The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

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The Wake-Up Call
He collapsed right in the middle of a packed courtroom. He was
one of this country’s most distinguished trial lawyers. He was also
a man who was as well known for the three-thousand-dollar Italian
suits which draped his well-fed frame as for his remarkable string
of legal victories. I simply stood there, paralyzed by the shock of
what I had just witnessed. The great Julian Mantle had been
reduced to a victim and was now squirming on the ground like a
helpless infant, shaking and shivering and sweating like a maniac.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion from that point on.
“My God, Julian’s in trouble!” his paralegal screamed, emotionally
offering us a blinding glimpse of the obvious. The judge looked
panic-stricken and quickly muttered something into the private
phone she had installed in the event of an emergency. As for
me, I could only stand there, dazed and confused. Please don’t die,
you old fool. Its too early for you to check out. You don’t deserve
to die like this.
The bailiff, who earlier had looked as if he had been embalmed
in his standing position, leaped into action and started to perform
CPR on the fallen legal hero. The paralegal was at his side, her
long blond curls dangling over Julian’s ruby-red face, offering him
soft words of comfort, words which he obviously could not hear.
I had known Julian for seventeen years. We had first met when
I was a young law student hired by one of his partners as a summer
research intern. Back then, he’d had it all. He was a brilliant, handsome
and fearless trial attorney with dreams of greatness. Julian
was the firm’s young star, the rain-maker in waiting. I can still
remember walking by his regal corner office while I was working
late one night and stealing a glimpse of the framed quotation
perched on his massive oak desk. It was by Winston Churchill and
it spoke volumes about the man that Julian was:
Sure I am that this day we are masters of our fate, that the
task which has been set before us is not above our strength;
that its pangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As
long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable
will to win, victory will not be denied us.
Julian also walked his talk. He was tough, hard-driving and
willing to work eighteen-hour days for the success he believed was
his destiny. I heard through the grapevine that his grandfather
had been a prominent senator and his father a highly respected
judge of the Federal Court. It was obvious that he came from
money and that there were enormous expectations weighing on his
Armani-clad shoulders. I’ll admit one thing though: he ran his own
race. He was determined to do things his own way — and he loved
to put on a show.
Julian’s outrageous courtroom theatrics regularly made the front
pages of the newspapers. The rich and famous flocked to his side
whenever they needed a superb legal tactician with an aggressive
edge. His extra-curricular activities were probably as well known.
Late-night visits to the city’s finest restaurants with sexy young fashion
models, or reckless drinking escapades with the rowdy band of
brokers he called his “demolition team” became the stuff of legend at
the firm.
I still can’t figure out why he picked me to work with him on
that sensational murder case he was to argue that first summer.
Though I had graduated from Harvard Law School, his alma
mater, I certainly wasn’t the brightest intern at the firm, and my
family pedigree reflected no blue blood. My father spent his whole
life as a security guard with a local bank after a stint in the
Marines. My mother grew up unceremoniously in the Bronx.
Yet he did pick me over all the others who had been quietly
lobbying him for the privilege of being his legal gofer on what
became known as “the Mother of All Murder Trials”: he said he
liked my “hunger.” We won, of course, and the business executive
who had been charged with brutally killing his wife was now a free
man — or as free as his cluttered conscience would let him be.
My own education that summer was a rich one. It was far
more than a lesson on how to raise a reasonable doubt where none
existed — any lawyer worth his salt could do that. This was a
lesson in the psychology of winning and a rare opportunity to
watch a master in action. I soaked it up like a sponge.
At Julian’s invitation, I stayed on at the firm as an associate,
and a lasting friendship quickly developed between us. I will
admit that; he wasn’t the easiest lawyer to work with. Serving as
his junior was often an exercise in frustration, leading to more
than a few late-night shouting matches. It was truly his way or the
highway. This man could never be wrong. However, beneath his
crusty exterior was a person who clearly cared about people.
No matter how busy he was, he would always ask about Jenny,
the woman I still call “my bride” even though we were married
before I went to law school. On finding out from another summer
intern that I was in a financial squeeze, Julian arranged for me to
receive a generous scholarship. Sure, he could play hardball with
the best of them, and sure, he loved to have a wild time, but he
never neglected his friends. The real problem was that Julian was
obsessed with work.
For the first few years he justified his long hours by saying that
he was “doing it for the good of the firm”, and that he planned to
take a month off and go to the Caymans “next winter for sure.” As
time passed, however, Julian’s reputation for brilliance spread and
his workload continued to increase. The cases just kept on getting
bigger and better, and Julian, never one to back down from a good
challenge, continued to push himself harder and harder. In his rare
moments of quiet, he confided that he could no longer sleep for
more than a couple of hours without waking up feeling guilty that
he was not working on a file. It soon became clear to me that he was
being consumed by the hunger for more: more prestige, more glory
and more money.
