In his book, Meaningful Work, Shawn Askinosie details his journey from competent criminal defense attorney to successful chocolatier.
Leaving the stress of his law practice behind, he set out to build a successful chocolate company from the ground up using his unique set of visioning tools, tools that can be used by each of us to create a life of meaning and purpose, no matter what work we do.
In addition to building a successful company, he and his team at Askinosie Chocolate have been a positive force for good throughout the world.
How exactly do they go about blessing the lives of so many?
Often, it begins at their work meetings, where they turn their deepest sorrows into their greatest joys.
Passing each person a slip of paper, Shawn asks each employee to write down something that has caused them much sorrow in their life.
Employees write their sorrows down anonymously; the papers are collected and read aloud by Shawn; and finally, they discuss what they might do to help others who are dealing with a similar sorrow.
If, for instance, someone wrote that their greatest sorrow in life was being without a father, they, as a company team, would find a way to reach out to orphans in the community.
In essence, they would find a way to turn something that had been extremely painful in the past into something positive—-a gift, of sorts—-a gift and a blessing.
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Meaningful Work by Shawn Askinosie
TRYING IT OUT FOR MYSELF
Recently, I decided to try this same concept with a group of friends that I meet with each month to discuss uplifting books and community service ideas.
Handing each woman a slip of paper, I invited them to anonymously write down their greatest sorrow.
Several minutes passed as each woman did some soul searching and then wrote a few words on their paper.
Folding the slip of paper in half, they nervously handed it to me and then sat back and waited, wondering why I had requested such intimate information.
I shared with them the story of Shawn Askinosie, his successful chocolate company, and his method of finding people in the community to serve.
I explained that we were about to do as he and his employees do—-seeking to do good by turning our deepest sorrows into our greatest joys.
One by one I read each slip of paper aloud, and shared some brief thoughts on each sorrow:
Having experienced the sorrow and fear that comes from being lost, either figuratively or literally, who in our community might you reach out to help them find their way back “home”?
“I’ve never felt like I am good enough”
Having felt the gut-wrenching pain that comes from feeling inadequate your entire life, how might you help others in the community feel competent and at peace with themselves?
“My dad’s unfaithful actions”
Having dealt firsthand with the shame and anger and sadness that comes from a loved one’s unfaithfulness, how might you reach out to console others who are dealing with similar situations and emotions?
“When I remember the kind of mother I was when battling depression or anxiety”
How might those of us who are survivors of depression and anxiety comfort and bless those who are still in the throes of darkness and worry and despair?
Having experienced the isolation and deep sadness that is felt after a miscarriage, how might you bless the life of someone who is going through a similar situation?
When one feels buried by financial worries, it’s difficult to deal with everyday life. How might you reach out and offer encouragement to someone who is weighed down by financial woes?
SEEKING TO DO GOOD: A DIFFERENT MINDSET
Emotions were running high by the time I finished reading the slips of paper. We sat in silence for a few moments, many of us wiping tears from our eyes. This simple act of vulnerability—sharing a personal sorrow with others—had bound this group of women together in a way that few things could. Though the information was anonymous, we felt a connection with one another, knowing that we are each dealing with difficult circumstances.
Then, our thoughts turned from our own pain to how our pain might present itself as a gift in someone else’s life. All have the ability to offer sympathy to someone in their time of need, but only a special few can offer true empathy.
Who among us hasn’t benefited from meeting someone who is going through a similar trial? What a tender mercy that is—to be able to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who has experienced those same thoughts and feelings.
It’s time we start turning our sorrows into what they were intended to become all along—a gift and blessing in the lives of others.
And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in an Askinosie Chocolate bar for good measure.
How might you seek to do good, by turning the sorrows you have experienced in your life into gifts and blessings?
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