How Shinah Chang Quit The Straight Path Of Law For Crooked Calligraphy
Ep. 31
| with
Shinah Chang

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    Shinah is a whiskey-loving, curse-word slinging, Harvard-trained former corporate attorney who left everything behind to find her passion.
    Shinah spent her entire life on the straight, “proper” path. She went to an Ivy League college, then a prestigious Law School, then worked her butt off as a corporate attorney for a big international law firm.
    But, after one too many days of uninspiring work and nights of sleeping under her desk, she decided she wanted to reclaim her life! She quit her job and explored so many creative avenues – knitting, woodworking, drawing, graphic design. But CALLIGRAPHY is what she fell in love with.
    Shinah needed plenty of inspiration along the way, but the usual sugary, sincere stuff about beauty and dreams didn’t reflect what she was really feeling. So she created Crooked Calligraphy to spread creativity, courage and honest, gritty life inspiration through calligraphy.
    Crooked Calligraphy has worked with huge brands like Disney, Anthropologie, Jo Malone, and Dom Perignon, but Shinah’s favorite work is teaching calligraphy and encouraging her students to look their fears in the face and move toward a life that will make them happy.

Here is what we chat about in this episode:

    How she spent her childhood working towards the predictable path to “success” including getting a 1600 on her SATs and getting into Harvard
    How affirmation and praise can become a drug that keeps you in doing things you hate
    How she started realizing that she wanted to quit her job as a corporate lawyer and what steps she took before quitting
    How she quit law without having any idea of what to do next
    What she did in order to figure out what her next steps would be
    The importance of exploration and experimentation in finding your passions
    How she found calligraphy and how it turned into a business
    How she figured out her unique brand and voice with Crooked Calligraphy

Where to find Shinah:

Show Transcript
Logical thinking like you had your chance, you failed. So I tried, I tried to think my way out of that problem, right? I was, I totally was in those shoes of like what is my passion?

Hey there, I'm Goli Kalkhoran and this is Lessons From A Quitter, where we believe that it's never too late to start over. No matter how much time or money you've spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are not happy, then it's time to get out. If you're feeling stuck and you feel like there's gotta be more, there's gotta be a way to feel fulfilled and excited about what you do, then this is the podcast for you. Each week, I will sit down with an inspiring guest who quit their professional career in order to forge their own path and create a life that they love.

Hello, welcome to another episode of Lessons From A Quitter. I am so happy to have you here. You guys, this episode is so good. I literally scream maybe like 10 times in it so let me start off by apologizing about how excited I get but Shinah just offers so much good inspiration and practical tools. So I wanna jump in fairly quickly, but before we do, I did wanna ask for one favor. I'm getting all of your sweet messages and emails about how much you love the podcast and they mean the world to me seriously. It really keeps me going. But if you do like it, can you do me a favor? Just take two minutes and give me a rating or review on whatever podcast app you listen to, whether it's on Apple or Google or Android, whatever uh you use. It really helps me out because it'll help me rank higher and then people find it more and it helps me grow. So, you know, think of it as your good karma for the day. Just take two minutes and give me a review. I will love you forever. Thank you. So with that aside, let me tell you about Shinah Chang, why I love this episode. So Shinah took the same traditional route that a lot of us, especially children of immigrants, are kind of forced on where you're made to do everything in the perfect way to lead you on a path to a great college. And she did, she got a 1600 on her SATs. She ended up going to Harvard and then a prestigious law school. And then she worked her butt off as a corporate attorney in a big international law firm for six years. And after too many days of uninspiring work and nights of sleeping under her desk, she rightfully decided that she wanted to reclaim her life. But her story is so great because of how she went about that path, that space that she allowed herself to try so many things. She tried knitting and woodworking and drawing and graphic design but ultimately, she fell in love with calligraphy. And we'll talk about what her business today, Crooked Calligraphy, looks like. And it's incredible because while she likes inspirational stuff and needed inspiration throughout her own journey, she felt like the, you know, fluffy beauty and dreams inspiration didn't really reflect what she was feeling. And so what she created has that inspiration but with more grit and honesty. So just as an aside, a lot of her calligraphy incorporates kind of curse words and so when we're talking about her business, we do drop some F bombs so if that's something that you don't like or you have kids around, I just wanted to let you know that that will be in this episode. But she has created an incredible thing that's resonating with so many people. Crooked Calligraphy has worked with huge brands like Disney, Anthropology, Jo Malone and Dom Perignon. But Shinah's favorite work is teaching calligraphy now and encouraging her students to look their fears in the face and move toward a life that will make them happy. She is so inspirational and it's such a great story so I'll stop wasting time and let's just jump in and talk to Shinah.