As expected, Julian became enormously successful. He
achieved everything most people could ever want: a stellar professional
reputation with an income in seven figures, a spectacular
mansion in a neighborhood favored by celebrities, a private jet, a
summer home on a tropical island and his prized possession — a
shiny red Ferrari parked in the center of his driveway.
Yet I knew that things were not as idyllic as they appeared on
the surface. I observed the signs of impending doom not because I
was so much more perceptive than the others at the firm, but
simply because I spent the most time with the man. We were
always together because we were always at work. Things never
seemed to slow down. There was always another blockbuster case
on the horizon that was bigger than the last. No amount of preparation
was ever enough for Julian. What would happen if the
judge brought up this question or that question, God forbid? What
would happen if our research was less than perfect? What would
happen if he was surprised in the middle of a packed courtroom,
looking like a deer caught in the glare of an intruding pair of headlights?
So we pushed ourselves to the limit and I got sucked into
his little work-centered world as well. There we were, two slaves
to the clock, toiling away on the sixty-fourth floor of some steel and
glass monolith while most sane people were at home with their
families, thinking we had the world by the tail, blinded by an illusory
version of success.
The more time I spent with Julian, the more I could see that
he was driving himself deeper into the ground. It was as if he had
some kind of a death wish. Nothing ever satisfied him. Eventually,
his marriage failed, he no longer spoke with his father, and though
he had every material possession anyone could want, he still had
not found whatever it was that he was looking for. It
showed, emotionally, physically — and spiritually.
At fifty-three years of age, Julian looked as if he was in his
late seventies. His face was a mass of wrinkles, a less than glorious
tribute to his “take no prisoners” approach to life in general
and the tremendous stress of his out-of-balance lifestyle in particular.
The late-night dinners in expensive French restaurants,
smoking thick Cuban cigars and drinking cognac after cognac,
had left him embarrassingly overweight. He constantly
complained that he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. He
had lost his sense of humor and never seemed to laugh anymore.
Julian’s once enthusiastic nature had been replaced by a deathly
somberness. Personally, I think that his life had lost all sense of
Perhaps the saddest thing was that he had also lost his focus in
the courtroom. Where he would once dazzle all those present with
an eloquent and airtight closing argument, he now droned on for
hours, rambling about obscure cases that had little or no bearing
on the matter before the Court. Where once he would react gracefully
to the objections of opposing counsel, he now displayed a
biting sarcasm that severely tested the patience of judges who had
earlier viewed him as a legal genius. Simply put, Julian’s spark of
life had begun to flicker.
It wasn’t just the strain of his frenetic pace that was marking
him for an early grave. I sensed it went far deeper. It seemed to
be a spiritual thing. Almost every day he would tell me that he felt
no passion for what he was doing and was enveloped by emptiness.
Julian said that as a young lawyer, he really loved the Law, even
though he was initially pushed into it by the social agenda of his
family. The Law’s complexities and intellectual challenges had
kept him spellbound and full of energy. Its power to effect social
change had inspired and motivated him. Back then, he was more
than just some rich kid from Connecticut. He really saw himself
as a force for good, an instrument for social improvement who
could use his obvious gifts to help others. That vision gave his life
meaning. It gave him a purpose and it fuelled his hopes.
There was even more to Julian’s undoing than a rusty
connection to what he did for a living. He had suffered some
great tragedy before I had joined the firm. Something truly
unspeakable had happened to him, according to one of the senior
partners, but I couldn’t get anyone to open up about it. Even old
man Harding, the notoriously loose-lipped managing partner
who spent more time in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton than in his
embarrassingly large office, said that he was sworn to secrecy.
Whatever this deep, dark secret was, I had a suspicion that it, in
some way, was contributing to Julian’s downward spiral. Sure I
was curious, but most of all, I wanted to help him. He was not
only my mentor; he was my best friend.
And then it happened. This massive heart attack that brought
the brilliant Julian Mantle back down to earth and reconnected
him to his mortality. Right in the middle of courtroom number
seven on a Monday morning, the same courtroom where we had
won the Mother of All Murder Trials.
The Mysterious Visitor
It was an emergency meeting of all of the firm’s members. As we
squeezed into the main boardroom, I could tell that there was a
serious problem. Old man Harding was the first to speak to the
assembled mass.
“I’m afraid I have some very bad news. Julian Mantle suffered
a severe heart attack in court yesterday while he was arguing the
Air Atlantic case. He is currently in the intensive care unit, but his
physicians have informed me that his condition has now stabilized
and he will recover. However, Julian has made a decision, one that
I think you all must know. He has decided to leave our family and
to give up his law practice. He will not be returning to the firm.”
