Book review: Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul

In their book, Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul, Shawn Askinosie, founder of Askinosie Chocolate, and Lawren Askinosie, his daughter and the company’s chief marketing officer, guide their readers through the worlds of chocolate, business, and feeding one’s soul. Shawn Askinosie shares personal stories that provide readers a glimpse into what it’s like to not only own a chocolate business, but what it means to run a business with a soul, as one Target executive affectionately put it. Meaningful Work has the makings of a business textbook, but, translated into something akin to a letter from a beloved, wise mentor.

The book is arranged in six chapters, each chronicling Askinosie’s journey into finding his own calling into meaningful work, and three appendices: the first, a breakdown of the supply chain cycle of what cocoa farmers make, the second, the Askinosie bean purchase history, that includes a comprehensive chart of the company’s purchase history from 2006-2017, and the third, Askinosie’s personal “Rule of Life” that he submitted to the Trappist Brothers in his own effort to become a Family Brother at the monastery. He writes with a passion for empowering others and expertise in the areas of business, introspection and soul care from more than 10 years of experience running his own chocolate business.

The book begins with a story, immediately transporting the reader into what 12 year old Askinosie thought and felt during the most traumatic event of his life. “My father’s death was, and remains, my greatest sorrow,” he writes. He shares how his father’s death — and the loss he felt following — shaped who he is today, even down to the way he does business. Askinosie lays the foundation of his book on this moment in his life, and how this continues to inspire him to serve others and take times of darkness and confusion and turn them to joy.

After his father’s death, Askinosie became a criminal defense lawyer, “just like my dad,” as he puts it. He spent the next 20 years working to be a great, thorough, and dedicated lawyer, until he discovered he could no longer give his all to his practice.

“In 1999, I hit a roadblock. The stress and intensity of my work came to feel overwhelming. I became desperate to find a new path, though I had no idea what that might be,” he writes.

He knew he was being called to something else, but for years he ached to discover what it was. In the meantime, he began serving at a local palliative care department. It was here that he discovered his deep and passionate love for serving others and, moreover, caring for others more than he cared or thought about himself. He continued to serve as a lawyer, never waning in his renowned thoroughness, but entered a season of anxiety and depression, because he knew he was no longer working where he felt called. But he didn’t know where he felt called.

During this season, he spent time praying and seeking, ultimately, pushing himself to identify what this calling was. This only made matters worse. Through this, he learned that sometimes, all that can be done is to wait and learn more about yourself — a difficult discipline to acquire for many entrepreneurial personalities, such as himself.

“My exploration of my deepest sorrow allowed me to uncover passions I didn’t know I had,” he writes. “Ultimately, it led me to the discovery of my vocation, and to the creation of Askinosie Chocolate.”

An advocate for doing what you love well, Askinosie argues that there is inherent and immeasurable meaning in creating what you were called to create and doing it to the utmost of your ability.

Though the book abounds in steps toward spiritual healing and good soul-care, Askinosie does not merely wax philosophic. Each chapter concludes with several exercises, some focused on vocation vision, some focused on inner reflection, and others with ways to ways to improve your business. They believe Askinosie Chocolates is, at its core, a small business; and they intend to keep it that way.

This book is a must-read for anyone who longs to serve the world with their ideas. If you find yourself constantly filled with entrepreneurial thoughts and eagerness, this book is for you. In Askinosie’s own words, “This book is for entrepreneurs at heart or in practice – or both. It is for those who are searching for their own personal meaning in their work, and seeking to transform that meaning into a vocation. Whether you’re beginning a new venture or want to infuse your current one with dedicated purpose, my hope is that my experiences, and the deep and enduring lessons I’ve learned from them, will help you find your own business vocation.”

Topics: Christianity & Culture, Community Development, Culture, Food, Innovation, Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship

About the Author

Tabitha Rayner serves the neighborhood of Shelby Park in Louisville, KY through Sojourn Community Church and works at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Communications Dept. She has a BA in English with a concentration in Literature from Berry College.