The secret letters of the monk who sold his Ferrari

The secret letters of the monk who sold his Ferrari

If you like to travel, you’ll like this book. This book takes you all over the world to some really wonderful places and you’ll enjoy reading about those cities and the way they’ve changed over time. The author takes you to different locations all over Europe, Asia, and North America… and the travelogue part of this book is as gripping as the wait to see what message the next talisman has!

If you like to read small inspirational messages, you’ll love reading this book. You’ll be in the company of nine small amulets, and as Julian says: ‘Individually they are just symbolic tokens, but together they hold extraordinary transformative powers.

If you’ve read Robin Sharma’s earlier books, you’ll love this one too. No, I have never read this author before though I had bought one of his earlier books a few years back. It was strange to read Julian say: ‘A story should be told only when a listener is ready to hear it.’ Well, Robin Sharma told me this story when I was ready to hear it, so to say.

The story, in a nutshell, tells us about Jonathan Laundry, a man who is busy building his net worth without realising that the real value and happiness in life may not be in the inescapable rat race. It is a call from his uncle (the original monk) in Buenos Aires that begins his adventure with transformation! He has to travel the world over and collect the nine life-saving talismans from safe-keepers and his acceptance to complete the assignment launches him into a journey that reveals all that his professional life so far had kept him away from. His gain isn’t just a turn-around of his failed marriage and a disappointed son… but also a realisation that there is more to life than what is obvious most of the time to most of us.

This book is all about the importance of the conversion of net-worth to self-worth and the messages in the talismans give the reader as much insight as does the interaction that Jonathan has with the safe-keepers in different cities of the world. In just a few pages Robin takes us along to discover not just human potential but also the way happiness is linked to art, architecture, history, nature, and development!

The adventure begins with Jonathan asking himself if he’d actually want to choose what Julian was offering him. ‘…what did one foolish choice matter? After all, in the past I had always made what I thought were great decisions at the time. And where had that got me?’ He decides to accept the talisman-assignment and embarks on his journey as Julian messages him: ‘Life itself is a journey after all, and what matters most is not what you are getting, but who you are becoming.’

Jonathan’s first interaction with Ahmet in Istanbul confronts him with wise reflective thoughts. Ahmet tells him that ‘the saddest thing is that… so often we live our neighbour’s life, instead of our own’ preparing him for the first talisman that carries the message of ‘the power of authenticity.’ The first message asks him to ‘explore the deep-seated, unseen hopes, desires, strengths and weaknesses that make us what we are.’ And then when he is going back across the river with Ahmet, their discussion gets to the crux of the message…

Despite the early hour, the sun was blazing in the sky. The villages, the green hills, the water – everything seemed bright and clear, sharp and vibrant. It was stunning, but the myth and mysteries of the previous night had evaporated. “It all looks so different,” I said to Ahmet. “Beautiful, but different.”

‘Yes,” said Ahmet thoughtfully. “I often find that myself. Night hides many things, but reveals others.”

“It happens in cities, too,” I said. “Some often look magical at night but humdrum during the day.”

“And yet both versions are equally real.” Ahmet paused, and then added, “I suppose that is why it is never a good idea to make quick judgments about things. It takes a long time to really get to know places, people, even ourselves.”

No, I’m not going to tell you all about the messages that the other amulets hid in their selves except the fact that reading this book has been liberating because as I read I also discovered that ‘we grow fearless by doing those things we fear.’ Which, of course, means having the courage to lift yourself from being a chained conformist all your life, coming out of your comfort zone… and ‘stepping into the discomfort of growth and progress’.

Thus, as Jonathan hops from Istanbul to Paris to Osaka in Japan he gets into a different thoughtful mode. We, the readers, realise that it isn’t just the messages that are important but also the way people live their lives that can be quite meaningful too at times. It is Osaka that he understand the real implication of a mere word – itadakimasu – which, when translated, means ‘I humbly receive.’ And so, as we read on we keep receiving little nuggets of wisdom in this book.

I have never been a fan of books of this genre but this is one book I would never regret having read. It is not the messages that may sound mundane and full of multiple interpretations that even Robin may not have stumbled upon when he wrote them down, that are everything in this book. As I said, I loved the way different cultures are described and the way different actions are interpreted. Ayame’s interpretation of handshake is one example.

Each talisman has a tag-line of its own and all of them combined may read like a rather commonplace list than some life-saving mysterious messages. There is hardly anything intriguing or magical about this list…

  1. The power of authenticity
  2. Embrace your fears
  3. Live with kindness
  4. Make small daily progress
  5. To lead your best life, do your best work
  6. Choose your influences well
  7. Life’s simplest pleasures are life’s greatest joys
  8. The purpose of life is to love
  9. Stand for something bigger than yourself

Well, surely there is nothing in the list that anyone wouldn’t really already know. Lots of motivational writers and speakers have some similar sounding list that they keep selling across the globe… what matters though is that this book isn’t just a detailed explanation of the list. The author leads you to each of these through interactions. And these interactions take place in different cities all over the world. The book then becomes a mini travelogue without pictures and more meaningful as it weaves small endearing messages through the dialogues! This book isn’t a dull interpretation of the nine messages… it is a lively interaction with cultures and moods and attitudes. This is what makes the book readable.

Details of the book reviewed:

Title: The secret letters of the monk who sold his Ferrari
Author: Robin Sharma
Publisher: Jaico Books
ISBN-13: 978-81 8495-292-6
Pages: 223



Arvind Passey
15 May 2012