I was shocked. I knew he was having his share of troubles, but
I never thought he would quit As well, after all that we had been
through, I thought he should have had the courtesy to tell me this
personally. He wouldn’t even let me see him at the hospital. Every
time I dropped by, the nurses had been instructed to tell me that
he was sleeping and could not be disturbed. He even refused to take
my telephone calls. Maybe I reminded him of the life he wanted to
forget Who knows? I’ll tell you one thing though. It hurt.
That whole episode was just over three years ago. Last I
heard, Julian had headed off to India on some kind of an expedition.
He told one of the partners that he wanted to simplify his
life and that he “needed some answers”, and hoped he would find
them in that mystical land. He had sold his mansion, his plane
and his private island. He had even sold his Ferrari. “Julian
Mantle as an Indian yogi,” I thought. “The Law works in the
most mysterious of ways.”
As those three years passed, I changed from an overworked
young lawyer to a jaded, somewhat cynical older lawyer. My wife
Jenny and I had a family. Eventually, I began my own search for
meaning. I think it was having kids that did it. They fundamentally
changed the way I saw the world and my role in it. My dad said it
best when he said, “John, on your deathbed you will never wish
you spent more time at the office.” So I started spending a little
more time at home. I settled into a pretty good, if ordinary, existence.
I joined the Rotary Club and played golf on Saturdays to
keep my partners and clients happy. But I must tell you, in my
quiet moments I often thought of Julian and wondered what had
become of him in the years since we had unexpectedly parted
Perhaps he had settled down in India, a place so diverse that
even a restless soul like his could have made it his home. Or maybe
he was trekking through Nepal? Scuba diving off the Caymans?
One thing was certain: he had not returned to the legal profession.
No one had received even a postcard from him since he left for his
self-imposed exile from the Law.
A knock on my door about two months ago offered the first
answers to some of my questions. I had just met with my last
the client of a grueling day when Genevieve, my brainy legal
assistant popped her head into my small, elegantly furnished
“There’s someone here to see you, John. He says it’s urgent
and that he will not leave until he speaks with you.”
“I’m on my way out the door, Genevieve,” I replied impatiently.
“I’m going to grab a bite to eat before finishing off the Hamilton
brief. I don’t have time to see anyone right now. Tell him to make
an appointment like everyone else, and call security if he gives you
any more trouble.”
“But he says he really needs to see you. He refuses to take no
for an answer!”
For an instant I considered calling security myself, but,
realizing that this might be someone in need, I assumed a more
forgiving posture.
“Okay, send him in” I retreated. “I probably could use the business
The door to my office opened slowly. At last it swung fully
open, revealing a smiling man in his mid-thirties. He was tall, lean
and muscular, radiating an abundance of vitality and energy. He
reminded me of those perfect kids I went to law school with, from
perfect families, with perfect houses, perfect cars and perfect skin.
But there was more to my visitor than his youthful good looks. An
underlying peacefulness gave him an almost divine presence. And
his eyes. Piercing blue eyes that sliced clear through me like a
razor meeting the supple flesh of a fresh-faced adolescent anxious
about his first shave.
‘Another hotshot lawyer gunning for my job,’ I thought to myself.
‘Good grief, why is he just standing there looking at me? I hope that
wasn’t his wife I represented on that big divorce case I won last week.
Maybe calling security wasn’t such a silly idea after all.’
The young man continued to look at me, much as the smiling
Buddha might have looked upon a favored pupil. After a long
moment of uncomfortable silence, he spoke in a surprisingly
commanding tone.
“Is this how you treat all of your visitors, John, even those who
taught you everything you know about the science of success in a
courtroom? I should have kept my trade secrets to myself,” he
said, his full lips curving into a mighty grin.
A strange sensation tickled the pit of my stomach. I immediately
recognized that raspy, honey-smooth voice. My heart started
to pound.
“Julian? Is that you? I can’t believe it! Is that really you?”
The loud laugh of the visitor confirmed my suspicions. The
young man standing before me was none other than that long-lost
yogi of India: Julian Mantle. I was dazzled by his incredible transformation.
Gone was the ghost-like complexion, the sickly cough
and the lifeless eyes of my former colleague. Gone was the elderly
appearance and the morbid expression that had become his
personal trademark. Instead, the man in front of me appeared to
be in peak health, his lineless face glowing radiantly. His eyes were
bright, offering a window into his extraordinary vitality. Perhaps
even more astounding was the serenity that Julian exuded. I felt
entirely peaceful just sitting there, staring at him. He was no
longer an anxious, “type-A” senior partner of a leading law firm.
Instead, the man before me was a youthful, vital — and smiling—
model of change.

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