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

Hey Goli, it's uh really cool to be on. Thank you for having me.

Can you let us know what put you on that path to law school?

Ooh uh that started I think like even before I was born or maybe right when I was born. I am Korean American, first of all, and, you know, my parents immigrated here from Korea. Um but I was born in the states and I think just from the very beginning, my mom especially had these very uh traditional ideas of what I needed to do in order to become successful. All wonderful intentions to make sure I had a a lovely life and a stable secure, you know, place in the world. But that involved going to school, excelling in school, doing the absolute best possible, going to the best college. And then from there going into sort of a safe, stable job. And I mean, I'm sure this just like, so many people, right, [yeah]. Like put onto this path. But I say from the very beginning because my life was sort of dictated from the very beginning. There wasn't a lot of room for me to explore, you know, what I actually liked and what I was drawn to and for me to play. Sort of from a very young age, my life was very scheduled and I was doing sort of all the proper correct things to get me just into the best college possible. So that was, you know, piano lessons starting from age five and going into until 18. Math tutors and writing classes and TaeKwonDo classes. And let's see, what else? What else was I doing? Just, I basically had something like everyday.

Right. I think that is so relatable. I'm sure so many people that listen to that, especially I think immigrant children that come from, I think immigrants that come here a lot of times obviously want to ensure success for their children and it is a lot more structured and less choice, you know? I think it's dictated what you'll do so I'm sure a lot of people relate to that and I mean, you did wonderfully and you got like 1600 on your SATs and you ended up [I did] so so you were the dream child.

Yeah, yeah. I mean, part of why it took me so long to sort of get out of the path was that I was so so good. [Right.] You know, at the traditional stuff. I mean, I got straight A's in every single class I did. I got a perfect score on the SAT because I I studied it for three or four years before I actually took the test. Um and that meant sort of breaking it down during practice exams. That was my sole focus was to get into a good college and I threw all of myself into that and I was very, very good at it so that it was very confusing, you know?

Yeah, absolutely. So was there a time cuz I felt the same way and I look back and I think God now like praise and pleasing people is like a drug. Like you constantly, once you are kind of this good kid and you get that praise, you keep doing it. And like you were saying, I didn't really question it. I always was good in school. So and I liked it. Was there a time, like when you were in high school and you were studying that stuff and every day was regimented, where you thought like I don't wanna do this or was it always just like you liked being that good at that and so that path was fine for you?

I remember in high school having a little bit of a rebellious phase, like I don't have… Mom, I don't have to do everything. You know, I don't have to do every single extracurricular. I'm already doing like so good. What more do you want of me? So I definitely had that phase but you are so on the nail that all of my identity and self-worth and value was tied up in being that perfect academic kid. [Yeah.] You know, that did everything right. And when I got the perfect score on the SATs, there were newspaper stories about me in like the Korean newspapers. I mean, our community and like people would come up and, you know, congratulate us. [Yeah.] Like the supermarket and yeah, it was a big deal and it was a lot of praise and that was what I was used to sort of hanging my self-worth on.

Yeah, no, I completely relate. And so you end up getting into that great college. You go to Harvard and you ultimately go to law school. And so during that time, was there an inkling that like this isn't for me? Or did you like that path?

Oh, no no. As soon as I got into college, um I started questioning. Oh, okay. So like what do I do now? [Right.] Cause that whole childhood path had been set up for me to get into college. There wasn't a lot of thought as to after college. You know, you get to college, you're sort of on your own for the first time. You're in dorms, you're meeting new people. I did really start to ask myself at that point like what do I actually want to learn? And what do I actually want to do with my life? And you know, pre-med and pre-law, those were sort of always on the table suggested by my parents but I actually didn't want to do that. And I think college was the first time that I felt like I could choose something a little bit different. So I chose psychology. I mean, and I didn't go like that crazy and like that far off. You know, I studied psychology because it was interesting to me. [Yeah.] So that was maybe the first time that I started to really ask myself what I wanted.

