Chocolate University

Guest Post from 2016 Chocolate University Student Emma Brand

June 2016

Hello, my name is Emma Brand and in five years I woke up this morning and drank a cup of coffee that I’m still trying to convince myself that I like, I am an author who just published my first book, and I feel proud, accomplished, and that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Ok so I know that introduction didn’t make very much sense both grammatically and in content, but bear with me and all will be made clear soon…I hope. That’s the plan anyway.

Here’s a more sensical introduction.


Anywho, back to my ridiculous opening statement. I can hear you all asking, “How does she know the details of her morning in five years?” and “Why did she change tenses in the middle of her sentence?” and, “How does this at all relate to Askinosie Chocolate or  Chocolate University?” all of which are completely valid questions. To answer simply, I don’t know that this is my exact future in five years time. It’s not my dream or my fate, it’s an excerpt from my personal vision. Ari Weinzweig, CEO and cofounder of Zingerman’s gourmet food company and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, has authored several books that Askinosie Chocolate leadership enjoys, and even models.  In  “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business” Weinzweig introduces visioning as ”a richly detailed, emotionally engaging picture of what success means to us at a particular point in time in the future.” The Askinosie process for capturing your vision starts by writing a list of “prouds” or things that make you smile about yourself. Then, using the “Prouds” list as a foundation, the visioner writes where they see themselves in the specific future, giving as many small details as they can to make their own picture of success complete.


Shawn Askinosie, Founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate and Chocolate University, first told us about visioning at our second of four spring Chocolate University meetings. He explained it simply and purposefully. He told us that visioning is powerful because it works. There’s something special about taking the time to put our biggest dreams and aspirations, our vision of greatness, on paper where no one can judge it or tear us down from our highest and most dramatic aspirations. Putting your true passions into writing can turn visions into reality. He emphasized that this is our vision and our visions were for us to allow ourselves to make our dreams limitless, great, and even far-fetched.

To be completely honest, as soon as an adult starts using the words, “future”, “plan”, and “success”, I usually get a little queasy. I don’t know what I want to study in college next year and it makes me nervous to think that I’m going to have to make big decisions…soon. When my parents ask, I usually tell them I want to be a dog when I grow up. It  doesn’t go over well most of the time. But this “let’s talk about your future” talk was different. Visioning is not bogged down by realism or society whispering in your ear that there’s no money or few jobs in the area you love.

When we began our visioning process, Shawn told us that the biggest rule was that we were not allowed to stop writing for twenty minutes. The hot pen method, if you will. It sounded daunting at first, but as soon as my pen started moving, it was like it couldn’t stop. I wrote about what it was like to write a story and finally feeling like the characters were true. I wrote about receiving a fan letter from a boy named Jonathan who told me that he and his mom read a chapter of my book together every night. He told me that he could read it on his own, but he could only sleep if his mother read the last bits to him. I agree. There’s something particularly powerful about listening to an adult read a story like they mean it. I wrote about living with my basset hound named Sid and how we like to explore different trails and parks together in the cool mornings. I wrote about working in an independent bookstore and running tutoring programs and workshops for kids who struggle in reading and writing in school.

There’s no single mold for writing a vision. One of the best parts of the visioning process was getting to share our own and listen to others’. Everyone had different ideas of success and they painted their visions to match. I have to say that my fellow students of Chocolate University are some of the most gifted and utterly impressive people I have ever met. We’ve got nationally ranked debaters, and actors, and musicians, and genuine servants of society who want to make the world a better place. I’m not only honored to be one of them, but also completely flabbergasted on how I fit in with the bunch.

We learned to write our own vision statements and how to facilitate the process because when we get to Tanzania at the end of this summer we are each going to lead a group of students at the Mababu Elementary School through the visioning process with a Swahili speaking translator. Here in the United States, kids my age are constantly bombarded with questions about the future. What college. What degree. What salary. The story may be very different in Tanzania. This might be the very first time someone has given these students an opportunity to think big, dream bigger, and vision with all their heart. Sure, we could raise a lot of money and fly over to Tanzania and maybe make updates to the school by painting the walls or bringing textbooks or technology. But along with that we are going to give them an opportunity that will open their minds to their own potential and the endless possibilities of where they could go with their lives.

I know that in five years, I may not have published a book, or work at a bookstore, or even have a dog named Sid, but I know that my passion for writing has been lit and it’s going to ignite something big in my life. My favorite part of my vision is when I describe why I write and who I write for. “I like to watch the people around me and try to figure out their stories. I imagine their day to day lives, what drives them, who they live for, and how they deal with adversity. I love the ordinary things about people; the things that make them tick. I live for the extraordinarily ordinary moments of life, and  I write for the sake of the ordinary, which is pretty extraordinary, don’t you think?” My vision helped me recognize that I’ve always been a writer, a thinker, a doodler, and a “see-the-glimmer-in-the-ordinary” type of person.

I am sure I will be changed for good through our trip to Tanzania. My hope and my prayer is that the Chocolate University program will also ignite something extraordinary in the kids we meet and that they will be impacted even a smidge as much as we will be. I wrote this blog post not only to inform people about the incredible-ness of Askinosie Chocolate University, but also because it’s a step towards my vision. One of my favorite books about writing (Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott)  says, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

Thank you for being my “somewhere”.

1 thought on “Guest Post from 2016 Chocolate University Student Emma Brand”

  1. God bless you & your efforts!!! Keep your goals in front of you & know that God is your source of everything you accomplish! I am a friend of your mother, a retired teacher, a MO Synod Lutheran, and love life!

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