Replay: From Lawyer to Chocolate Maker: How Shawn Askinosie Found His Calling
Ep. 224
| with
Shawn Askinosie

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This week’s episode is a replay of Episode 76: From Lawyer to Chocolate Maker: How Shawn Askinosie Found His Calling.

Sure, quitting is easy if you’ve always hated your job. But what if you used to love it? What if you loved it for many years? What if you were really, really good at it?

I’m so excited about this week’s episode with the amazing Shawn Askinosie. Shawn walked away from a very successful career as a criminal defense attorney, a job he used to love. Until he didn’t.

He realized that the career he once loved was putting him into an early grave and that it was time to do something else.

Shawn is now the founder of Askinosie Chocolates, named by Forbes as “One of the 25 Best Small Companies In America.”  He was also named by O, The Oprah. Magazine, as “One of 15 Guys Who Are Saving the World.” No big deal.

He spends his days traveling between 4 continents to directly source his cocoa beans from farmers, where he offers them above Fair Trade prices, open books, and a share of his profits.

He has created an inspiring company that not only gives back directly to the farmers but his community as well.

His book – Meaningful Work: The Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling And Feed Your Soul, co-written with his daughter, Lawren Askinosie, published by Penguin Random House is a #1 bestseller on Amazon.

I got to chat with Shawn about how he walked away from a career he loved and how he figured out what he should do next.

Here is what we chat about in this episode:

  • Do the deep work and figure out who you truly are.
  • Look for those thresholds.
  • Be vulnerable with the people in your life.
  • And so much more!

Where to find Shawn:




TED Talk

Show Transcript
When we become dissatisfied, then we have the options that our parents didn't to look at the shiny object in our periphery and say oh, I think I'll do this. And without really doing the deep work to answer the following question: should I stay or should I go? The answer is, in my view, found only in deep work.

Hey, welcome to Lessons From a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello my friends. Welcome back to another episode. I'm so excited you are here. I have been wanting to do more interviews again just to sprinkle in in between a lot of the mindset, thought work, coaching concepts that we talk about on the podcast. I do think that interviews are incredibly inspirational and motivational. I also think there's just so many things to learn from people that have gone on the same path. And I think that as much as I tell you concepts, it sometimes is just solidified when we hear other people who implemented it and who took the leap and were able to find their footing and figured out what they wanted to do. And so I am looking for other guests for the podcast but I also realized that I interviewed so many fantastic people in that first year and a half, two years of the podcast. And so many of you guys have found me since then. And a lot of you have not gone back to listen to 200 episodes, which I understand. And so I wanted to share some of the stories that I think are really hopeful and inspirational and cover a lot of themes that I think a lot of you all struggle with. So in the coming months in between some of the podcasts that I share more thought work and mindset work that you can apply to your own life, I'll be sprinkling some of the interviews that I think you should listen to. And even if you’ve listened to it once, there are so many themes that we pick up at different times in our lives. And so I'm certain that you will learn just as much listening to this even if you listened to it back in 2019. Today I wanna share an interview I did with Shawn Askinosie and his story and what he created is so inspiring. I also think that it is such a great testament to the fact that there are different chapters in our lives and it's okay to love something at some point and decide that it's not for you for whatever reason later on. And how much possibility is really out there and how big we can think, which most of us typically don't. He is incredibly inspiring to me and I am certain he will be to you as well. So here is an interview I did with Shawn in 2019. I hope you enjoy it.

You're in for a really honest, raw and beautiful conversation today with Shawn Askinosie. I loved talking to him and I think you're gonna take a lot away from this conversation. He left behind a 20-year career as a criminal defense attorney in 2005. And we'll talk about how a career that you once loved, that you thought is perfect for you may turn into something that no longer serves you. And how he kind of figured that and came to walk away from a lucrative and successful career. And he went on to start Askinosie Chocolate, which was recently named by Forbes as one of the 25 best small companies in America. His company is focused on bean to bar and fair production. They work directly with cocoa farmers on four continents. Shawn travels regularly to regions of Ecuador, the Philippines and Tanzania to source cocoa beans for his chocolate. And his business model creates a worthwhile luxury good that directly benefits people. And we'll talk about not only all the stuff that he is doing in these regions with these farmers where he's sourcing the cocoa beans but how his company directly gives back to children in his community. What he's created with this company is so beautiful and really a reflection of who he is and what he loves. He runs the company with his daughter which is also incredible. And I think it just has so many great insights into how to figure out what that next step should be and the things to do in order to really get clear on what you want to be doing. I'll stop rambling because I think that his insights speak for themselves. So without further ado, let's jump in and talk to Shawn.

Hi Shawn, thank you so much for joining me today.

Well thanks for having me.

I am so honored to have you and I can't wait to talk about the many exciting things that you have been doing over the last decade or or so. We typically start back with the former career. So why don't you let us know a little bit about what your career as a criminal defense attorney looked like?