So then what ultimately led you to law school?

Oh, the same vestiges of the past, like the past had been sort of laid out before me. In the end, after I graduated from college, I still didn't know what I wanted to do with myself. You know, I had studied psychology and it was interesting but I had no idea what kinds of careers were out there. [Yeah.] What was possible. To me, the only like the standard careers were possible. Even though, actually my parents ran their own business the entire time, you know, while they were raising me and my sister. They they had their own sort of business that they had built from the ground up. Even with that in the picture, [Yeah.] I still consider entrepreneurship or owning my own business or doing any of that as even a possibility.

What I have heard from other people is that because entrepreneurship, it's not like it is today where there's so much more opportunity with internet, so a lot of times it's just struggling. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of, and it's, there's no guaranteed salary. There's no, you know, stability. And so I think that is why a lot of parents try to get their kids on this like path to success because they think it's stable. And so I'm wondering was it cuz you saw that and saw like how hard that

I think you're right that my parents really had to work very, very hard and ride sort of the ups and downs of owning their own business. They create basically a a newspaper for the Korean community and sort of a yellow pages. That's not either of their passions, right. And they both have artistic backgrounds as well. And sort of gave that up in order to create this more stable business, to support the family and and sort of give me and my sister a good life. So it it is very different from what I'm doing now, they weren’t sort of following their dreams. They were, you know, having a business out of necessity.

That's understandable. And so do you go to law school and when you come out, you go into a big law firm doing corporate law. And how long were you at the law firm for?

So I worked in uh New York for three years and then I moved to LA and worked for another three years. So about six years total.

Tell us a little little bit about that. Like progression of how you started realizing that you wanted to step outside of the law.

Well in the first place, I didn't want to go to law school. [Right.] Um really I sort of like I did a very half-hearted job on my applications and I think just because of my pedigree and my test scores, I did get into a like a pretty good law school. And then when I went into law school was like the last thing I'm gonna be is a corporate lawyer. Anything but a corporate lawyer, I will do something good with my law degree. And then of course, you know, I had my law school debts and I became a corporate lawyer. [Yeah.] And it was fine, you know, at first. For awhile it was very challenging and it was very demanding hours but I was working with amazingly smart, talented people. I mean, I was learning, you know, and it was just sort of a fast-paced environment but that does wear on you. The learning part I liked but the law itself and the work itself, I was not terribly into. Um so my progression was sort of I knew that New York, it was a little bit too intense and just work was everything. And I was not very happy there, I didn't have a lot of close friends outside of work. And so I decided to move back to Los Angeles where I'm from and where I have more, you know, family and friends. I did that. And then even in Los Angeles, sort of after settling in, I still realized I wasn't happy. [Yeah.] Every morning when, driving into the office, I'd be like this is what I'm doing. What else could I be doing, you know?

Right. When did you start realizing like I gotta make a plan to get out of this? Or, you know, was it just like one day where you're like I'm gonna quit? Or was it like a slow kind of I gotta prepare for this cause I'm only doing this one more year.

Oh God. Um no, it was definitely not a I'm gonna quit right away, you know, just march into the partner's office. No, I knew for awhile was sort of building that I I I needed to do something different or at least take a break. I I I think sort of the climax was just I had been working on a huge IPO and it was just so demanding. The hours were so crazy. I couldn't commit to anything outside of work. [Mm-hmm] I was working, you know, weekends and late into the night. And I even sort of on my own birthday missed my own birthday dinner cause I just couldn't get away from the office. And, you know, my parents were so nice and brought me some birthday cake to my office and I just kind of had to shoe them. I took it and had to shoe them away, gave 'em a hug. And like I just didn't have time, you know, like anything else in my life. So that was I think the moment where I realized I I had to do something but even then leaving is so frightening. [Yeah.] Um especially when your whole world has been built up on this, you know, path and foundation. So I try to fight against that myth that you just take a flying leap. I sort of thought about it for a few months. And then I worked up the courage to ask for like a little bit of a sort of an unofficial part-time sort of situation. [Mm-hmm] Where I to, I just was honest with, you know, the head partner and said I'm feeling a little burned out. I need to sort of step back a little bit. They agreed to give me sort of less to work on. I did that for a little while. After that, I asked for a break, like a little bit of a a sabbatical of sorts for a few weeks. They gave me that. And then at the end of that, I had to make a decision of whether to go back in, you know, full-time as an attorney. And that's when I I made the choice to quit. So it was definitely stages.

