Invest Yourself (Paperback)
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. —Winston Churchill
The most extraordinary power we have been given as human beings is our freedom to choose. St. Thomas Aquinas eloquently called it “the dignity of causality.”1 Simply stated, this means that through the power of our free will and intellect given to us by God, we have the capacity to decide the direction of our own life and our own prosperity. We can choose whether to make a lasting difference that sees beyond a temporal world bound by scarcity and fear or simply toil through life seeking perpetual self-gratification, never reaching true fulfillment.
I believe most of us would agree that we all want three basic things out of our brief time here on earth. We all need hope; we all yearn for happiness; and we all crave the satisfaction of knowing that our life has counted for something. These three elements constitute a life well lived—an abundant life.
But living such an abundant life requires tapping into our essential purpose as human beings—a purpose that is far greater than realizing the fulfillment of our own desires or passions. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:27), we can start by looking at him. And there we discover that the essence of our authentic humanity is in self-giving. This is our Christian inheritance, powerfully expressed by Christ and his teachings. Self-giving is the key that will free us from the burdens of a world dominated by the “scarcity mentality” we have inherited.
We all have the potential to live a life of Christian abundance now, regardless of the reality of our past choices. Yet this is possible only when we deliberately and courageously decide to think differently about our life’s vocation and are willing to exercise choices to live this higher calling. In this book, using my own journey as the backdrop, I will explore the concept of vocation as the medium to live out our God-given purpose, live a life that matters, and experience the true abundance we desire.
I am a very practical and logical thinker, and most of my life has been dominated by the norms of the business world. Deep down, I am a finance and economics guy. I love creating a good spreadsheet and analyzing the next opportunity. I truly enjoy the everyday challenge and unpredictability of maintaining financial, personal, and professional success.
Along the meandering path of my life, I have discovered a few things about how to balance my financial portfolio, and more crucially, my personal and faith lives as well. Of course, I still fail at times, yet the risk of catastrophic failure is mitigated when I am living my true vocation.
My Catholic faith is not an exercise in irrationality or credulity. It is a faith built first and foremost on God and the revelation of his son, Jesus, but also centered on the wisdom and intellect of thousands of men and women who have come before me. Most of these men and women have spent their entire lives dedicated to the rigorous scholarship of this discipline called theology. Catholicism is steeped in the rationality, wisdom, and practicality of being scrutinized, studied, and applied in our culture for two thousand years. Isn’t it time we stopped believing that our Catholic faith is built on foolish and nonsensical imagination or arcane mysticism? As you read this book, I will introduce you to a few of the brilliant thinkers who have dedicated themselves to Christ and worked selflessly to make these truths accessible to the rest of us.
I hope that as I share my own journey and discoveries, you will gain a deeper understanding of the fact that business success and a thriving Catholic faith aren’t mutually exclusive, but instead together can form the basis of a life of abundance—a life that is rich in what matters to God. I’ve learned how investing in both the practical and spiritual matters of life have revolutionized the way I live, and I hope to share these ideas with you in a way that is engaging, entertaining, educational, and practical. I believe that the hope, happiness, and meaning we all seek can only be found in Jesus Christ and a life of self-giving rather than self-serving. This is the foundational message of this book, and it sums up our vocational call as Christians.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
I have had a lifelong passion for biographies. I love the unique and inspiring stories I’ve encountered through reading about the lives and accomplishments of others. When we hear or read about the ways another person overcomes adversity or lives with excellence, it allows us to think and relate differently to our own lives and our not-so-unique struggles. As Sir Isaac Newton put it, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Immersing myself in stories about Jack Welch, Ronald Reagan, Immaculée Ilibagiza, Thomas Merton, John Adams, Albert Einstein, St. John Paul II, Steve Jobs, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, and Jesus Christ has allowed me to find common ground with their lives, their struggles, and their successes and failures. Their candid self-revelation and vulnerability have led me to reexamine my own reality and allow a deeper examination of my core ideology.
I cannot overstate the power these stories and others have had on my life and my evolution as a businessman, father, husband, and struggling Catholic. Much of my reading in my late teens and early adulthood was focused on business and politics. Over the past twenty years, I’ve developed an insatiable appetite for reading the profiles of successful businesspeople in books and in magazines such as Businessweek and Forbes. I have been driven by a desire to unlock the mystery of other people’s success and gain insight into their motivation.
I thought that understanding the success drivers of these men and women would propel me to maximize my own potential. However, once I saw beyond the secular world’s view of success, I became disenchanted with much of the material provided by many of these books and magazines.
Through years of personal and professional growth and failure, I have defined my own principles, vision of success, and process for attainment. I no longer need to spend my time reading others’ stories of business success or failure. One more story of a person working seventy hours a week and making a financial windfall has become stale and uninspiring.
My experiences with Catholic conferences, pilgrimages, and professional business organizations such as Legatus have opened my eyes to the abundance of talented and faithful men and women who are willing and able to carry on the mission of the Church. These heroic people are the future of this great faith. Their enthusiasm, sacrifice, and talent are infectious.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Catholics never see much of the charismatic and inspirational side of our Church. Many don’t seek out opportunities to hear great Catholic speakers, experience Mass in new and inspiring locations, spend a week on pilgrimage with other Spirit-filled Catholics, or read a great book about these dynamic members of our faith.
