Meaningful Work

An Incredible Lesson in Vocation

Most of us have jobs.  That’s a good thing.  The problem is that most of us would say our companies just don’t care about anything other than making money.  You know the answer to the age old question, “What is the purpose of a corporation?”  Return shareholder value, right?  Most workers just want to get paid.  Cogs in a machine.

What if our work was about something more?  What if that pull on your heartstrings for something that is actually fulfilling is there for a reason?  What would it look like to have meaningful work?

I just read an amazing book by Shawn Askinosie with that idea at its core (and its title, “Meaningful Work”).  I’ll save the long summary of the book, because you need to read it. What I want to share is how Shawn’s book can make you feel alive and desire something greater, even demand something greater, from our work.

The big idea is to completely unlearn, and then relearn, what it means to have a vocation.  What come to your mind when you hear that word, “vocation?”  Many folks think of church ministers or religious roles.  Maybe you do think of your job, or a career in general.  When I searched for the definition online I found this:

vocation: a person’s employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication

Interesting.  Shawn unpacks the word and gives it a much more inspiring meaning.  Full disclosure, I am just sitting in a coffee shop recounting from memory what struck me from the book.  Like I said earlier, read it.  You can buy a copy just about anywhere.  Go here, now, and buy it.

A vocation is more than just a person’s employment, no matter how much dedication is required for that work.  It is a purpose and a meaning behind why the work we do matters.  And that reason should be something greater than to make a profit.  Yes, profit is important.  Without it, we can’t fulfill our vocation because there won’t be a business there to see it through.  But profit is a lousy vocation.

The vocation at Askinosie Chocolate, Shawn’s business, is to serve and support every person who comes into contact with their amazing company.  They are building a business with a soul.  The most visible demonstrations of their vocation is through  relationships and programs with origin farmers of their world-class cacao beans in places like Tanzania.  I don’t have the “wow” stats and numbers in front of me, but their small business is going to help a whole load of people around the world this year.

And it’s not just that they send money to these places.  That’s easy.  Lots of companies check the “corporate social responsibility” box by writing big checks and hosting a couple events for employees to help out.

Their team, the people who work in the business (in other words, it would be YOU if you worked there) are the ones doing the good.  They are coming up with these ideas to serve people. Part of their job is to live the vocation.  Part of their life is to bless these people.

There is a section in the book where Shawn says, “It’s not about the chocolate.  It’s about the chocolate.”  Odd saying, but true.  The really incredible and life-changing part of Askinosie Chocolate is not about a candy bar, it’s about changing lives and making the world a better place.  But at the same time, every single thing they do is about creating the most delicious chocolate in the world and running a great company.  They are not looking for customers to buy their product because they help people.  Quite the opposite. They want to have the best product in the world, so customers absolutely want to buy it, AND they are going to help people. Why?

Because it’s their vocation.  It’s a driving force in everything they do.  Because there is nothing like it.

I want to be a part of a business like this.  Immediately, though, my brain puts up excuses that the company I work for will never be like that.  And I’m not ready to start my own business.  Maybe you have already been thinking the same thing.  I mean, Shawn was a successful lawyer who started his own company and probably had no risk in doing all this good in the world.

First of all, not really true (did I mention to read the book?).  Second of all, excuses are worthless.  I invite you join me in the challenge of bringing this change into your workplace the best you can.  Be bold, and change our work into vocation.  Start with what you can control.  Invite others to join you.  Talk to you boss.  Talk to THE boss.  Maybe buy them a copy of the book for Christmas!

Bottom line, turn your work into something greater than profit, greater than yourself.  Not sure how?  Not sure if you believe it?  A small chocolate company is changing the world, folks.  We can too.

Read more about Askinosie Chocolate at

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