About August Turak
August Turak

August Turak is a successful entrepreneur and award-winning author who attributes much of his success to his twenty-year stint as a frequent monastic guest of the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey. As a monastic guest, he lives and works alongside the monks sometimes for months at a time.

In 1996 Turak was the CEO of his own company when a skydiving accident triggered the emotional crisis that sent him to Mepkin Abbey in search of the spiritual solace that he so desperately needed and that the monks so graciously provided.

In 2004 Turak decided to enter the John Templeton Foundation’s Power of Purpose essay contest by answering the question in 3500 words or less: “What is the Purpose of Life?” Though he had never written anything for publication before, his essay, Brother John, an essay about an actual Christmas Eve encounter at Mepkin Abbey, won the $100,000 grand prize.

When an article he wrote for Forbes.com called Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks went viral, it led to an invitation to become a leadership contributor at Forbes as well as an invitation from Columbia Business School Publishing to turn his article into a book.

This book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity 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.

Turak’s latest book, Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim and the Purpose of Life, 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 Turak is not hanging out with Trappist monks, he lives and works on his 75-acre farm just outside Raleigh, NC.

About Glenn Harrington

Glenn Harrington is an internationally recognized and collected artist. His paintings have been featured in American Arts Quarterly, American Art Collector, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, International Artists Magazine, and the covers of American Artist and US Art. He has had numerous solo exhibitions in New York, Japan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and has exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Museum of American Illustration, and the USGA Museum. Glenn’s oil paintings have been published on over 600 book covers. His portrait work is highly regarded, having won the Portrait Society of America’s Draper Grand Prize in 2007, its Honor Award in 2008 and 2005 during its international juried exhibitions. Harrington’s portrait of Maria Callas was used to promote the Tony Award-winning play Master Class.

Browse a sampling of the original artwork in Brother John:

Brother John by August Turak

The original works of art reproduced in Brother John are © Glenn Harrington


“Our mission is to bring a 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…”

THE SELF KNOWLEDGE SYMPOSIUM FOUNDATION is a spiritual and educational nonprofit founded by August Turak in 1999. Turak established the Self Knowledge Symposium (SKS) in 1989 to help people “live a life of higher meaning and purpose.” In 1999, the SKS incorporated as the Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation (SKSF) a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

The Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation helps individuals, communities, and organizations find higher purpose by introducing the explosive power of service and selflessness. The SKSF executes this mission through books and articles, seminars, lectures, workshops, retreats, online courses, and one on one coaching. August Turak continues to fund the SKSF through personal donations, and any remuneration he receives from his writing and speaking is donated back to the SKSF to underwrite our mission.

MEPKIN ABBEY is a community of Roman Catholic monks established in 1949 on the site of the historic Mepkin Plantation located on the Cooper River, north of Charleston, South Carolina. Founded by the monks of Gethsemani in Kentucky, the brothers of Mepkin belong to the worldwide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance popularly known as Trappist. Following The Rule of St. Benedict, the monks at Mepkin Abbey devote their lives to prayer, spiritual study, work and hospitality. Living by the work of their hands, the monks provide a livelihood for themselves and the poor.

Brother John by August Turak
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