Well, it looked from the outside, it looked like what I did was just represent really bad people that nobody liked ever. But from me, from looking at it from my perspective, I believed that I was called to it. I loved it. I loved room, I loved preparing for the courtroom. I also believed in the underlying system and felt like I had a role to play in it. I represented people accused of murder, uh robbery, drugs, rape, bank fraud, wire fraud. So I did federal and state work for almost 20 years.

Wow, for almost 20 years. So not the most lighthearted stuff. I did criminal defense work, not for as long as you but it is very emotionally intense. I'm assuming that you probably have the same experience. And so but you're saying you loved it and you did it for 20 years. At what point did you start maybe feeling an inkling or getting to a place where you were thinking that you need to transition out of that? Cuz most people just end up staying, you know, once you've done something for that long like a lot of times you just ride into the sunset doing that.

For me, it was it was kind of fortuitous that I had two first degree murder cases back to back trials. And they really sort of wore me out even though I won. But I was worn out physically and emotionally. So I was kind of at that place where I could maybe listen to the message that my body was telling me. But for me, it was right near the conclusion of a murder trial, right before I was gonna give closings and uh talking with my client, little anteroom off the side of the courtroom. And that's really when it hit me. As I reflected back on it, that was kind of a moment. And uh when I knew that I I was gonna need to sort of seek another path.

What about that moment made it clear to you that you needed something else?

This woman was charged with first degree murder. She was very small woman, probably not even a hundred pounds. And she believed that her little girl was being sexually molested by her ex-husband. And so she believed it and kept the little girl away from him for years. And then finally some court somewhere decided to give him unsupervised visitation. And she thought that was a fate worse than death. So they went into the garage, got in the car, left the door down and turned the car on and the little girl, she was seven, she died and the mom almost died and was in a coma. And then when she came out of the coma, they charged her with first degree murder. And so anyway, that's the backdrop. And what happened, answer your question more specifically. This was a very, very high-profile emotional case. The jury was sequestered. Right near the end, before the judge fighting me the whole way through the whole trial, threatened to hold me in contempt, put me in jail blah blah blah. Anyway, right right before closing, he called us in chambers and and basically took the case away from the jury and gave her probation. Well, that doesn't happen for, as you know, for first degree. So I went out to tell her do you want to take this deal? Which was ridiculous. Of course, she wanted it but but and I told her I said Debbie, I can still give my closing and we can hope for the best and if you want me to keep going I'll do it. And she said no, it's over. You know, you did a good job. You did what you were supposed to do. I became emotional and I started crying, you know, not boohooing but I was crying. She then hugged me and the roles were reversed. I was supposed to be the protector, the defender, the advocate and the roles reversed dramatically. And she became that to me. I mean, it's hard for me to talk about it even right now. It was that moment. And, you know, since that time over the years, I've been able to become more aware of these kind of moments of reversal where this can happen. And uh then I spent five years trying to figure out what to do while I was still trying cases.

That's an incredibly powerful moment. I think it it's something to touch on for a lot of people that aren't lawyers that aren't listening. And I think just in in all of our lives, you know, it's very easy to kind of look at other people and we we tend to see view the world or see people in black and white. And I know you were mentioning, you know, a lot of times people look at criminal defense attorneys and it's maybe looked like people harbor a lot of animosity or anger and think like oh, they're representing these horrible people. And I went through my fair share of that with the work I was doing as well. And there's so much nuance and there's so much and especially in the criminal defense world, it's such a, like I know for me, I honestly I was only in it for four years. I was I was only doing death penalty cases though. And just the level of sadness and tragedy and heartbreak and everything, not just the cases but my client's lives. It's almost like just it's unbearable. It's too much to bear. And it and I don't know if you felt like this when you wanted to leave though. Cause I think a lot of times as a criminal defense attorney or anybody doing work where you feel like you are serving people or you're helping an underdog or you're helping kind of a community that may not have a voice, there is a sense of guilt of leaving that because you are helping and they can't leave. You know, I know I've felt and I know a lot of my federal public defender friends who have left have felt very torn and it's taken them a long time to leave because it's this question of like well, if I'm not there for them like they still have to be in this situation, you know, they're still getting taken advantage by the system or, you know, are kind of stuck in this cycle of poverty and prison. And did you feel any of that when you were thinking like I need to maybe find something else?

That's a great question. I need to think about that. When my initial thought is no, I didn't. And maybe it was because I felt like it had sort of rung out of me all it was gonna get. And I should say, and I think your listeners can relate to this, yes, it was a moment but it wasn't like I immediately thought oh, well now let's just find this other path. And okay, here skip skipping on into cotton candyland. I mean, no, it was I had panic attacks in the courtroom, I guess that's what they are. My chest started hurting, you know, and it's like what's going on? On little tiny cases, I mean like you, I tried death penalty cases and and I, you know, in some little misdemeanor, my chest would start hurting. I'm like what is going on? But no, I didn't really feel guilty. Now you are talking about it. I kind of do. Maybe I should go back.

