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How a Conversation with a Monk Got Me Thinking Differently About Business

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

"Sometimes the greatest adventure is simply a conversation.” ~ Amadeus Wolfe

Have you ever heard that analogy that you should be so clear in your business branding that you would be able to explain it to an alien that suddenly landed here from another planet?

I found myself in that situation last weekend.

Okay, so no, I didn’t meet an actual alien, or even Thor traveling from another dimension (sadly). Without meaning to sound offensive by using the term “alien,” I did have an extraordinary experience during my recent trip to the Abbey of Gethsemane.

The real Gethsemane is the garden that Jesus prayed in prior to the crucifixion. There, he begged the Lord to take away his predestined fate of a death on the cross while his punk friends (the disciples) fell asleep during this hour of torment.

The Gethsemane I visited is a monastery just outside of Bardstown, Kentucky, where 30+ monks have devoted their lives to praying for our broken world. They open their beautiful abbey to visitors, offering three square meals a day and a soft bed.

I suspected there might be beer and pretzels, too. But instead found homemade fudge, fruitcake, unparalleled hospitality and yes, chanting.

I spent the weekend in silent retreat praying, reading, and exploring the grounds. (There was some spotty internet but not enough to be useful...another blessing!)

It wasn’t completely silent, you could talk in the lobby (where you checked in) and the parking lot…and of course, the gift shop.

I tried to be silent – but as we've discussed before, it’s not my strong point.

So, I wandered into the lobby and started conversing about my life and business with a Catholic Trappist monk. He had spent the past 40 years in seclusion, living, praying, and working there.

I told him about my sons, and he was amazed that I had three.

I asked him about himself too. He’d lived in the abbey for 40 years, having spent the first years making fudge. Now he drives the tractor, a job he seems to love.

He asked if I was a teacher. I thought it was odd – but, hey, the guy has been removed from society for a long time so must have assumed that was the kind of job a working Mom would do. I told him I ran an HR Business.

He didn’t know what HR was.

I told him that I helped companies hire people. He didn’t know what hiring or interviewing was. I tried a new angle. “I help make people happy at work.”

That sort of resonated, but he also wondered why people aren’t just “happy” in their vocation.

He had a point.

Next question:

“So, you help your husband with his business?”

I had to let this slide – after all, he’s been completely secluded from the world for 40 years. And I could tell that, behind his question, there was nothing but warmth, sunshine and genuine intent to understand my life.

“No, my husband has a different job. He's an engineer who builds things for big companies.”

He tried to summarize it again by saying:

“You are sooo busy.”

I laughed – yeah, I guess we are. On that, we could agree.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t categorize myself as one of those hair-is-on-fire-stressed-out soccer moms. We find plenty of room for leisure in our life – but there is room for more – space.

And plenty of opportunity for better prioritizing.

To this individual, my life and business seemed...well, alien.

It’s been an “inside” joke between me and ...myself, since returning: I imagine Father John’s responses to everyday life and business problems.

What would he have thought if I would have gone into the litany of worries I had in that moment: Will my son get enough playing time on the football team? Do we have enough insulin for our diabetic cat? Did I get my grocery Click-List to Kroger in time to have milk for breakfast, so I don’t have to (ugh!) walk into the grocery store?

What if my client’s dream candidate doesn’t accept the offer?

What if the project gets delayed by a whole week?

It’s been more than 24 hours since my self-imposed deadline to answer emails…

For a majority of things, it's quite humorous to imagine him trying to be concerned while not understanding the urgency in the least. Not only do these things not occupy his thoughts, but they also don’t even exist in his world. This small encounter has changed my perspective – and has given me a new litmus test to judge my worries.

You likely don’t have plans to visit a monastery soon. Although I do highly recommend it.This was just one of the many insights gleaned from spending a bit of time away in solitude.

but there are people in our lives who we just don’t take the time to get to know. I encourage you to reach out to them when your paths cross.

There is a commonality that flows among all of us – even when from different worlds. A simple exchange like this might not only teach you more about them; it will likely offer you the chance to see your life through a new prospective.

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