Instead, they are bombarded with stories told through the lens of the secular and slanted media of fallen priests and fringe groups whose idea of pro-life work is bombing women’s clinics.
The stories of individual Catholics that the media reports are equally unfortunate. They are not the stories of ordinary Catholics doing extraordinary work in their communities. Media reports focus on marginal Catholic celebrities or politicians who do not embody the faith and the teaching of the Church. They use their celebrity status to promulgate their distorted and individualistic versions of the truth.
Disappointingly, statistics say that less than 1 percent of Catholics will read a single Catholic book in the course of a year. The true beauty of the Catholic faith can be fully realized only when we utilize our intellect to acquire knowledge to grow in our faith. We aren’t meant to have a blind and uninformed spiritual journey. Our faith takes real effort and scholarship.
In the encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), St. John Paul II reiterates the natural inclination we have to seek truth using our innate creative intelligence: “We ultimately seek the truth because ‘in the far reaches of the human heart there is a seed of desire and nostalgia for God.’ God has created man with an internal homing device so that we may long to seek his truth and peace” (24).
We simply cannot divorce faith from reason if we are to truly understand our relationship with God and his purpose for our life. It is reason that sheds the light that allows our faith to prosper. Without a proper philosophical understanding of God, faith becomes merely a blind and childish trust that can be easily manipulated by other people. However, without faith, pure rationalism and scientific positivism will also lead man down a path of carnage. A simple look at the history of the past century proves what happens when man relies predominantly on his rational nature for guidance. In hindsight, we can all agree that there was nothing remotely rational about the leadership and subsequent genocide inflicted by people such as Hitler, Mao, and Stalin. Yet all three of these men had one thing in common: a belief in the power of the secular over the divine.
Jesus’ death on the cross is a stark revelation that God’s saving plan is not congruent with human logic. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise . . . God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28).
Therefore, the wisdom of God cannot be fully understood or contained by human reasoning. Only through revelation and faith can we come to fully know and understand God’s salvific plan for us.
In Fides et Ratio, John Paul II writes that through the paschal mystery—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—we are given the opportunity via faith to get a glimpse of our Father’s plan for us. Therefore, Christ is the link between philosophy and faith that allows us to overcome our human limitations.2
Millions of Catholic Books
Books can change lives. Books allow us to see beyond the limited walls of our daily existence and share our insight and wisdom with each other. As C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.”3
I’ve discovered that most Catholics want to understand their faith on a deeper level, but not necessarily via traditional Catholic channels provided through their parish. They want to be inspired in their faith through heartwarming or interesting stories that can translate to their own life. Most Catholics are not interested in reading about the theology of consubstantiation, transubstantiation, or in-depth Christology. People want to spend their valuable and limited time on topics that directly relate to their lives today. They’d like to know how this book can help them on their unique path to becoming better, happier, more hopeful people. And readers are looking for material that not only teaches and entertains but also inspires them to action.
The mystery for us fragile and broken humans is to understand what motivates people of talent to push themselves in a direction that is so countercultural. This gap in understanding has the potential to compel and captivate us to seek not only answers for their life’s path, but ultimately the answers for our life’s path.
Based on my own experience, it is a joy to appreciate firsthand the power and mystery of our faith, and share it with other dedicated and inspired Catholics. Our Church is rich in tradition and talent; however, we must be willing to explore and seek the opportunities that are available to us. This cannot happen when we confine our faith journey to a single parish or attending Mass once per week.
However, books can only point the way to a new faith in Christ. As Pope Francis wrote in an encyclical letter to the bishops, “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God.”4 We encounter him in the sacraments, through reading and meditating on Scripture, and in experiencing a vital, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer. Encountering the living God in these ways empowers us to live fully and deeply, enjoying the abundance we long for and that God has planned for us since the beginning.
The Challenge of Sharing Our Faith in Today’s Culture
To speak or write publicly about my Catholic faith journey and the ways in which I strive to integrate it in my life, work, family, and culture is always a challenge for me. It is much easier to talk about topics such as finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship, which relate to my business. These are the things I know so well; they are much less personal, and allow for much less vulnerability. When it comes to sharing my faith, I am forced to face the reality of my fragile humanity. And so are you.
We are all acutely aware of our unique shortcomings, and no one wants to feel like a hypocrite. That’s why many times we remain silent. We dismiss our role in the mission of sharing our faith and hope with others rather than accept our past shortcomings. It reminds me of the following story in the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus is in a synagogue in the town of Capernaum. It is very early in his ministry. Already he is an enigma; certainly he’s not well known or understood by the people around him. In this synagogue, Jesus meets a man with an unclean spirit that immediately confronts him.
The demonic spirit that has possessed this man is the only one who truly recognizes Jesus for who he is: the Son of God. The spirit basically says to Jesus in a harsh, angry voice: “I know who you are, Jesus of Nazareth! What do you want with me?”