Right. Wow. And so going back though, to your parents, I know for a lot of people, when you are used to playing that role and people pleasing and and especially like pleasing your parents or family, like how did you deal with telling them and how did they react to you saying that like after you've spent this much time getting to this place that you wanna stop?

We both approached it with a little bit of denial I think. So for me, it was like well, I'm just gonna take a break. You know, I'm just gonna sort of quit this law firm job but I know that I could probably go back. I did very well in the law firm. You know, I was very good at my job. I knew sort of some attorneys and partners at other law firms. I knew I could probably get hired there [mm-hmm] so it was hey, I'm just kind of taking a step back but don't worry. I'm I'm probably not leaving law forever. That's what my parents wanted to believe. [Right, right, right.] So for the first like two years after I quit, it was when are you, so when are you going back? So what, are you looking into law jobs? So you know.
Yeah and so did you know what you wanted to do when you quit?

Oh, absolutely not. I had no plans. I had nothing lined up. I had maybe some some vague ideas of maybe I'll find a less demanding law job. [Mm-hmm] After I take a bit of a break but really no, at that point I just quit and I knew I had enough money saved up that I could sort of keep myself going for a little bit. And I gave myself a year and I had to sort of do that in my head so I wouldn't freak out every morning. [Right, right.] But like what am I doing today? You know, how much? So I gave myself a year to just okay, you have enough saved up, you deserve this. You can take so- a bit of a rest and really just not worry about anything for a year. That didn't happen.

I was gonna, I was gonna say, how did that work?

I'm like I I sort of tend towards anxiety and over-worrying and overthinking as I'm sure as a lot of lawyers do, but it helped sort of calm it down. I did end up doing a little bit of contract work with my law firm for a little bit afterwards. And that brought some money in. I actually uh started working with a life coach sort of fairly soon after quitting. I found her through sort of a mutual friend and we connected and she helped me realize that in order to keep myself calm enough, to really sort of start exploring and figuring out what I wanted, I did need some bread and butter like some money coming in. [Right.] So I went out and found some work helping students with their college applications and essays. So that was some seasonal work that brought in some income so I didn't have to freak out [yeah] um every day. But it was really good to realize that.

Yeah, absolutely. And it sounds great in theory to give yourself time and maybe looking back in hindsight, if you know how you're gonna land and you're gonna land on your feet like a year sounds great. But like you were saying, in the middle of it, like your monkey brain, when you're used to constantly working and achieving and being productive, it's like what am I doing? What am I doing? What I, you know, and every day it's kind of overwhelming. And so I had the same thing. I mean, I quit and I had this denial and I could use the excuse that I had a newborn. You know, my son was three months old. So I could say I wanted to be home with my son but in my mind I kept thinking I gotta figure this out. I gotta figure out what I'm doing. What am I doing? What am I? And it's so hard to quiet that down.

Yes, I totally agree. And I, as you're saying this, I'm having flashbacks of like I was on, you know, looking at like different law jobs. And like I signed up for alerts and I I just recently turned them off cause I just had forgotten but I would occasionally get these like there is a litigation job near you that might be interesting. Yeah, so I was looking. Law was still the only option in my head for awhile until I kind of looked around and saw that maybe there were other possibilities.

Yeah but and I would just wanna quickly go back to what you were saying. I mean, I think that realizing what you were realizing and realizing you want kind of like a side income to give you that space is incredibly smart but it's also hard for people to go from, you know, at that point you're probably like a senior associate. You've worked your way up. You're this corporate attorney. To even accept to themselves, whether they're telling other people or not that like I'm gonna leave this multiple six figure high prestigious job [mm-hmm] and that identity and now I'm gonna like help people with their applications or I'm gonna tutor or whatever. You know, it's like I think a lot of people have a really hard time, even if they're miserable, even if they're overcome with anxiety and panic attacks or whatever, it's like that identity is such a hard thing to disconnect with.