No, no, actually no, no, I definitely that's not what my intention was. And I actually think it's something I like to talk about because I think that people are still stuck in places where they are kind of martyring themselves. Like you're saying, you you're having panic attacks or chest pain and there's people that I know that are physically ill whether it's just depressed, anxiety-ridden, having panic attacks and they just feel that they have to stay in that. And I don't think that is the right way. Like you can't pour from an empty cup. And I think you, you know, it's incredible that you did that work for 20 years. And I think it's more courageous to say like you have to take care of yourself. And I and I really wanna dispel this because I dealt with it for so long and it really took me getting to a place to say like I don't have to martyr my whole life because I wanna help people. Like I can learn to help in a different way. It's okay. And like kind of relieving myself of that guilt. And so I think that's why I ask. Not because I think like how dare you, you should go back. I just think that it's it's something that I want other people to also understand that you don't have to stay in something regardless of what the cause is.

Right. And I I think the crux of this is that, and we'll probably get to this maybe about how I sort of found the path, but let's stop for just a minute and mention this because what you're saying is really important. Here's the deal. In today's day, we have so many opportunities across our lives and our professional lives. We have so many opportunities that weren't available to our parents and grandparents. But that in and of itself can be a bad thing. Why? Because when we become, you know, dissatisfied or feeling uncomfortable, then we have the options that our parents didn't to look at the shiny object in our periphery and say oh, I think I'll do this. I'm gonna open up an ice cream stand. And without really doing the deep work that's required to answer the following question. And that is: should I stay or should I go? The answer to that is not found in a book, not even my book, it's not in a podcast. The answer is, in my view, found only in deep work. You can go to the next thing or you can stay. But I really encourage people to do this deep work because that staying and not leaping to the next thing is also, I think a lost virtue. And it's the virtue of stability. You know, we leave friends, marriages, families, relationships with ease now that we didn't when our parents and grandparents were. I think that there should be a healthy interior discussion uh in our own lives of do I need to practice and develop a virtue of stability in this place where I am? Or am I at a place where I need to go? That is not easy and it doesn't come quickly and it can be painful but I think it's it's a worthwhile endeavor.

I could not agree more. I think when you start doing that deep work and you start doing a lot of that personal development of really coming to understand who you are and what you want and what you want for your life, it's beyond like just your vocation. It's beyond your work. I think it it is such difficult things to sit with and it's difficult to go through and to deal with your past and figure out what you want for your future. But I don't know, for me, I think it creates such a clearer path of seeing like what is it that I want for my life in every aspect, not just like in work but what why am I doing the work that I'm doing and what is that ultimately? Where do I think that that's gonna lead me? I do think that a lot of times we don't wanna deal with that and so we're, you're right, we're going to the next thing or the next relationship or whatever. Just trying to hope that like once we get there, then we'll be happy and then we get there and inevitably we’re not because we still haven't really uncovered like what it is that's making us unhappy or what we actually need to fulfill us. Putting aside the martyr thing though, like you have this thought and I think that a lot of people, and I'm sure you know this as well as I do, that a lot of lawyers have these thoughts. You know, there's a lot of people that are unhappy in that profession and a lot of professions, right? There's like what? Like 70% of people are disengaged in their jobs. But what typically happens is you have that thought and then all the other thoughts come in of like well, I've been doing this for 15, 20 years like I have this is the degree I have. This is all I know how to do. Like I make good money, I have a whatever. We just push that urge away. So like you said, it took you five years. What was that transition of going from this pivotal moment where you have this thing like maybe this isn't it for me to actually jumping?

