August Turak is a highly successful corporate executive, consultant, entrepreneur and author. His business experience spans from MTV to Raleigh Group International and Elsinore Technologies, a company he founded that won the Fast Fifty Award from KPMG. He is a contributor to Forbes.com and is regularly featured in national media.
Recently, August released a new book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks. It is filled with practical business advice, yet infused with a deeper wisdom from centuries-old practices. When you read it, I guarantee it will have practical applications for your organization, and also for you as an individual.
The subtitle of your book is “One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity.” Tell us more about your search and what led you to a monastery outside of Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1996 I was coaching some college students at Duke University when they talked me into going skydiving with them. I shattered my ankle in the dive, and by forcing me to face my own mortality the accident precipitated a personal crisis. A few months later I discovered that one of my Duke students was spending the summer as a monastic guest at Mepkin Abbey. I wrangled an invitation for a weekend retreat and have been returning ever since, sometimes for weeks and months at a time. Ironically the last thing on my mind on my first trip to Mepkin was Trappist business success or even my own. I was searching for psychological and spiritual solace.
You have distilled numerous business lessons from the Trappist Monks. When you first hear “business secrets” and “Trappist Monks” in the same sentence, it stops you. Tell us more about your journey to uncovering these secrets. What surprised you?
As a business executive and entrepreneur, I was struck by a simple question: How do a couple dozen aged monks, working only four hours a day and largely in silence, manage to run several highly profitable multi-million dollar enterprises with such frictionless efficiency? At the time I was the CEO of two software start-ups so of course I wondered if and how I and other business people might do the same. I decided that the answer was yes, proved it in my own companies, and have now written a book to share my experience and insights with others.
Selflessness. It’s one of the attributes the monks are known for. How do you apply selflessness in business?