against the mission.

For example, he writes, if a company’s mission is to produce black widgets it might be hard to change that mission to produce white widgets.

But if that same company’s mission is to help the community with one thing or another (a larger purpose) and the widgets are currently the way to do that, changing the color or the product altogether is not a big deal when it would help the mission. In fact, it would be an easy change because it fits right in with the mission.

Mr. Turak’s book is a great read for people and businesses who are thinking about starting to share authentic stories, whose industries might be going through changing times and people who are interested in exploring the deeper meanings of why we do the things we do.

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