Part self help book, part fable, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny” by leadership guru Robin Sharma is a slim volume that packs powerful life and leadership lessons in the form of a novel. Written in a semi-autobiographical manner – Sharma himself was a hotshot lawyer before he switched paths – the book borrowed ideas from various thinkers that are woven into a spiritual tale.
In “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari“, we hear about the story of superstar lawyer Julian Mantle collapsing from a heart attack on the courtroom floor and how that experience precipitated a complete change in his life. From overworked and highly paid legal eagle, Mantle transformed into a sagely monk schooled in the Himalayas by the “Sages of Sivana” and transmits their life lessons to his apprentice John.
Shrouded in Eastern mysticism, its lessons are embodied by the “7 Timeless Virtues of Enlightened Living”. These are conveyed in a rather whimsical fashion by a tale involving a beautiful garden, a towering lighthouse, a path of diamonds and a sumo wrestler, amongst others. They are:
1) Master Your Mind – The first life lesson is to cultivate one’s mind to focus and meditate, develop “opposition thinking” (ie replacing a negative thought with a positive one), wipe out one’s worries and embrace a spirit of mindfulness.
2) Follow Your Purpose – The key idea here is to live a life of purpose and meaning by establishing clearly defined personal, professional and spiritual goals, and having the courage to act on them. Here, one should concentrate one’s mind on one’s ultimate goals.
3) Practice Kaizen – Borrowing from the Japanese concept of continuous improvement, here we’re taught to do the things we fear, and to practice the 10 ancient rituals for radiant living, namely solitude, physicality, live nourishment, abundant knowledge, personal reflection, early awakening, music, the spoken word (mantras), congruent character, and simplicity.
4) Live With Discipline – Represented by a pink wire coil, the notion of discipline entreats one to consistently perform small acts of courage, strengthen one’s will power, and develop the strength of self discipline.
5) Respect Your Time – Here, the concept of time as a precious commodity is emphasized. One is told to focus on one’s priorities and to simplify one’s life by embracing the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), have the courage to say “NO” and to live as if everyday is your last.
6) Selflessly Serve Others – Giving to the greater good is elaborated here, whereby the quality of one’s life is determined by the quality of one’s contributions. One should practice daily acts of kindness, give generously, and focus on one’s relationships.
7) Embrace the Present – Perhaps the most memorable of the 7 lessons, the idea here is to savor the gift of the present and not to sacrifice happiness for achievement. The 3 techniques here include living one’s children’s childhood, practicing gratitude and growing one’s destiny.
To strengthen these lessons, Sharma shared lots of little anecdotes to drive home certain points. These are heavily peppered with quotable quotes such as Mahatma Gandhi’s famous “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” and the author’s own “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master”.
Personally, I found the book highly refreshing and inspirational. Although it was published way back in 1997, its lessons still ring true in this day and age, especially with its global uncertainties and the frantic pace of a continually connected existence. Robin Sharma is still rather active in the leadership and motivation circuit, and you can follow his teachings on his blog. I have already started practicing some of its principles and hope to embrace more of its tenets on living (and working) more effectively.