Yeah, it is. I totally agree. And what actually helped me with that was the reactions of all the other attorneys that I told what I was doing. I mean, when people sort of heard that I had quit and I was figuring stuff out, I mean, it was nothing but like oh my God, good job. Great. That's amazing. I'm so proud of you. I so admire what you're doing. So that gave me clues that like okay, and I remember the reason that I left.

I had the same exact experience and it's sad. You know, it's sad that so many people want to get out and don't. But I'm glad you had that courage. So you did that, you're doing this on the side. So what did you do in that year that you're giving yourself to kind of figure this out?

I did actually just lay on my butt for awhile. It was glorious. I immediately, after quitting, I moved in with my best friend. He had an extra room at his place and I would wake up late, you know, I would like stay in my pajamas all day. Maybe make some food. I'd watch some some TV, you know? [Yeah.] I did for a little while, I did tell myself hey, you've been grinding for 25 years. [Right.] You deserve, you know, at least a few months of just laying on your butt. Sort of once I'd gotten that a little bit outta my system, I started exploring things. So I started just looking up creative and art workshops and classes that are around me. And I started taking ones that sounded fun. So I took woodworking classes, figure drawing, watercolor. I took a creative writing class. I thought about doing improv for a while. Didn't quite do. I work up the courage to do that but I just explored a bunch of different things.

I love this. I love this so much I wanna scream but I'm not going to cuz it’ll hurt everybody's ears. But I mean, this is like the the takeaway I think for anybody listening, because I have this conversation all the time with people that are miserable and they say like but I don't know what I would do. Or they say I don't know what I'm passionate about as if like your passion is just like hiding somewhere and you just have to like discover it. It's this development, it's this thing of like following your curiosities and seeing what resonates and what doesn't and giving yourself that space and realizing that it takes time. I feel like a lot of us type A personalities like you wanna know, you wanna have a plan, you wanna get there and you wanna know like what's the path to get there and it doesn't work like that, unfortunately. And but it doesn't mean it's not worth putting in the time. And so this is like the perfect answer, you just try everything.

Yeah and the way I think of it is logical thinking like you had your chance, you failed. So I tried, I tried to think my way out of that problem. Right. I was, I totally was in those shoes of like what is my passion? Nah, I don't know. Like what do I actually wanna do with my life? I never had a passion. Something’s wrong with me. And I tried like making lists and you know, like what do I like about certain things and what do I not like? And what are the possible careers that could come out of like the things that I like. And I tried it that way and it got me nowhere. [Right.] Cause really you have to take the action. You just have to like dive into it and try it and be like hey woodworking sounds good, theoretically, but I tried it and like way, way too meticulous for me, like way too much, you know, measurements and stuff. Okay. Try something else. You know, live figure drawing. Interesting. But I'm not good at it enough like I don't have the, I don't feel the drive to get good at it enough. And it just is a a process of like trying and redirecting course, trying and redirecting course.

When you were doing this stuff, were you doing it with the eye of like can I make a career out of this or can I make a business or was it like I'm just doing things that I find fun?

I was just doing things that I found fun. And of course, I mean like I'm a strategic person like I'm an overthinking person. In the back of my head there was always hey, you know, could this lead somewhere? But it was that wasn't the main driver. Things would pop up in my Instagram or I'd find something on Facebook or I somebody would recommend something to me or invite me to something. And I would just go if it sounded fun. And calligraphy actually was one of the workshops that I took and I just happened to see, I think it was an Instagram post from somebody and it just was a little spark of like ooh, I really wanna try that. I had no conception that calligraphy could be a career. That like never occurred to me. I didn't go into it thinking that I could make it into anything, but once I tried it and I found through that action, that it was this perfect combination for me of art and creativity, but then very strict boundaries and very practical uses. Immediately after the workshop, I kind of went up and talked to the woman who was leading the workshop and asked her a little bit about her job and her business and turns out she's a full-time calligrapher. That's what she does for a living. And I went ah and I started sort of looking into that a little bit more. I I asked her if we could have coffee and she was very, very, you know, wonderful and sweet and told me sort of about how she got into it. I started following other sort of calligraphers and people on Instagram. And that's when it started brewing that maybe it could actually become a career.

