Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

What if success is not what you do but who you are becoming?

How do you measure success?

Grade point average?
Pay check?

Most of us measure success by what we do or have done. However, after reading August Turak’s book, “Business Secrets of the Trappist Monk,” I am more convinced than ever that success is about who you are and are becoming.


In “Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks”, August Turak combines 30 years business experience with 17 years frequenting the monastic community of Mepkin Abbey in Moncks, SC to challenge how we think about business and personal success. After working with companies like MTV and starting two highly successful software businesses, he is qualified to speak on business success. What surprised me, though, was how much his work affected me personally.

Here are key ideas from the book I want to pass on to you:
(All boxed quotes from August Turak, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks)

Key Word: Transformation

[box] “The purpose of every human life is to be transformed from a selfish into a selfless person.”[/box]

Have you ever known a person to pursue financial success or personal accolades only to become an intolerable, self-interested person along the way? We don’t call these people for coffee after work. We avoid them in the cafeteria.

Even if they succeed on the balance sheet, they end up alone.

According to Mr. Turak, there are three types of transformation we experience in life.

  • Transformation of Condition.
  • Transformation of Circumstance.
  • Transformation of Being.

[box]“When a thirsty man drinks, he transforms his condition. When a poor man hits the lottery, he transforms his circumstance. And when Mr. Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning an utterly new man, he has experienced a transformation of being.”[/box]

All three of these changes are necessary. But not all are equal. At our core, we long for a transformation of being.

However, it is easier to find a glass of water or buy a lottery ticket than to consistently confront our “heart-problems” and seek deep, internal change. So, instead of pursuing what we really want—transformation of being—we focus on what we can control.

We eat comfort food.
We relish in power.
We abuse drugs and alcohol.
We sell out for fame.
We cover up our longing for heart transformation by changing our circumstances and condition.

This leaves us more hollow than before.

[box]“So much of the emptiness and ennui that we feel individually and collectively is the result of trying to substitute a transformation of condition and/or circumstance for the transformation of being that we really want.”[/box]

So how do we experience the kind of transformation we desire?

Key Task: Selfless Service

[box]“Authentic success—whether personal, professional, or organizational—is usually the by-product of serving a mission that is bigger than yourself.”[/box]

Here is the paradox: true and lasting satisfaction is found not in protecting your own interests, but in serving the interests of others. (tweet that?) We are transformed as we take our eyes off ourselves and look to the needs of our neighbors.

Jesus put it simply two millennia ago: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.

When you are putting all your heart, soul, mind and strength into loving God and your neighbor, there is not much left to focus on yourself. That’s a good thing.

As we are distracted from self-interest, we are transformed.

[box]“What we want is a mission so good, pure, and mission-critical that we would selflessly ‘lose ourselves’ in it and ‘give ourselves away’ to it passionately, utterly, spontaneously, and without reservation.”[/box]

Transformation happens as we practice service and selflessness in pursuit of a mission worth serving.

 Key Context: Community

[box]“Success depends on offering people the opportunity to be transformed.”[/box]

The best context for this kind of transformation is a loving and honest community. Only in community will we see our selfishness. Only in community will we have the strength to continue the hard work of serving others. Only in community will we have others to serve.

This community does not have to be a monastery. It could be college group. It could even be a business.

What if we treated our work communities not simply as places of production but teams for transformation? What if we saw the primary mission of our business as selflessly serving others? What if instead of measuring success by the bottom line we valued the transformation of our people?

August Turak claims that such a perspective will result in a better business for customers, stockholders, and employees. This is the lesson he learned from the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey. This is the lesson he lays out in his book. If a group of octogenarian monks working only 4 hours a day can run a successful business, then perhaps there is something we can learn from them.

Because true success—the success of transformation—does not come about by reading a book or thinking differently about business. Transformation occurs as we submit to the process of God in our lives, drawing our eyes away from ourselves and towards Himself and our neighbors.

For this hard work, we need a community—a community where we can all succeed.

Which key do you need to work on?


I received my copy of this book for free from the cool people at SpeakEasy. In doing so, I agreed to review the book. However, I was under no obligation to write something positive. That was my choice.

Find out more about August and his book below:

August Turak’s website
August Turak on
August Turak on Twitter
Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks on Amazon:

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