What is your life’s purpose?
I am committed to passing on to others all that I have been so graciously given by God and my teachers.
How are you living your purpose?
The most inspirational stories are invariably not stories of complacent self-indulgence but stories of heroic sacrifice. If we want to get inspired, to be consistently at our best, we need a higher purpose, a heroic mission worth sacrificing for. A mission that lifts us up and out of our petty selves and frees us from the bondage of merely our selfish motivations.
I’m actively fulfilling my purpose through leading and funding the nonprofit Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation (SKSF). Our mission is to bring Brother John’s transformative message of higher meaning and purpose to a Western culture increasingly bereft of meaning and purpose. We do this by introducing individuals and organizations to the power of service and selflessness.
As a former CEO and entrepreneur, I’m currently a contributor for Forbes.com and the BBC, an author, and a speaker. I donate 100% of the proceeds from any engagements back to the nonprofit foundation. Rights to both my published books (Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity and Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life) have been signed over to the SKF so that we can continue our work and pass on what we have learned about a meaningful life.
The Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation also recently began financially underwriting holistic educational opportunities for young people in 2016 through a program called “Educating Emily.” Our goals include growing this program and providing the funding so that more young people can reach their full potential.
How did you find your purpose?
I’ve been on a mission to discover life’s purpose for all my adult life. I am the oldest of eight and my youngest brother, Chris, is an attorney. Several months after I won the Templeton Prize, Chris told me that he had been telling a colleague about Brother John when his colleague exclaimed, “You mean to tell me that your brother had never written anything in his life? Then he whips off an essay in a few days, goes up against professional writers and thousands of entries, and wins 100 grand?” My brother nodded.
“Wow,” the man said, “is your brother lucky!”
“You don’t understand,” Chris replied. “My brother has been working on that essay for thirty-five years.”
My brother’s story sent me racing back to my essay. I had read it countless times before, but now I read it anew, as if for the first time. I realized that the man who had shared that umbrella with Brother John back in 1996 could never have written the essay, Brother John. As Father Christian had so presciently said, God and I still had a lot of work to do before I would become the man who could write the essay. I now knew that I had not been writing theoretically or about Brother John alone. I had also been writing about myself, and from a radically new perspective. What makes Brother John unique, and for many even compelling, is my argument that the purpose of life is neither strictly personal nor relative. It is universal and equally applicable to us all.
I broke my ankle in 1996. Two agonizing years later, my “Dark Night of the Soul” finally lifted in the wake of a profound spiritual experience that just happened to occur on Easter Sunday. A few days later, I arrived at Mepkin Abbey. No one was around, so I went to the refectory. There I unexpectedly encountered Father Christian, my spiritual director, entering through another door. He took one look at me, and, wordlessly grabbing my hand, he whirled, and genuflected to the crucifix on the wall while whispering, “Thanks be to God.”
From that spring day in 1998 to this, I have never experienced a single day of depression. Instead, I found a spiritual joy and peace that I never imagined could be possible—especially for me. I now know that Brother John’s “quiet peace and effortless love” is available to us all. I know because it happened for me.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
For the religious it can be taken literally—the purely secular may prefer the metaphorical—but when we seek first the kingdom of heaven through selfless service, everything else will come unto us as well. Or put another way, it is in our own self-interest to forget our self-interest. The more successfully we forget our selfish motivations the more successful we become.
What resources do you recommend?
Frank Sonnenberg on character, personal values, and personal responsibility
John Templeton Foundation on accelerating discovery and inspiring curiosity
Mepkin Abbey on shared leadership, accountability, and community
Connect with August Turak:
Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity
Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life
Links to Audio or Video Messages:
Brother John Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/Xplx2l9Emds
Business Secrets Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/BYO-36c33Bw
American Marketing Association Event Trailer: https://youtu.be/JDrCctOu5ao
EPA Event Trailer: https://youtu.be/rOSvetb9lGU
AUGUST TURAK is an award-winning author, speaker, consultant and contributor for Forbes.com and the BBC. He is also the founder of the spiritual and educational nonprofit the Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation (SKSF). August is 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 first book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, was published in 2013 by Columbia Business School Publishing and uses 1000 years of Trappist business success, as well as Turak’s own experience as a highly successful entrepreneur, to demonstrate that Trappist monks are not successful in business despite adhering to only the highest ethical values but because they do.
His latest book, Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life, published by Clovercroft Publishing, combines his Templeton Prize winning essay with the illustrations of the award-winning artist, Glenn Harrington, to offer an inspirational message of meaning and purpose to a world that for so many seems to lack meaning and purpose. When he is not praying and working alongside the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey, he works with his nonprofit and lives on a seventy-five-acre farm near Raleigh, North Carolina.