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How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else
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Archive: Other Books > [Poll Ballot and Bingo} How Starbucks Saved My Life - Michael Gates Gill - 4 Stars

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Jeremiah Cunningham | 714 comments How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
4 Stars
Poll Ballot and Bingo

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving family, and a top job at an ad agency with a six-figure salary. By the time he turned sixty, he had lost everything except his Ivy League education and his sense of entitlement. First, he was downsized at work. Next, an affair ended his twenty-year marriage. Then, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor, prognosis undetermined. Around the same time, his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Gill had no money, no health insurance, and no prospects.

One day as Gill sat in a Manhattan Starbucks with his last affordable luxury—a latté—brooding about his misfortune and quickly dwindling list of options, a 28-year-old Starbucks manager named Crystal Thompson approached him, half joking, to offer him a job. With nothing to lose, he took it, and went from drinking coffee in a Brooks Brothers suit to serving it in a green uniform.

First of all, while I know that the author claims that this is a memoir, I put the book into the category of the almost fictional memoir as I am quite certain the author combined real people to make characters, left out less than flattering details, and intensified certain events to make his point. That being said, I have no problem with books that blend fiction with non-fiction in order to illustrate important leadership, business, or personal growth ideas. While the book wasn't an Andy Andrews masterpiece, it was enjoyable and met my criteria for a worthwhile read.

So what is my standard for a worthwhile read in the business, leadership, or self-help genre? My standard is that I want to take at least three valuable thoughts that are applicable to my life and work away from a book like this. As such, below are three thoughts that had an impact on me from How Starbucks Saved my Life.

The first thought that stuck with me was the idea that at Starbucks partners don't tell each other to do things, but rather everything is a favor. (At least if the employee is embracing the culture). This was a powerful concept to me and one that I think is highly applicable to work places, homes, classrooms, etc. The idea of having mutual respect so that we ask one another to help instead of just commanding that it be done is an idea that can create real positive momentum.

The second concept that really struck a chord was in regards to recognition. The author makes the point that recognition can be positive or negative for a business. He says in the book that recognition is great so long as everyone has the chance to earn recognition. But when employees feel like recognition is only for a chosen few it creates hostility and negative competition.

Finally, and this was not new but emphasized in a different way, Gill makes the point of how valuable it is to recognize the small jobs that must be done and also for the person doing them to not underestimate the value of doing it to the best of your ability. For Gill, that was cleaning the store when he first started. Many at that age would take offense to being put in that position, but Gill knowing he needed the job, poured himself into being the best cleaner he could be. As a result, he felt satisfaction at a job well done and he gained the respect and appreciation of the other partners. Being willing to do the lowest of jobs no matter the position we are in is vital to having a solid and effective team.

Overall, this was a well-written book with solid takeaways possible.

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5798 comments You liked it more than I did, but I agree that it's worth a read.

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