After not blogging for months (or longer!), this will be the second post within the last few days! I suppose that’s what happens when juggling work, writing, and just life-in-general. I’ve found that reading a couple of books outside of whatever topic I’m entrenched in between writing projects (and just along the way) is a good way to refocus, re-energize, and of course, relax.
“The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO” is a book I stumbled across several months ago, likely because it had “surfer” in the title — and “saint” — which is rather rare in itself (the “CEO” part wasn’t quite as appealing to me, to be honest). And I don’t usually go back and re-read very many books, but this one was an exception because of some of its insights and perspectives into inner heart-work, failures, human-nature, wisdom, and just life in general. So last week before the holidays, I began to re-read it to see what more I could glean from it.
The book is mostly written from a First Person point of view around a character named “Jack” who was recently in a bad car accident that put him in the hospital for several days. The day after he wakes up, an older man (“Cal”) with terminal cancer is wheeled into his room and they strike up a conversation. Cal begins to tell him about his life, his family, his successes and failures, his regrets, and the wisdom about life he’s acquired along the way. During their exchange and long discussion, Cal tells him about the Final Questions when we get to our life’s end (according to the book) and how he learned to answer them:
1. Did I live wisely?
2. Did I love well?
3. Did I serve greatly?
They continue their discussion long into the night and Cal tells him about the three mentors that helped him answer those Final Questions for himself. When Jack wakes up the next morning, Cal has died in his sleep from the cancer. Upon his discharge from the hospital, Jack is given a package at the checkout desk — a letter revealing that Cal was actually Jack’s father who left when he was little, along with three first-class airline tickets to introduce him to his three life-mentors: the Saint (a priest in Rome), the Surfer (an ex-marketing guru in Hawaii), and the CEO (a finance executive in New York). Each mentor has agreed to spend one month with Jack, teaching, guiding, and sharing life with him in order to help him begin to answer those three Final Questions for himself — something that had taken Cal most of his life to do.
So off Jack goes, first to the Saint to learn how to live wisely, then to the Surfer to learn about loving well, and lastly to the CEO, who taught him how to serve others. In the end, he is transformed from the inside-out and his life-perspective and philosophy becomes radically different as he is taught to embrace all of life, not merely the good times/events, along with him learning how to answer those Final Questions for himself.
The book contains a great deal of wisdom about living day by day, about learning from our big failures and disappointments in life, about dreams and goals, about relating to others, and about being thankful or even joyful about the many “gifts” that come into our lives each day. While much of the book is good in that regard, as a Christian I tend to disagree with several of the underlying premises in the book, such as “looking within yourself for the answers” and “recovering your true self that was diminished as you were socialized”. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we don’t have all the answers and that our hearts are easily deceived, so we need God and His Word/Presence to give us true wisdom, self-control, and to remake us from the inside out (Romans 12:2) and continually transform us.
As with many other self-help and philosophy books, using the “Eat the meat, Spit out the bones” methodology still results in gleaning a good amount of wisdom and perspective from the book. All in all, “The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO” is a great read for anyone starting out, getting a new start, or just going though their adult years (especially their middle-age years!).
In the end, we’ll all have to answer those Final Questions for ourselves: “Did I live wisely?”, “Did I love well?”, and “Did I serve greatly?”.