Yeah. Like I said, I mean, I love this because again, it's more of following the things that you like and I think what a lot of people don't realize is that sometimes it is just very quickly, like something sparks with you or very quickly like you were saying, like you realize something isn't for you. And that's just as important to figure out. But I love that it's like the first calligraphy class you went to, like something just spoke to you.

But I do wanna add even a little bit more color to that. I had tried like sort of hand lettering and cursive and not quite using a calligraphy pen but other things before then, and it hadn't quite worked out. I didn't quite get the hang of it. I sort of dabbled in it a little bit and then put it aside. And then this calligraphy workshop sort of came back up [mmmm] and that's what really like oh, it clicked. [Yeah.] So it's not even like you have to stumble upon something and then it's like love at first sight. [Right.] You know, it's not. Like who actually does that? I don't know. [Right.] It's it can be sort of a a coming and going, like things can come back into your life even after you've sort of walked away from them. So in that way, it's even more of a discovery [Right.] A journey process.

Yeah. No, that is absolutely true. And so once you discovered that you love this, like how did that lead to you starting your business of Crooked Calligraphy?

So it wasn't like I I'm taking this calligraphy class. Oh, immediately [right] I'm gonna um start a business. [Yeah.] Um the business part took some starts and stops too. I had originally started an Etsy shop for knitting patterns. I had sort of knitted ever since I was a kid. And so I thought maybe I could knit up some scarves and create some patterns and and start a business that way. So I'd done that for a little while but then just I discovered that I didn't like knitting repetitive things all that much. I didn't like it when I had to do it, you know, and then I also had started a like a blog, just sort of DIY things and some recipes and it was kind of a a hodgepodge and that didn't really go anywhere either. And Crooked Calligraphy was sort of my third creative thing that I started, but I feel like I had to have those first two. [Yeah.] I don't see them as failures at all. I see them as they were the steps leading up to what I eventually started because I learned a little bit how to do some photography and how to list things on Etsy and how to describe things I learned. What do I want my business to look like and stand for a little bit. And that all helped when I created Crooked Calligraphy and Crooked Calligraphy itself, which is my current business has been a constant evolution.

Right. And I think that, that again comes up a lot and it's such a good point. You had mentioned it earlier that just action is the only key in a lot of things. And I think we've talked about it with so many other people that you'll never like just read about it and figure it out and hit it out of the park. Like the first time it's such a learning experience. And the key is to constantly just try. But the problem is, like I said, I mean, we all get so in our head. I think people that lived a life where they were constantly quote unquote successful at everything they did, you know, like the in school and whatnot, it is a muscle to learn like hey, I'm just gonna try this and see what happens and it might fail and I'm gonna put it out there. My ex-colleagues are gonna see this blog. That's really hard for a lot of people. So to have a courage to say like hey, I'm just gonna put this out there. I'm gonna put up an Etsy shop and it, you know, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. You know? So did you have resistance to it or was it kind of like you know what, I don't care anymore. I'm just gonna do my own thing.

Definitely there was resistance at first and underneath all of this sort of exploration and me building businesses and me figuring out what I really wanted to do, I was doing a lot of inner work with the life coach that I, you know, had mentioned who I'm still working with to this day. [Oh, I love that.] But a lot of just like okay, why are your thought patterns the way they are? Why do you have to people please so much? What did you actually love doing as a child? Can you remember what things actually get you going? How to use your people pleasing in a way that can actually benefit you instead of looking at it as a negative. You know, just all sorts of like things. And I think the overall mental change was I used to think of anything I tried and wasn't good at as failure. And now I think of it as play. So I give myself room to try things and if they don't work, they don't work. But how would you know if you don't try them?

Oh my gosh, Shinah, you're gonna make me scream throughout this entire podcast. And it's not not gonna be good for the audience but I I mean, yes. A hundred percent yes. And it's play and it's also learning. You know, I mean, I used to always roll my eyes too when people would say like it's not failure, like it's a learning experience. And in traditional roles, you're not taught that, you know, like if you lose a case, it's not a learning experience, like [right] it's a failure and your client's mad and stuff. But when you're, especially in business, like I was feeling the same exact way when I started my business cuz I really started with the intention of I actually don't care if this succeeds or not, I know that I'm gonna learn marketing and I'm gonna learn how to set up a business and I'm gonna learn, you know, how to deal with customers. And that will serve me in whatever I do later. And that's just been the truth. Or even with this podcast now, I'm just seeing like it's all just like building blocks. It's all just teaching me something. And I have no idea what it's gonna happen in five years but it doesn't matter because like all of this will, you know, build on itself. And I look at this now, I didn't realize this back then but, you know, when you look at people that are successful in something let's say you want to do or if someone looks at your Instagram and looks at Crooked Calligraphy and it's easy to think like oh, she's so lucky. You know, like she has this like great business and they don't look at, like all these people that I now admire, I've seen like they've done 10 businesses before this, you know? And it's all of that is what led them to be successful at this. It doesn't just come.

