September 29, 2013

Book Review: Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

 As part of my involvement in Speakeasy, I had a chance to review Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks by August Turak.

As the title suggests, in this great little book, August draws upon the wisdom of the Trappist community at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina and blends it with his own insights from working in corporate environments like MTV, as well as two software companies he founded - Raleigh Group International and Elsinore Technologies.

As I started to read the book, I found myself needing to adjust my initial expectations. I was hoping for a book that would really unpack some of the theology behind Trappist practice, as well as apply that wisdom to workplace ethics in a very analytic way. Instead, as the book's subtitle revels, this book is a much more personal and largely anecdotal account of "one CEO's quest for meaning and authenticity." This is one person's account of discovering and applying spiritual insight into the workplace, instead of a "how to" manual of how it might be done everywhere. Of course, this isn't to say that the knowledge and wisdom isn't practical or applicable to other situations; it most certainly is, but the book is more about embracing the conversation of how it might happen instead of dictating "5 Simple Steps to Implementing Trappist Business Practices."

Turak identifies three core components of Trappist identity - mission, personal transformation and community, and does a great job of identifying how he has developed them in his life, and seen them practices in other businesses and organizations. There were times in the book where I questioned Turak's examples, such as using the movie The Devil Wears Prada to illustrate the notion of the hero's journey, it works, I just think it was an odd choice for an illustration. There were also times, when I wished he would go deeper into his analysis, especially in his discussion of Truliant Federal Credit Union and their approach to customer service. But overall, I found this to be a quick read that was personal, relevant, and easy to follow. The last four chapters of the book, in particular, are outstanding in their honesty and inspiration and I'd recommend this book simply for those pages alone.

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review, my review and recommendation is not in anyway influenced by this. Thanks to Speakeasy, Columbia Business School Publishing and August Turak, for letting me add this wonderful little book to my library].

September 5, 2013

I hate music, what's it worth?

Trying hard and failing hard to get back into a regular routine with this blog. Anyway, here's what I've found interesting over the last few weeks:

The EduPunks' Atlas of Lifelong Learning sorts a wide variety of online, offline, and hybrid learning opportunities. A couple I'd recommend include Codeacademy and Academic Earth.

42 Amazingly Free Things That Will Make You Smile

The Smiths lyrics + Peanuts cartoons = This Charming Charlie (via AV Club)

The Beloit Mindset List for the class of 2017 (this year's college freshmen) has been released. Among the highlights:
  • GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
  • Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
  • Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.
  • Captain Janeway has always taken the USS Voyager where no woman or man has ever gone before.
  • As they slept safely in their cribs, the Oklahoma City bomber and the Unabomber were doing their deadly work.
  • Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
  • They have always been able to plug into USB ports.
Not only does that list make me feel old, it also reminds me that whether I realize it or not, I do have to face a significant generation gap as I go back to school for another master's degree. (At least my professors will hopefully get my references to Gary Coleman, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and using Pine to access e-mail).

ESPN has a fascinating story on Dan Gable.

What You Never Realized While Reading a Postcard. I've had this fantasy of turning a bunch of my photos into postcards, and then developing a weekly discipline of sending a card with a personal note on it to a different friend every week. Maybe this will help push me to make that happen.

Jason Micheli is looking at some of the "top" heresies on his blog, I especially liked his thoughts on fundamentalism.

Friend and colleague in ministry, Bri, offers a powerful reflection on Luke 13:10-17 in her post Why not here? Why not now?

Jeremy Smith: Preacher or Performer? The Crying Baby Test.

Borrowed Light:


This isn't my "official" music selection of the week, but it's something you've got to see (as it blows up all over the internet). Ylvis - "The Fox":



And just so you don't have "what does the fox say" stuck in your head the rest of the day, here's a new song from Superchunk, off their album, I Hate Music, called "Me and You and Jackie Mittoo":