Ep. 22: August Turak — How to Transcend Selfishness and Live a Life of Purpose

Have you ever wondered what the best way is to live your life? In this week’s episode I spoke with August Turak about his new book, Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim, and the Purpose of Life (Clovercroft Publishing, 2018), which addresses exactly that question.

The answer, as August describes, was not a new revelation; he suggests that each of us knows the kind of life we ought to be living. The obstacle is not in the knowing, but in the doing, and our fear keeps us from becoming the person we could be.

Brother John tells the story of August’s transformative encounter with a Trappist monk’s radical selflessness at Mepkin Abbey in 1996. Through this experience August discovered how we can move through our fear from fundamentally selfish to more selfless human beings.

August and I talked about the many ideas captured in his relatively short book, which is beautifully illustrated with oil paintings by Glenn Harrington. Some of the topics we touched on included:

  • Being seized by the idea that there’s something more to life
  • Love as a profound yearning
  • Being so in love with something that we don’t know what to do with ourselves
  • The action-inspiration link
  • The self-serving effects of serving others
  • The inherent longing for transformation
  • The hero’s journey as a transformation of being
  • The excuses that prevent us from taking action
  • Making self-transcendence a top priority
  • The importance of undertaking self-improvement with a group
  • Self-transcendence as the end of selfishness
  • The ennui that comes from self-focus
  • The joy in loving ourselves
  • The necessity of making commitments
  • Ambivalence toward transcendence
  • The impossibility of imagining what it will be like on the other side of transcendence
  • Being surprised by grace
  • Service as an effortless privilege
  • The importance of small steps to make big changes
  • The positive peer pressure of a community
  • Finding clarity in our view on life

August referenced a poem early in the podcast, called “My Own Heart Let Me Have More Pity On.” You can find the full poem here.

August’s story about his encounter with Brother John won a worldwide “Power of Purpose” essay competition by the Templeton Foundation in 2004. In addition to being an author, August is a speaker, a consultant, and a contributor for Forbes and the BBC. He is also the founder of the spiritual and educational nonprofit the Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation (SKSF).

August retired early as a successful entrepreneur and corporate executive; he attributes much of his success to living and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey since 1996. As a frequent monastic guest, he learned firsthand from the monks as they grew an incredibly successful portfolio of businesses. His previous book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, was published in 2013 by Columbia Business School Publishing. When he is not praying and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey, he works with his nonprofit and lives on a 75-acre farm near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Both of August’s books have very strong reviews and are available on Amazon and elsewhere (please note that these are affiliate links, so a percentage of sales made through them will be used to support the podcast, at no additional cost to you):

Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim, and the Purpose of Life

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

To learn more about August and his work, please visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can view his articles for Forbes.com here, and listen to a representative BBC contribution here.

Please note: The banner image for this post was taken by Davey Borden and is part of a collection called “Mepkin Abbey South Carolina.” It is used in accordance with the license

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