While many complain of jobs that are boring or unfulfilling, it’s not often that the term “life-threatening” enters the mix. Still, that’s the position Los Angeles designer Shaun Crha found himself in nearly a decade into his first career in the banking industry, where he’d worked his way up from teller to a high-stress role in wealth management.
“That was when I realized, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to die at my desk doing this job,’” he tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I knew dozens of co-workers who went on medical leaves of absence, who were like, ‘I’m so stressed out, I have an ulcer.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to go back to school to study design—I’m going to work full-time and do school at night, but I’m going to do this.’”
Crha followed through on that promise to himself, diligently keeping up with both his corporate day job and his nightly design studies despite running himself into the ground to make it all happen. In his final year of school, however, Crha finally reached the breaking point he’d so desperately wanted to avoid: After a case of high blood pressure so bad that his doctor recommended taking off work, he had to finally put his banking job to rest in 2017.
The upside was that Crha could finally devote all his time to his budding design career—and it wasn’t long before his newfound focus paid off. By the end of that year, Crha launched his firm, Wrensted Interiors. By the time the design boom began in early 2020, Crha was well positioned to catch the wave that many of his fellow designers were riding, enjoying the record number of inquiries that were suddenly flooding into his firm. Then came another—far less welcome—surprise: Crha’s father needed to move in with the designer and his husband after a series of minor strokes. Overnight, Crha became a full-time caregiver.
“It really drained my emotional and physical bucket again. I was like, ‘Wait a minute—I left all of this. Why am I back to doing it all on my own again?’” says Crha. “The biggest turning point was realizing that building a team around me was the only way I was going to be able to sustainably continue my business.” In addition to finally hiring the help he needed, Crha spent the rest of the year making major changes that often felt counterintuitive, like wait-listing projects in order to turn the inquiry deluge into an organized pipeline. The journey taught Crha that enlisting help and setting boundaries in his work were key to allowing his firm, his creativity and his personal life to finally flourish.
Homepage image: Shaun Crha | Jessica Alexander