Exactly. And I kind of think of it as like when you are following a prescribed path and it's it's sort of like a concrete path, just laid for you up the mountain or or whatever. And in that case, yeah, there is failure. I guess, you know, if you're not setting your foot exactly right on the next step and you're stepping off of that path then you can see that as failure. But when you go off of that set path and you start sort of foraging your way through the woods up the mountains, then you're gonna like twist and turn and you're gonna have to double back on your stuff. But then all that way, you're sort of moving forward on your own path up the mountain and maybe that concrete path isn't going up the mountain that you wanna be on in the first place.

Right? Exactly. No, exactly. I think that goes back to what you were saying like logic didn't work. I I think about this and I think okay, well you didn't fail before and you're at a place that you're miserable in. So who, you know, like clearly that's not the path.

That's been a huge mental shift and now I get, you know, that whole all all your failures are just lessons because I've seen it with my own eyes. [Yeah.] Um things that I have tried and maybe they didn't work out exactly the way I wanted, they end up being useful in some other way. Those, all those photos I took, all those things I wrote, all those, you know, I used them somehow, in another way in a, for some future purpose.

Right. And now tell us about your business because I want like everybody to go and check out your Instagram page because it is not only beautiful, but it's not what people would expect with like traditional calligraphy. And so give us a little insight into what it is and how you kind of came up with this concept.

Definitely check out my Instagram but not if you’re uh very sensitive about swear words. So if that's not your jam, then go ahead and skip it. But um swear words are where I started and that's why I called my business Crooked Calligraphy. I thought, I mean, calligraphy is beautiful. But then you write a swear word, you write f*ck, you know, in calligraphy and it just is this beautiful like unexpected juxtaposition. [Right.] And what I wanted to do with my business is not be the traditional calligrapher. Number one because I hadn't arrived there by any traditional means. [Right.] Number two because I had tried traditional things, you know, in the past. And they hadn't exactly worked out for me. And, you know, number three, like part strategic, I looked around and saw that not a lot of people were doing this with calligraphy, being a little bit irreverent, being sort of more honest and down to earth and gritty. So that was part of it as well. I basically wanted it to tell people like it's okay to be a little bit crooked and cursey and be figuring things out because that's where I was when I started things and it's worked out beautifully like cuz I think that that underlying mission and that underlying uh message has only grown stronger and it's helped me to sort of evolve with my business but still keep that that underlying message of honesty and being sort of true to yourself and being afraid but doing it anyway.

I think that is so important. You hear it a lot where people talk about craving authenticity but I think that so often we look at traditional brands and it's like you wanna appeal to everybody but like people really are looking for their own tribe and people that they resonate with. And so like you were saying, you know, some people obviously curse words aren't gonna be for them but for some people it is so them, you know, [yeah] and it's like you're showing who you truly are or where it's like, you know, I'm not gonna be just prim and proper and always like motivational and inspirational. It's like sometimes like ah, f*ck it. Like that's what I wanna say, you know, and I'm gonna put it in this beautiful calligraphy and it's just such a great juxtaposition. And I think it's like a nice like exhale for so many people to be like yes, like I don't want another card that like says get well, like I want something that's really me. And it like brings my personality so I can see why that resonates with so many people.

