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

“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 […]

“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 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 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 and a comfy bed.  

I spent the weekend disconnected from technology and in silent retreat praying, reading, and exploring the grounds. 

Though it’s a silent abbey, you are allowed to talk in the main lobby area, the parking lot…and of course, the gift shop.

I tried to be silent – but it’s not my strong point.

So, I wandered into the lobby and started chatting with a Catholic Trappist monk. 

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

I asked him about himself. Turns out he’d lived in the abbey for 40 years, living, praying and working there. He spent his first years there making fudge, and 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 my job as a working Mom. 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. Besides, I knew that behind his question, there was nothing but genuine warmth and interest as he tried to  understand my life.

“No, my husband has a different job.”

“You are sooo busy,” he replied.

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

I definitely 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 this life: 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…

It’s quite humorous to imagine him being concerned (because it was important to me) while simultaneously not understanding the urgency. These types of things just don’t occupy his thoughts, and they don’t even exist in his world. 

This small encounter with a monk 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, but I highly recommend it. This was just one of the many insights gleaned from spending a bit of time away in solitude.

There are always people appearing in our lives who we just don’t take the time to get to know. A simple exchange like this might not only teach you more about them, it will likely offer you the chance to see yourself through a new lens. 

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