“I know who you are!” Those are the troubling words that run through our minds as we think about our life’s purpose, the mission God has for us. Those words play on our insecurities, our history, our fears. This is what confronts us when we have an opportunity to share our faith with someone; it’s a false voice that claims to know who we are and what we have done in betrayal of our faith. This voice wants to shut us down, keep us from being true to our mission, and shame us with the actions of our past, creating just enough doubt and discomfort to silence us.
But while we must embrace the reality of our failings and imperfections, it is still true that God uses us to reach each other for the kingdom. Thomas Merton said, “It is Christ who draws us to himself through the action of our fellow men.”5 So, to speak about one’s faith journey is the way Christ reaches others, even though it demands a certain amount of acceptance, vulnerability, and most of all, humility.
St. Paul said this in Romans 7:21–25:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
I find this to be an incredibly poignant passage from St. Paul. I can certainly relate to his struggles and frustrations when I reflect on my own life experiences. I am constantly fighting attitudes and behaviors that I know are contrary to God’s desire for me as well as to my true desires. I fall victim again and again to the fragile humanity of a will affected by sin. However, I am consoled by St. Paul’s message of liberation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his living Church.
I have come to understand that it is the future that tells us what our past is about. It is our life experience that allows us to become that unique self-gift that we are called to be for others. The most compelling form of evangelization comes when people are willing to share their personal encounter with Christ. As humans, we connect with stories. They move us, draw us in, and captivate our attention. I believe we must push ourselves outside our comfort zone and into our past in order to draw on the experiences that allow us to pave the way for others.
We keep our heritage alive by telling our unique stories, keeping our traditions, cooking our cultural foods, and finding time to be together as a family. It is our history and our connection to our past. The power of our Catholic culture is built upon our faith tradition. We partake of the sacraments, celebrate feast days, and learn from the teachings of the Church. We must dare to share our story with those around us and invite others to tell their stories as well.
We have all received an abundant inheritance from our forefathers. We stand on the shoulders of so many resilient and courageous figures of our past. Today we must choose to be the link that keeps our Catholic history alive in our families, our communities, and our culture. When we choose to learn about and share our own family history and embrace the richness of the tradition of our Catholic faith, we become the instrument that continues the mission of Matthew 28. We spread the Good News to all corners of the world.
Passing on the Legacy
When I was a teenager, my brothers and I would spend time in the late evenings with my father just hanging out in our spa. We would talk about his early childhood, college life, his work, and the Catholic faith. He would tell us stories of his upbringing during the Great Depression, and the struggles and joys of a childhood during this period of America’s history. He would also talk about his family’s daily commitment to its Catholic faith and why he had held so steadfastly to it throughout his life. Whether it was the fear and guilt of missing Mass on a Sunday, an obligation to eat fish on Fridays all year long, or always seeking a Catholic Church to say a prayer in when he first moved to a new town, these were the stories of his faith, and through this sharing they become the stories of our faith as well.
My mother and father have always been committed Catholics. As children, missing Mass on Sundays was never an option for us. My parents have never been overly pious, but simply matter-of-fact as to how and why the Catholic faith is the best and most practical way to live your life. They have passed on the traditions of their faith to their grandchildren as well. They both place great importance on the sacraments of baptism and first Communion, and their vital importance as lifetime gifts of grace to heal and elevate the human spirit in times of triumph and tragedy. As Pope Francis says, “Do you open your hearts to the memories that your grandparents pass on? Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family; they are the wisdom of a people.”6
I am Catholic because of these two people. They are my original connection to the beauty and majesty of this two-thousand-year-old culture. What an incredible gift it has been!
As you read this book, I hope you take the opportunity to consider your own unique life experiences, both the good and bad, in shaping your mind and heart toward a life in Christ.
1. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Bros., 1947–48), Part 1, Question 22, Article 3.
2. St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998), 23.
3. A quote from the movie about C. S. Lewis’ life, Shadowlands, adapted by William Nicholson from his play and directed by Richard Attenborough.
4. Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), 4.
5. Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999), p. 186.
6. Pope Francis, “Address of Pope Francis to the Participants in the Pilgrimage of Families During the Year of Faith” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013).
Invest Yourself (Paperback)
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Invest Yourself (Paperback)
Watch an exclusive video clip about how the author puts this into practice.
About Invest Yourself (Paperback)
How can I be a successful business leader, make tough business decisions, and still heed God’s call to generosity, compassion, and empathy? How can I be a faithful Christian and still be successful in the “real” world?
It’s easy to talk about how business and faith can live in harmony, but when the rubber meets the road, we often find ourselves tempted to compromise. We need to be reminded, challenged, and inspired to live lives of authentic faith in the workplace.
John Abbate does just that in Invest Yourself. This book is the story of one man’s quest to live his faith boldly and authentically in the workplace, and it will challenge you to think differently about how you can be a more effective leader and leave a lasting legacy. You’ll be encouraged to put the needs of others first, assist them with their hardships, and inspire them to strive for excellence. Along the way you’ll discover that business success and a deep Catholic faith aren’t mutually exclusive, but instead together form the basis of a life that is rich in what matters.
Alternative Headline Daring to be Catholic in Today’s Business World
Product Type Media Books
Author John Abbate
Book Format Paperback