Yeah. Ah f*ck it was actually my very first Instagram post. [I love it.] So yeah, just like from the very beginning, I, you know, told people what I was what I was all about. [Right.] And yeah, I I actually did start out with making greeting cards, which I thought worked perfectly with the curse words and calligraphy, like you f*cking did it. You know and happy f*cking birthday. Um and I sort of moved away from that a little bit but again, that's the evolution. I tried greeting cards. [Right.] I out, I didn't want to be a greeting card wholesaler. That's like a [yeah] type of business. So I kind of moved on, I was taking custom commissions from people for a while and then I figured out mm, I make, that's not really scalable. And then I started teaching and figured out oh, I'm really good at this. [Yeah.] Like breaking things down into understandable and relatable steps so that people aren't intimidated by this. And that sort of led me to creating online courses and sort of expanding that part of my business. So I've been sort of making little pivots all along, even since I established my business and I don't think that's ever gonna change.

No and I think that's with every business. Again, I mean, maybe when you look at larger businesses that have been around for 20 years, like they now have a brand, but I think with every business until you start and you see what resonates and what doesn't you you make decisions based on that. And so a lot of times we wanna have like this whole business plan and it's a joke like you have no idea what’s gonna work until you actually do it. So I love that. And so now people can sign up for your online class to learn calligraphy from you, like just through the internet?

Um yep. [Oh, cool.] Yeah, they could, if you go to my website,, I have sort of various, the ways that you can learn calligraphy with me. Um, I still do some client work as well and sort of live calligraphy and and stuff for brands. But teaching is uh sort of the larger portion of my business. And I really love it because it's [yeah] it's really encouraging people to take a step at a time because you're right. Especially when you have been following the formula all your life, you want to have it all laid out for you, but it's just impossible. If you're gonna step off of that, you know, that formula that somebody has laid out for you, if you're gonna figure it out on your own, all you need to see is sort of where you're going. Like a lighthouse. That's how my my life coach put it and just take one step. And you, maybe you see the next step and maybe you the next step and then oh, maybe you have to like backtrack a little bit and you just go one step at a time and you don't have to have it all figured out. [Yes.] I I never did a business plan. I felt guilty about that for a long time, that I wasn't a proper business and I wasn't doing things right. But it just never felt right to me to sit down and write a business plan. So I didn't and it’s worked out fine. And maybe I will in the future but for now I'm good.

Uh yes, everything you you're saying is incredible. And I feel like you've already given so much advice but I mean, do you have any resources or I know you you said you worked with a life coach, which has again, come up again and again and I know for people that are in traditional schooling and traditional fields, they feel really resistant to that. And I really wanna open up to the fact of how much clarity that can offer. But is there anything else that you would recommend someone that feels stuck? Like any books that really resonated with you or just, you know, any other advice that you have for other people that are miserable in their careers?

Yeah, I think podcasts are great actually.

Me too.

Your podcast. Um the don't keep your day job podcast by Kathy Heller is amazing. But anything really where you can start to see the possibilities cause I think that's maybe the first step is realizing that the way that you have lived your life and have been told you have to live your life is not the only way. [Right.] I remember my life coach telling me you can literally make money doing anything. And I didn't believe her. [Yeah.] Now I'm starting to believe her more because I'm seeing people who like oh, you play video games and narrate them all day and that's your job and you make millions of dollars. [Right?] Okay or there's a man in like Europe who has a vineyard and makes wine by hand all by himself and only makes a few bottles but sells them for like $50,000 each.

Oh my God.

I mean, people are out there making money doing weird stuff. [Yeah, yeah.] You only see… how does that phrase go? You know what's possible by seeing what's possible. [Right.] I don't know. You only go for what you think is possible. [Absolutely.] So anything that can give you little glimpses of that, whether it's podcasts or Facebook groups or Instagram feeds that show you people doing, you know, weird a** stuff with their lives um working with a life coach helps a lot and finding a life coach that you resonate with that I think is the key. My life coach had also been in a corporate life in a very demanding, like very strict, very rigid corporate world. And she broke free of that herself. And that's why I felt like I could trust her to sort of guide me a bit through my journey. And that's been invaluable.

That is perfect. I cannot thank you enough. I mean, I think that this episode is gonna be so helpful for so many people. You're such an inspiration. So where can people find you on Instagram or Facebook or anywhere else?

So I'm on Instagram almost every day. It's just Crooked Calligraphy, C-R-O-O-K-E-D calligraphy. And then my website's also

Well, I will put those in the show notes for anyone that can't write them down right now. Thank you again, Shinah. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so so much for having me on.

Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you wanna connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at LessonsFromAQuitter and on Twitter at QuitterPodcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.