For me, it was an absolute knowing that I couldn't keep doing it and I just knew. I tried other things like civil practice and stuff and I and it just I couldn't I couldn't do it. Then when I found that out, it became even more of a struggle because the next thing wasn't coming to me as quickly as I thought it would. I thought I could lawyer my way into the next thing which is just research and interviewing witnesses and and I thought I could just uncover the next stone and it would reveal oh, this is it. And that was not happening. So on a meta level, that caused even more um anxiety for me. It was the harder I tried to find it, the further away it was. So I did all those things I said not to. I mean, I googled it, I read the books, I talked to people incessantly but what I sort of stumbled into was a volunteer opportunity at a local hospital in the palliative care department which is basically hospice in the hospital. And I just happened into it and I thought oh, this will be a good thing to do. Because when I was a teenager, my dad died of lung cancer and it was a really tragic thing the way it all happened with the church. And it was just a bad, bad deal and I helped take care of him and and he was my hero. And so I went through two and a half years of that and [Oh, I'm so sorry.] Well thanks. And so I thought well, 25 years later uh hey why don't I just see if I can go visit with patients that are that are dying and kind of put my head in the mouth of the lion so to speak. And they trained me. And on Fridays, when I was in town, for almost five years, they would just give me a list of patients who'd asked for a visit. Many of them didn't have any family or anything. They’d be in cardio or neuro or oncology. I'd go around the hospital, knock on the door, introduce myself. And it was funny at first because a lot of people would recognize me from TV and from cases and they'd be like what'd I do? What do you have a warrant? Or, you know, and um so that was a a way to sort of break the ice almost immediately. But I would just ask them, we would just talk about whatever, you know, fishing, hunting, uh pie recipes, uh barbecue, whatever. And then I would end my visit by asking if they wanted me to pray for 'em and uh not to, you know, evangelize or anything. I just asked if they wanted me to do that. Pretty much 99% of dying people will take a prayer. I figure I learned. I would ask them what they wanted me to pray for. And that's really where this mystery deepens and where it all really began to happen for me. And I listened to them and some would say, you know, could you pray that I died today? I'm in such pain and I'm ready to go or pray that I'm healed or pray I live to uh to my next wedding anniversary or and I listened intently and I prayed their prayer word for word back to them. When I would ask if I could hold their hand or touch their shoulder, sometimes I would kneel down and touch their arm and pray their words back to them. And what I learned is at the end of the day, I would go back to the chapel in the hospital and just sort of sit there and and center myself. I did that before and after my visits. Then I would, when I walked out to my car, there were some times not every time, I'd walk out the doors, go to on the parking lot and it was as if my feet weren't on the ground like I was walking on air or something. And it was very weird feeling. And then it would kind of dissipate by the time I got back to the office or by when I was home. Over time I sort of figured out what that was. It was joy. I did this for such a long time, I began to really live out this quote that I talk about in my book from Kahlil Gibran which is our greatest joy is our sorrow unmasked. And my greatest sorrow was taking care of my dad, watching him die, be with him in his moment of death and not be able to do anything to save his life. And then to, 25 years later, be with people and actually think about them and not me for just a few seconds. What that did for the type A driven trial lawyer is it created some space in me. It created space for clarity and for me to receive inspiration and creativity and messages that were a a connection to my true self. And those were only glimpses. I don't wanna, you know, kid, anybody, it's not like I could fly or anything but those were the um places that gave me clarity. And I knew then what that sort of felt like. And it was during that time, you know, that this idea to make chocolate from scratch came to me. And then within a few months of that I was in the Amazon learning farmers grow the beans.

I would love to focus on that transition but it's such a beautiful story and that feeling, I mean, I think that a lot of people have relate can relate to that. And it's funny that a lot of times that happens when you are in service to other people and you're doing things on, you know, I think a lot of times we think we have to affect change on such a grand scale. And it's typically like when you're just helping someone like one on one where you feel that kind of joy. But I just wonder, like a lot of times, especially when we are searching for another answer, what I see a lot of times with people that are unhappy in their careers is that once they find something like that that brings them such joy that really brings a sense of calmness and stuff like they immediately think like well this is the thing I have to do. Like I I should go be a doctor, I'm gonna go back to medical school. You know? And it's like well, not not necessarily, you know, or like maybe like I'm gonna be a nurse or whatever. And I think then we end up getting stuck in something else that isn't really for us. So how did you take away that like this is bringing you such joy but like that may not necessarily be the actual path of like your next career?

Mmhmm. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this up. Oh my gosh, thank you. Okay, well this was a kind of a thing where to some people, this sounds almost morbid, you know, because these were dying people and it was sad and of course, it was. But I literally prayed that God would release me from this volunteer experience when it was time because I didn't wanna hold so tightly to that that I ended up sort of idolizing or worshiping that experience. I at least had the sort of minimum level of awareness to ask for that. But more directly to the answer to your question, poet philosopher John O'Donohue describes this notion of threshold. And I love this and I would really encourage your listeners to just go read any John O'Donohue book and read what he says about threshold. Thresholds are this kind of in between place. And so the work that I did at the hospital and the work that you described where people say oh, well this is what I'm supposed to do. No, sometimes, many times that work is a threshold. It's this in between place. We're experiencing this mystery. It's a moment of surrender. It is the dark night of the soul. St. John of the Cross would describe or how Catholics would describe the Paschal mystery. It's this procession from darkness to light. It's a procession from a valley to a mountaintop but it's a threshold. What we can do is take a moment and we can say to ourselves: is this the thing that I'm supposed to be doing or am I just kind of toward the end of the threshold where I can maybe see some things on the horizon that I couldn't see before? That for me is what it was. So I didn't get this message, oh, I need to become a hospital chaplain. I love this so much. No, that wasn't it at all. But the message to me was this is a threshold place where you're gonna be in mystery for a while. You're going to end up finding beauty in this mystery and some darkness and you are um going to create a a place inside yourself in which you can receive other inspiration for what to do next. And that's what happened.

