Book Reviews: Does Good Karma Make Good Business Reading?

Trappist-MonksMonks on Money-Making

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks sounds suspiciously like one of those faddish snap-books along the lines of Boardroom Tactics of the Knights Templar or Marketing Secrets of Helen of Troy. But in fact it is a quite serious and often fascinating read. This is largely because running a monastery is a business in itself and the Trappists have been doing it for a long time.

The author, who started two highly successful software companies, has spent the past 17 years hanging around Trappist monks in South Carolina. From them, he has learned the virtues of selflessness, patience and detachment. But he also learned to keep things simple. And the program has made him very, very rich.

One day, the author asked the monastery’s abbot how he and his monks managed to accomplish so much with so very few resources. The answer was, “We’re not amateurs. We’ve got a track record here.”

“We just trust the process,” was the answer. “This is a 1,500-year-old tradition. We just trust the process.” The process, mind you. Not nine processes. Not 21 processes. The process.

As Buddhism’s Siddhartha himself once put it: “Embrace the chaos. Wear comfortable shoes. And keep it simple, stupid.”

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity, by August Turak (Columbia Business School Publishing, $29.95, 182 pp.)