Of course, Lay’s real world experiences are anything but ordinary, evidence the first paragraph on the inside book cover of his combination memoir and manifesto: “Topgun on Wall Street chronicles one man’s extraordinary journey from the cornfields of Ohio, to the cockpit of an F-14, to the boardrooms on Wall Street … that brings a provocative, ground-breaking advice to the business landscape with a revolutionary answer for stabilizing corporate America: business—the military way.”
So how did the concept of business the military way dovetail with business the Jesuit way? To Lay’s surprise, quite neatly. He readily identifies with “original entrepreneurial spirit” of the founding Jesuits. And their enthusiasm. “I believe in the Jesuit mentality. The founders were shot out of a rifle.”
It’s not a stretch to imagine that a religious order occasionally referred to colloquially as both “God’s Marines” and “The Company” would resonant with a retired Navy lieutenant commander turned businessman. Plus the environment of open and free inquiry at Xavier also appealed to Lay, allowing him to express and put his Topgun business philosophy to the test.
“It allowed me to challenge myself through a frank and open dialogue that the Jesuit method is famous for. I liked being encouraged to have an intellectually challenging conversation.”
So while a priest may never graduate from Topgun, Lay sees numerous commonalities between the military and ministry in developing a total person.
“I’m a big servant-leadership fan. A lot of corporations are hiring veterans thinking they’ll be getting highly motivated and discipline employees. Which is true. But what’s even more important is that these people grew up in a military system that put service before self. A Jesuit education is very much the same. It’s centered on the idea you’re here to serve.”