I love that so much. And I think it takes so much self-awareness and what you were saying a lot. I think it's as a result of a lot of that deep work because we tend to wanna like white knuckle our way through life and just like really, and like you were saying, you know, if you're a high-achieving person, you just want you want the plan, you want the path, you want someone to tell you what to do and you wanna get there and you were, you know, we Google and read these books and a lot of times when we get a glimpse, we hold on so tight because we're like I like this thing now so I'm just gonna go there. And I think that what we were talking about earlier and doing that deep work and being okay with that mystery, being okay with the fact that this is a path and a journey and it doesn't happen overnight and it's okay and it's there's beauty in that and letting that unfold is so important and it really leads you to where you need to be. But it's so hard, you know, it's so difficult because it seems so sweet and easy to just grasp onto that next thing.

Well, it also it gives us a false sense of control, especially entrepreneurs and lawyers and I mean, we live a life of control. Doesn't feel good when we, even me, I mean now, I mean I've been doing this for a long time. I'm still I still listeners who think oh man, that's cool. He has it figured out. No, I don't. I'm right where everybody else is. I mean, it's just a mess. And that's part of what's cool about it really.

Yeah. Well, I love that and we talk about that a lot on the podcast and I think that that is just, it's funny because it's this whole thing is just really getting comfortable with the unknown and being comfortable with the fact that like confident in yourself to figure things out cuz you know that you will never have it figured out. And I think in the beginning we just think that like we have to figure it out. And it's really the freedom I see from people that I talk to is just realizing like hey, I'm figuring out every day and I'm gonna fail and I'm gonna mess up and I have no idea what I'm doing and I never will and I will just like keep putting one foot in front of the other as opposed to just trying to like let me figure out the whole plan. So thank you for sharing that.

We'll get back to the episode in one minute. I just wanted to let you know that I have opened up doors to my small group program stuck to strategy for the new year but doors are only opened for one week. So if you are tired of feeling stuck and overwhelmed and miserable and don't know what to do with the next step of figuring out the career that you love and how to leave the one that you don't like I invite you to join. It's gonna be amazing. There will be accountability, a community of people that think exactly like you and want the same things and are there to support you. There will be live Q&A sessions, live coaching calls, experts, video lessons, exercises, everything that you need to get out of this place of overwhelm and into a strategy that you can take step by step to figure out the career of your dreams. So if you're interested, go to I would love to see you there. And now back to the episode.

So you're in this transition phase and how does that lead to chocolate? Like did you have a love for baking or cooking or sweets or, you know, where does this new passion come from?

Well, you'll appreciate this as a lawyer. I don't think I've ever even told this story. And as a criminal defense lawyer, you will really appreciate this. So in one murder case, toward the end of my career, we're waiting for the jury to come back and my clients' mother, while we're just sitting around, you know, waiting for hours, she talked about this particular apple pie recipe. And I was really enamored by that. And before that I hadn't baked anything. I mean, I didn't know how to make a pop tart but I was really enamored. I was like man, that is very interesting, making pie dough from scratch. And that's very fas- so in true lawyer form, I went home and I researched every way to make pie crust and I bought all the books and went everywhere. So I did that and I made, like one of the first things I ever did. I mean, I went from like pop tarts to an apple pie from scratch and uh I called it not guilty apple pie. But anyway, but then I did, you know, after that I thought oh this is, you know, I had no hobbies before this. I mean nothing unless it was like reading about gunshot residue or DNA or blood spatter or whatever. But I started I bought a Big Green Egg and I started making stuff and cooking outdoors and making all kinds of things. Then I started baking and making cupcakes, made thousands of cupcakes, making chocolate desserts. And I thought that my future is something it would have something to do with food or I just I wasn't sure what but I I didn't have like a lifelong love of chocolate and I had no idea where this came from where it came from. No idea. I thought it was like a chemical substance that was just melted down. I literally had no idea. So when I was just driving by myself to the relative of a distant funeral near my home near where my grandparents' farm used to be and um I was just driving and it was on that trip that I thought what about chocolate from scratch? Ooh that would be complicated and difficult and that could take me a long time to figure out. What about that? That's it, it just popped into my head and I came home and I started doing research and I found this trip to the Amazon and there I was and here I…

I bet that's unbelievable. I mean, I think that that it it's incredible. But the thing that's most incredible to me is that I'm just so fascinated seeing like what how you didn't stop yourself because so many of us have seems like maybe just like a crazy idea and then we talk ourselves out of it. It's like how that seems, I'm not gonna go to the Amazon, you know, like that just seems insane. I'm, you know, I'm gonna stay in my safe little city that I'm that I've always been in. Maybe I'll try making like a cupcake shop or something. And so what was it that like, you know, you were like no, I have to have to now fly to the Amazon to figure out where chocolate comes from.

