Banker-Turned-Monk Draws Spiritual Lessons from Wall Street Crisis

October 03, 2008 07:55 AM
by Isabel Cowles
A former Nasdaq trader who abandoned Wall Street for a Bulgarian monastery believes the current crisis should cause financiers to focus on what’s really important in life.

Worldly Crisis, Spiritual Lessons

As the financial crisis threatens thousands of jobs on Wall Street and across the country, some professionals may find answers in the story of one former banker who became a monk.

Hristo Mishkov, 32, also known as Brother Nikanor, was a Nasdaq trader for a top Bulgarian firm before he abandoned his high-salary career five years ago to pursue a monastic life.

Mishkov hopes that the current crisis may help raise awareness of the economic injustices of the world: “It is right to see people who consume more than they deserve shattered by a financial crisis from time to time, to suffer so that they can become more reasonable,” he said.

The spiritual life seems especially attractive during times of upheaval. According to job training specialist Ken Blanchard, “This is the first time in the history of business where you can be great at what you’re doing today, and you’re out of business tomorrow. My sense is that people become interested in spirituality when things are happening beyond their control. People are looking for some higher power to help them.”

But as columnist Mark Morford notes, it can be hard to renounce the security of a corporate job, even though the rewards can be extraordinary: “We are designed … to be productive members of society. And we are heavily guilted into believing that must involve some sort of droning repetitive pod-like dress-coded work for a larger corporate cause. … But the truth is, God, the divine true spirit loves nothing more than to see you unhinge and take risk and invite regular, messy, dangerous upheaval.”

Whether they chose it or not, American bankers are in the midst of “messy, dangerous upheaval” and turning to religion as a source of comfort. According to a recent report by findingDulcinea, “Clergy at Wall Street area houses of worship have seen a sharp uptick in the number of congregants attending daytime services since last week, when news broke of investment bank Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch’s takeover by Bank of America.”

Related Topic: Career changes for fulfillment


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