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Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom by Matt Tenney

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Chapter 2From Selfish to Servant

Most of the books I read in the brig were written by monks. They explained how monastic training can speed up personal development. Since following their teachings had allowed me to find true happiness in the brig, I had a tremendous amount of faith in their guidance. So I decided to go all the way. I spent the last three years of my sentence living and training just like a monk.

After about a year into my time in confinement, I was transferred to another brig and allowed to live in the general population. This made life in the brig a bit more “normal.” We went to work each day as most people do. In our free time, we had access to books, magazines, music, television, movies, and games.

But I decided to give up all the vain amusements we could use to distract ourselves and followed the strict rules monks do. The rules include living as simply as possible, not seeking out entertainment, and being as virtuous and selfless as possible. I devoted myself entirely to the training. I diligently practiced awareness training during nearly every moment of the day, including long periods each day of practicing while sitting still in silence.

In essence, I turned the brig into a monastery—my own training center for personal development. I've referred to this experience as my “monastery experience” ever since. In fact, I call it my “monastery on steroids,” because in a regular monastery, it's very quiet and people treat you nicely. I had the benefit of living ...

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