My wife and we've been married for 32 years um says that I will be at point A and I'll see point B over there and I'm gonna take the most circuitous, difficult, challenging path to get over across the street as anybody that she's ever seen. And that's probably true but in a weird way I kind of like that I sort of these things that are complex and challenging and I think that's one reason why. And the other was I knew from the outset that I wouldn't make even close to the amount of money that I made as a lawyer. And I knew that. And and even to this day I still probably make 15 to 20% of what I did my last year as a lawyer. But it's fine. And my wife is great.

I appreciate you sharing that cuz I think a lot of times, you know, that is a big thing for people.

It is. But I was so ready to move, the money didn't matter to me. Now, I'll add a caveat to this and and I think a lot of your listeners can relate to this and it's something to think about but when I approached my wife with this that I wanted to make chocolate and quit my law career, she knew I was, you know, kind of having this increasing level of unhappiness. She knew that I, you know, had gone to see psychologists. She knew that I was taking Lexapro at this point. And I sort of half joke, and she doesn't mind me saying this, that when I told her about that she wanted to know if I couldn't just double up on my Lexapro dose. And it's true, she did literally say that and I had to kind of explain that that's not how it works, you know, I wish but she said Shawn, she said this is going to be the greatest challenge to our marriage. She really was not, in the beginning, she wasn't really behind this. And I went ahead in the pursuit of our calling and vocation and I do think it's important to consider those around us and I don't think I would've done it differently. But I she's I mean she's a huge part of this now and my biggest fan and cheerleader and supporter and partner. But I don't know that I would've done it if I would've really considered more carefully what she said. Cause I will say she was right. It has been the biggest challenge to our marriage and we're beyond it and we're we're good. But there were some years that it was very, very challenging to our relationship and it's something to think about.

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is a great, you know, I know a lot of people struggle with that. So I don't know if you have any tips or things that you guys did because I think there's a lot of people who want to quit who don't have spouses that are on board right now. And I I know that stops a lot of people because you wanna keep the harmony and you've maybe created a life that requires a certain income and it's understandable that the other person isn't on board with changing everything now. Is there any advice that you have like having gone through that of like how you can get your spouse to maybe understand or how do you work through that stuff?

Well, my wife was a first-hand observer to my pain and to the sort of just trouble that I was having. Even despite that though, it was hard for her to understand why. So in other words, she wanted the answer of why why you you're a great lawyer. And I I was, I mean I'm still, I don't practice, I still I'm not gonna let that license go. But I mean I still, you know, cuz you never know. I might I probably was a better trial lawyer than I am chocolate maker, just is kind of almost like what I was built to do. So she wanted the answer to why? Why can't you do this? And I and I I couldn't really explain. I still can't. So I think one of the things that we have to be willing to do is be open and vulnerable with our partner/person we're in relationship with so that our hearts are open to them and that we bear this in front of them as to how challenging and difficult it is. And hopefully that will then create some compassion. And I think that compassion and kindness in these situations can go a long way. I also think that as individuals, once we've tried to exhaust all of the things, therapy, yoga, what whatever it may be, service, reading, all of these things. Once we've exhausted these things and we realize that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing in our own interior lives then we may just have to make some difficult decisions and do our best to be kind and and know that we're doing the right thing in order to really just preserve our own selves.

Yes, it's so much easier said than done and I think that, you know, you don't obviously wanna just like go kind of rogue and do what you obviously have to like keep people in consideration. But I think that a lot of times, I've met now with a lot of people and talked to a lot of people who are in such deep pain and I think it's you just you can't sacrifice yourself entirely. Like I think if you can make it work and maybe you're not as unhappy but if you're in a point where you are deeply unhappy then you have to figure out a change and have to figure out a way to broach that subject and start taking those baby steps to make that person understand. Because at the end of the day like if you don't ultimately gonna end up resenting the people that made you stay, do you know what I mean? Like you're gonna get to a point where you're it's gonna deteriorate the relationship anyways because you feel like you are forced to stay there.

That's a great point and I think to a lot of, and you mentioned this earlier, but I think one of the greatest obstacles that a family would face in this decision is money. You said you pointed it out. I mean, sometimes families have created this expectation of lifestyle that's hard to navigate at some other income levels. I think if the family is willing to sort of adjust expectations with both eyes open then that could go a long way. And one of the things, and I mentioned this but about Karen, my wife, is that she's not a materialistic person. She didn't keep practicing so she could buy a convertible or something. I mean, she was in fear that the money thing would be, you know, that we wouldn't be able to send our daughter to college or that but she's great at managing money. So that was something that I was very fortunate to have and to this day, I mean she's she manages our family money. I don't and never have. So it it works though. We were just very, very fortunate. Here's the other thing, I think that when we're approaching these questions and these matters in purity of heart as best we can in this world, cuz it isn't perfect, then I think that the universe will conspire to help us. Even in this situation of the people that we love and that are in our lives that we hope will be with us in these decisions. I I do think that, I do think that the universe will conspire to assist us in these things when we are approaching them with purity of heart.

