The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: Review & Context

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What were The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari reviews like when it first came out? Is the book worth reading?

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma is a parable that teaches life lessons based on Buddhist practices. The book came out in 1994 but is still widely read today.

Here is an overview of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari including its reception, background, and approach.

Shortform Introduction

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a parable centered on Julian, a hotshot-lawyer-turned-monk, and his former colleague John. Julian shares with John what he’s learned from studying with the Sages of Sivana, a near-mythological group of monks in India who know the secrets to enlightenment.

Julian’s lessons range from gaining control of your thoughts, to finding a purpose in life, to properly managing your time so that you can achieve that purpose. All of this works toward the ultimate goal of living a simple, fulfilling, and happy life. 

About the Author

Robin Sharma is a world-renowned author, speaker, life coach, and leadership expert. He was born in Uganda to Indian parents, Shiv and Shashi Sharma. The family moved to Canada during Sharma’s childhood.

Sharma started his career as a litigation lawyer, but he found the work unfulfilling. He quit law and self-published his first self-help book, MegaLiving: 30 Days to a Perfect Life, in 1994. 

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari was Sharma’s second book, and it became a worldwide hit. With this book’s success, Sharma found himself in demand as a life coach and motivational speaker. In 1997 he founded the management consulting firm Sharma Leadership International.

Today, Sharma gives talks and runs workshops for major organizations all over the world, ranging from Nike to NASA. His books about leadership and self-improvement have sold over 15 million copies worldwide. 

Other popular books by Robin Sharma include The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO, and The 5AM Club.

The Book’s Publication

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Robin Sharma initially self-published The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari in 1996. Three years later, in 1999, HarperCollins republished it for commercial distribution. 

The Book’s Context

While the events of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari are fictional, they’re based on Sharma’s own experiences. 

As discussed, Sharma never found peace or satisfaction working as a lawyer, and his wife divorced him due to his hectic work schedule. Sharma quit law in his twenties and, with the support of his parents, pursued a career in writing instead. Many of the core lessons in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari come from life lessons that Sharma learned from his parents.

The character Julian Mantle lived an exaggerated version of Sharma’s own life story. Rather than recognizing his own unhappiness and quitting law early, he kept going until he suffered a heart attack. Rather than adjusting his lifestyle based on life lessons from Indian parents, Julian traveled to India to study with a mythical group of sages. Now, Julian is passing on what he’s learned to his friend John, just as Sharma is passing on what he’s learned to his readers.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari provides a basic grounding in core concepts of spirituality and self-improvement, such as inner peace and the interconnectedness of all life. Many of the book’s teachings draw upon Buddhist beliefs and practices, like meditation and accepting each moment as it comes; however, it’s written with secular readers in mind. 

The Book’s Impact

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari has been translated into 51 languages and has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. 

The book’s success cemented Robin Sharma’s position as a renowned author and self-help guru and kicked off a series of bestselling books, including:

Critical Reception

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari reviews tended to be positive. Fans praise the book for its simple, straightforward lessons and accessible writing style. Mark Victor (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul) said the book was “Nothing less than sensational.” 

Critics argue that the lessons in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari are so oversimplified that they’re useless, or that the book’s just restating lessons that any number of other self-help books teach. Some also feel that the parable format feels childish. 

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a parable, meaning that it’s in the form of a story rather than a list of lessons or commandments. This style is intended to engage the reader’s imagination and interest—it gets you thinking instead of just memorizing, which is helpful in figuring out how to apply the book’s spiritual lessons to your own life. 

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari gives basic overviews of many different spiritual concepts—summed up in the Seven Virtues that Julian teaches to John—as well as offering guidance on how to start applying those virtues to your own life. This makes it a good introduction for readers new to Eastern spirituality. That said, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’s wide array of ideas and practices might overwhelm the reader—it seems impossible to practice everything that Sharma recommends. He suggests each reader take away whatever lessons and exercises are useful to him or her, rather than feeling pressured to remember and practice them all.

Commentary on the Book’s Organization

This book contains several stories layered on top of each other. The “top layer” is Julian speaking to John. Within that story is the story that Julian’s telling about his time in India. Within Julian’s story is a third story: a short parable that one of the monks told him, which contains the Seven Virtues that this book seeks to teach the reader. 

Despite the layered narratives, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is easy to follow. Most of the story happens within the first “layer,” as Julian passes along what he’s learned to John. This narrative structure allows John to take the place of the reader and ask questions that Robin Sharma anticipated his readers would ask about the lessons. 

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: Review & Context

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  • Why your career success might actually be killing you
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  • The 10 rituals you should practice for health and healing

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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