Monday, March 29, 2010

How Starbucks Saved My Life

Life is full of ironies.

With a book of such a title in hand, I sipped my coffee in Dome, constantly told myself that I dislike Starbucks coffee. But as I flipped the pages, I was greatly lifted by the inspiring story of Michael Gates Gill and his life at Starbucks.

The full title of the book is "How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else". In it, Michael tells how his life was transformed after he found a job at Starbucks.

Before Starbucks, Michael was a successful executive with a leading advertising agency (J. Walter Thompson). In fact, his life has been well taken care of since the beginning. As the son of a famous writer for The New Yorker (Brendan Gill), he grew up in a 25-room mansion and went to Yale University. An enviable job at the agency was literally dished to him the moment he stepped out of school. From there he was on his way up until he was fired, unceremoniously, 26 years later.

The abrupt dismissal was followed by a series of events, sending Michael into a downward spiral: He got divorced and left his big house to his family. He was almost broke in his 60s. He had an affair and found himself a father of his fifth child. He struggled to stay financially sound by taking odd consultancy jobs. As if all those were not enough, he was told that he had a tumor in his brain.

He was having the rudest kind of 'retirement', sort of.

As he spent one of his lowest moments at a Starbucks joint, the store manager (Crystal) 'came up from nowhere' and offered him a job as a 'Partner'. (Staff at Starbucks stores are known as 'Partners').

Michael accepted the job offer.

From a high-flying, six-figure-earning advertising executive, Michael found himself paid $10 an hour, learning how to scrub toilets, handle cash registers and brew coffee. He also found himself working with 'Partners' decades younger and lots more energetic.

It was not easy. Michael would burst into tears at the thought of his fate. He pondered how his lustrous life had turned so sorry. Little did he realize that his life was about to change as he learned his life lessons while working at Starbucks.

Michael learns the true value of hard work and why is it important to respect one another. In short, he learns to be happy, happier than he ever before when he owned so much more.

Michael kept a journal about his life at Starbucks which later turned into a New York Times bestseller. Many people are inspired by "How Starbucks Saved My Life" and want to know more from Michael. Now, he distilled his life into 15 useful lessons in his second book, "How to Save Your Own Life: 15 Lessons on Finding Hope in Unexpected Places". He believes that readers can learn key lessons from his life and they too could weather their own downturns.

The actor Tom Hanks has plans to produce and star in the film version and Gus Van Sant ('Good Will Hunting' and 'Milk') has agreed to direct. I would love to watch that: My favorite guy starring in an inspiring movie - What more can I ask for?

This book reaffirms what I have always believed: We find happiness from within and it is always there. It is our choice, to have it or not. We merely have to choose the obvious.

Finally, you do not have to be a coffee lover to read this book. It is a book for everyone.

Verdict: I still do not like coffee at Starbucks but I love this book.

Hear Michael talks about his books on YouTube:
How Starbucks Saved My Life (Vid)
How To Save Your Own Life (Vid)

"Happiness often sneaks in
through a door you didn't know you left open."
~John Barrymore~

See earlier posts on 'Happiness':
Happiness is a Choice
Happiness Quotient
Picture Blog #4 : Still Complaining?
Happiness: My "Q&A"

See an earlier post on 'Coffee'
Caffeinism? Nay!

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