Chocolate One-on-One:
Shawn Askinosie, Part II
with Victoria Cooksey

— July 2018 Issue Free Content —

Humanity vs. Doubt

Welcome to Part II of my interview with Askinosie Chocolate founder, Shawn Askinosie.  If you missed Part I of the interview, you can catch it here in the June 2018 issue. Through the rest of the summer, when you purchase an Annual Subscription to Chocolate Connoisseur with the code noted below, you’ll receive the June 2018 issue for free so you can read Part I of Victoria’s interview with Shawn as well.

Now, back to the interview…

Victoria Cooksey (VC): On the outside you certainly look very successful with amazing chocolate, awards, this book, taking yearly origin trips, and with your projects in the USA and at origins, etc. Even though you’ve reached those levels, do you ever have doubt or fear creep in, even when successful? How do you deal with that if it does? Any recommendations for dealing with doubt?

Sean Askinosie (SA): I would say I don’t experience that, except usually in the morning, sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep or maybe in the afternoons. Other than that I don’t. I’m just kidding! Victoria you are the first person to ask me this question. I love this question. Because why? I experience it everyday! I don’t think about success, I don’t think about “I wrote a book,” I am just like all of us.

We are all together in this. You, me, your readers, we are all together in this humanity. We are human beings weighed down by our own frailty, so the thing I think we need to do, as I was saying before, is just be aware of it. I have fear, doubt, and self-judging. I’m not going to say every day, but most days there is some kind of doubt that creeps in. The key is that… we recognize.

A few things…

Number one is that we recognize those things you said — you know, success, how we define that, that we might have a milestone that we hope, pray, and just cling to (the moment of that so-called success), and we grab to it so tightly that our hands are white and there is no more blood left because we are holding on so tight, all because we want it to last.

But when we can grown up a bit, a little bit, and say, “Well I better not hold onto that too tightly because it’s not going to last,” this is not a destination. These things, these milestones of success, might be sign posts along the way, but this is a practice that we are in. All of us. We are practicing all of these tools that we’ve been talking about. So if I could even for a minute know that these things aren’t going to be permanent, and I can’t cling to them to the point that it will always be this way, it isn’t for anyone. That to me is the first thing.

The second thing is to be aware that I have these things, of fear, doubt, and self-judgment… just to simply be aware and say to myself, “Well, there I go again,” and just recognize it.

The third thing is, “Have I been through enough life?” Then perhaps I could bring something to the table as it relates to the recognition of those fears, doubts, and self-judgments? Have I grown from those experiences in my life to the extent that I can bring some things to bear that might ease the pain of those fears and doubts a bit?

Can I bring some kindness even to myself about that? Maybe not judge myself so harshly? Can I be a little more gentle? I hope so. I aspire to this. I hope as I get older that will improve and that my humility will deepen in my life. That relates to your question that, I have this book and I’m doing all these things, well, for now I am, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. I pray for the humility to accept it and embrace it.

Deeper Connections

VC: How has this book and the talks you have been giving in regards to this book affected you?

What changes have you seen in others that have attended your talks and/or read Meaningful Work?

SA: One of the things I did was put my email in the book so people could write me what they were thinking, and I have received a lot of emails since the beginning. I’ve spoken to a lot of students, especially locally.

I’ve spoken to seven high schools, almost four thousand students, seniors in high school at Meaningful Work assemblies.

The thing that I’ve found is, and it’s a little bit surprising actually, I’ve found there is a common thread among people who seem to respond to the message — they are relieved and appreciate the story of broken heartedness, and how that can relate to our future joy.

Photo by Victoria Cooksey

I’ve been surprised by that, especially among young people. For high school students to see that at eighteen… seventeen… that’s a big deal. I am really gratified that this generation I’ve spoken with can really take that in and see it. Maybe not have it all figured out, because none of us do, but to at least just look at it.

I’ve seen audiences young and old who, in some cases, I see a relief, or a sign of relief, a deep breath that I can specifically see sometimes in the audiences. Not everybody, but some who are breathing from their shoulders up, and then there’s this chance for them to breathe a little deeper through their own kind of moments of sorrow that they might be mulling around in their heads, as I’m talking and thinking about how it applies to them.

That’s the thing, I think, that’s been the most surprising. I didn’t really know how deep that ran for people.

VC: At your talk at the NW Chocolate Festival last November in Seattle there was a moment where everyone had tears in their eyes, in a good way. Did you expect that, or was that a surprise?
SA: No. That’s what I mean, in other words. I think tears are good, and I think that we need more opportunities to express our emotions like that… but I didn’t really expect that. One of the things about that, which even surprises people who are listening or reading, is wait a minute, how can there be a connection between entrepreneurship, or work, and my tears? What is that? Where’s the bridge? Where’s the connection tying those two things together? And that’s for people to explore… that’s what I hope people will explore.

If it means them taking a few deep breaths and being present with those thoughts for a few minutes, then I have succeeded. It wasn’t something I expected, but as I’ve started talking to students and groups of people around the country, I’ve kind of decided that’s it’s okay to open that up a little bit, to even explore it a little further. So I’ve done that, I haven’t shied away from it. I’ve taken the time to perhaps open that up and let it resonate a little deeper if possible.

One young man in a high school presentation raised his hand and asked to talk with me afterwards. I thought it was going to be wanting to internship or something like that, but no, he wanted help with some counseling he needed, and I was able to get that for him. But he might not have ever raised his hand and asked me that if I would not have been as open-hearted as I was with my message. So I’m thankful for that.

Askinosie’s Chocolate Library

VC: Now that Askinosie Chocolate has reached year number eleven, moving forward, what is your intention with the chocolate making, this book, and so forth for where you want to go?

SA: I have had several serious goals, some serious hours for writing the book, and talking about it.  One of my intentions in the coming months and year is to really make sure that with my own capacity at work and time that I start to reel that in a little bit and not let myself get lost down a path that is too distant from the chocolate.

One of my intentions, especially as we near the fourth quarter, is to bring my focus and attention back to the people I work with, our business, our chocolate. I have let up on the number of days I’m here at the factory and I miss that.  Which might mean I won’t say yes to as many opportunities, but that’s okay.

VC: Has anything from giving the talks, or a place that wanted you to give a talk, been unexpected?

SA: H&R Block had me come talk at their headquarters a couple weeks ago in Kansas City to their leadership team. I was surprised by that, that a really big company like that, and Google, so I’ve been a little bit surprised that large enterprises are interested in this message of reverse scale, sorrow, that has really taken me back. I’m not sure what to make of it or how it will influence people going forward, but I appreciated those invitations.

VC: When you talk to a group of high school students versus talking to a big company like Google, are there similar reactions? Are the questions the same? Is one more in-depth than the other?

SA: I would say that it’s an uncanny way that they’re the same. Why is that? Because underneath all of this flesh and bone, muscle and chocolate, underneath all of that is just us. It’s just our souls, I think, and the soul of a seventeen year old high school student is shockingly similar to a thirty-four year-old programmer at Google.

VC: Thank you so much for your time and conversation Shawn Askinosie! And a special thank you to Lawren Askinosie for facilitating this interview!


Connect with Shawn, Lawren, and the rest of Askinosie Chocolate via the channels below —


NOTE: All photos by Askinosie Chocolate unless otherwise noted.