Yeah, I love that. I agree. So go to the Amazon or you decide like why did you need to go to the Amazon and can you tell us a little bit about what you do now like what the company looks like and how that journey kind of went for you?

Uh the Amazon really because cocoa beans are grown 20 degrees north and south of the equator so in tropical conditions. And it was just the first place I could go where I saw where I could actually observe where farmers were growing cocoa on trees and just learn about it. And then I kept going back to Ecuador, going back and going back and…

Why did you want it to be like from the source as opposed to just I don't know how other people make chocolate or just buying the ingredients, I guess?

Mm-hmm. They buy beans from brokers. Well, our vocation, we're a 17-person company, a small business and it's been that way for the whole time almost. For me, our vocation is to make the best tasting chocolate that we can make. Best in the world, the best we can make. But supporting that vocation is working directly with farmers. And I wanna work directly with farmers because my grandparents were farmers here in southwest Missouri. After my dad died and even before he died, I spent a lot of time on their farm near my home. And I have my grandparents have both died but they're my heroes. I admire them and I hope to see them someday and I'm sure I will. And and I believe when I'm working with farmers now around the world that I've gotten to know, some farmers I've been buying beans from for 10 or 15 years, same people. And I go visit them every year. In January when I go to Philippines, it'll be my 45th origin trip since I started the company. But when I visit the farmers, I believe that I'm honoring my grandparents who were just simple kind people and I feel like I'm honoring them in some ways. I feel like I'm with them when I'm with these farmers. But I go visit the farmers, I also profit share with them. We open our books to them in their language. So a couple of months ago when I was in Tanzania, our our financial statement was in Swahili. That's a big part of it, you know, working directly with the farmers. And I think that it impacts the quality of the chocolate because I'm I'm going to look at every crop of beans and make sure that they're not using pesticides and chemicals and they're not using any forced labor. And of course, no child labor, which I've never seen any place where buy beans. And so those things. Then the other thing about our company is we work with students. We have something called Chocolate University which we started the day the company started. Our company is in a revitalizing part of our community and there's a lot of poverty in our neighborhood. And so I wanted to have this program to work with elementary school kids in our neighborhood. So we start it in the fifth grade and this is almost 14 years ago now. And and then we have a middle school program uh nearby and we have a middle school summer school program. And then one thing that is really heating up right now, is we have a high school program that we've been involved with for 10 years that we started where kids have this business immersion experience. Kids in southwest Missouri that are selected have a week-long at the Drury University campus near my factory. And they learn learn Tanzania language, culture, history. They learn about my business. They go home and pack. We meet 'em at the airport, take 'em to Tanzania. and then we have this program, this Chocolate University program where we have an after-school program for kids in the village in Tanzania uh called Empowered Girls and Enlightened Boys. And we've had thousands of kids go through this program and we're building a preschool in the village right now that I just saw and it'll be open in January for 300 children in the village. We paid for it but the farmers are gonna run it and I'm super excited about that. We have a school lunch program where we feed malnourished children in Tanzania and the Philippines. All sustainable, no donations. We just surpassed 1.2 million meals of malnourished kids in those countries. And this is all part of our business. We're a for-profit business not a lot of profit. That's who we are. We wanna be small. We wanna stay that way and just have these relationships.

This is unbelievable. I mean, I honestly am like in tears right now because I'm just thinking like we were just talking about, you know, you're saying that you're taking home less money, but I mean, look at what you're doing. This is mind-blowing. Like to have this impact globally on farmers in Ecuador, in the Philippines and Tanzania and then children in Missouri and taking them on these transformative trips and these school lunch programs. I mean, to be able to do all of this stuff in one business, you know, and have this kind of effect is it's something I would, you know, I can only dream of. And I my hat is off to you. This is unbelievable business model that you've been able to create. And then, you know, you you were saying you have 17 employees. I know you call it a small business but even that in and of itself is incredible. You're paying the salaries of 17 people, you know, most people would never dream of that. And all of this is, I mean, it's mind-blowing to me and I just I wonder like how did you, obviously it's over time you've said been doing this you're saying like 10, 15 years, but even when you came back from that first trip in the Amazon, how did you know how to create a factory or start this business, you know, to do any of this?

I didn't. You know, and as a lawyer, I mean, I was a Poli Sci major. Guess how many accounting classes I took? Zero. I had nothing. I had no I didn't know how to manufacture anything. I couldn't even fix anything. I could barely fix a paper jam in the printer. I mean, I this was all new to me and I think this is really true of lawyers, you know, that we're willing to take a really complex, complicated thing and try to make some sense of it. Try to understand it. Try to be able to explain it. Try to learn it. And that's what I did. And I found people, you know, who could do those things that I couldn't do. It just kind of came together in that way. And it's one of the messages I try to impart to people. I mean, gee whiz, I almost didn't even get into law school. I may had my grades in LSAT were so bad and uh but I worked hard when I was there and and scored in the top of my near the top of my class because of just hard work. I think that this is possible, you know, to just jump in and just take, as you said a moment ago, put one foot in front of the other and take it one step at a time and be willing to be open and be willing to accept the impermanence of it all. So for me now, when I sort of scan the arc of the history of our company over 10 or 15 years, I think oh man, this is things are, you know, going pretty good. And but I also I'm willing to daily accept the fact that it could all go away almost immediately because things change. There's no permanence. And that's my current practice, you know, I'm practicing the understanding of the fact that this is this will all slip through my hands and I try to create moments that I can treasure in my heart. And that's what I do when I go on these trips with students who I see transform. I collect these little moments over time and those are the moments that will not go away. I mean, I'll I'll always have them in my mind at some level that I can treasure. That's my practice right now. I'm not gonna be able to, you know, sell my company for some, you know, I'm not gonna win the lottery or it's because of the way I've run it. And uh this is something I'm I'm really beginning to learn and understand as I approach my sixties. I'm not there yet, but as I think oh, well do I ever wanna retire? And I don't think I do but even as I begin to plan or think about it, I know that this is not one of those things where some venture capitalist is gonna say hey, I'll give you 25 million for your this not it's not gonna happen. What I love about this is that as I approach the view of my company, I realized that it's it's all been a gift to me. And um that's the way this this company was born. I felt like this there was a message to me hey Shawn, you're having trouble now in your law practice and you're having this, this is a little gift I'm gonna give you. Not a gift to the chocolate world. I'm not but it's just a little small gift for you that you can hold and treasure for a little while and then it will go away. And that's my practice is to think about that. Whenever I have challenging times or think about it all, that's my practice to think about how it started. That's and that is how it started.

May we all get that gift and kind of be able to view the work that we do in that way. It's amazing. Thank you. Can people find your chocolate online if they're not in Missouri? Like where can people buy the chocolate so they can try it themselves?

They can go to our website,, A-S-K-I-N-O-S-I-E, and they can buy. We ship all over the country and especially this time of year, it's and uh for the holiday season that's coming up and we do that and then there's a zip code locator on our website so people can see if there might be a store, a specialty food store or something that sells our chocolate uh near them in bigger cities. And um yeah but thanks for asking.

Yeah, of course. I'll I will link to the website. And where can people maybe find you if they wanna follow along on your journey or reach out or what is the best place?

Yeah, well thanks uh is where I have a little blog and and uh my email is on there where people can reach me and it's and I put my email in my book and that that's there too.

Yeah. And let's really quickly talk about your book because I think it's wonderful. And you wrote it with your daughter, right? Who's also you're in business with you.

Yes, she's our chief marketing officer and she's been with me since she was 16. And uh it's called Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling and Feed Your Soul and published by Penguin. It's um all it's all these things we've been talking about, all of these things plus some exercises at the end of each chapter for folks to see. And what I wanna say about this, cuz I know I don't wanna I definitely don't wanna overstay my welcome with you, but I wanna say about the book that the book took us almost three years to write. And the reason is because it's not Shawn the hero story, it's the story that I wrote this in a way that I hope other people could see themselves and that takes longer to write a book like that. It's easy to write oh hey, look at this, look at our company, we're feeding kids. And but I wrote it in such a way, and I think and I think that this has been true, that people read it who are having some of these struggles that you and I have been talking about and they find some connection to the story in themselves and how they might approach their own path, not as a prescription but as a way that there might be some nuggets of inspiration for them to put the book down and then go apply to their own lives.

I think that's great and it's right up this podcast’s alley. I I'm sure that everybody will gain something from it and I would recommend everyone check it out. I will link to that book as well in the show notes. Shawn, I can't thank you enough. This has been such a pleasure. I think your outlook is something that we all uh can learn a lot from and I really appreciate you taking the time to be here.

Well, thank you. Thank you for having me and I hope we get to talk again someday.

Me too.

I've loved that conversation with Shawn. And here are the three takeaways. One, do the deep work. Figure out who you truly are so that you can recognize what the best next step is for you. Two, look for those thresholds. Those in between places. Accept the mystery in those spaces. You don't have to rush to grab onto the next thing or to grab onto something. If you couple that with the deep work, it makes it easier to figure out where your path lies. And three, be vulnerable with the people in your life. Make sure they understand truly what you're going through. Having those tough conversations about making a switch is easier if the people that you love know what you actually go through. I hope you guys like this episode. If you did, reach out to Shawn and let 'em know and I will see you on the next one.

Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, share it with someone else. I promise you know somebody who also hates their job and wants to quit, so why not share the love? And if you want to come follow along for more, come join me on Instagram at LessonsFromAQuitter and make sure you say hi. I'll see you next week for another episode.