How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

3.7 113
by Michael Gates Gill
     
 

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Now in paperback, the national bestselling riches-to-rags true story of an advertising executive who had it all, then lost it all—and was finally redeemed by his new job, and his twenty-eight-year-old boss, at Starbucks.

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a mansion in the suburbs, a wife and loving children, a six-figure salary, and

Overview

Now in paperback, the national bestselling riches-to-rags true story of an advertising executive who had it all, then lost it all—and was finally redeemed by his new job, and his twenty-eight-year-old boss, at Starbucks.

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a mansion in the suburbs, a wife and loving children, a six-figure salary, and an Ivy League education. But in a few short years, he lost his job, got divorced, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With no money or health insurance, he was forced to get a job at Starbucks. Having gone from power lunches to scrubbing toilets, from being served to serving, Michael was a true fish out of water.

But fate brings an unexpected teacher into his life who opens his eyes to what living well really looks like. The two seem to have nothing in common: She is a young African American, the daughter of a drug addict; he is used to being the boss but reports to her now. For the first time in his life he experiences being a member of a minority trying hard to survive in a challenging new job. He learns the value of hard work and humility, as well as what it truly means to respect another person.

Behind the scenes at one of America’s most intriguing businesses, an inspiring friendship is born, a family begins to heal, and, thanks to his unlikely mentor, Michael Gill at last experiences a sense of self-worth and happiness he has never known before.

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Editorial Reviews

There is no denying that Michael Gill's Starbucks application was atypical. For 25 years, this 63-year-old Yale alumnus had been a creative director at the prestigious J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. The privileged son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill had grown up amid cultural elites, rubbing elbows with James Thurber, Ezra Pound, and Ernest Hemingway, among others. But now Gill's marriage, his six-figure job, and his own business were gone, and he was seeking a job at the local coffee shop. His account of his apprenticeship in cappuccino making and race relations are instructive and ultimately ennobling.
Publishers Weekly

Baker lends his talent to Gill's memoir, the subject of considerable industry buzz and the basis for a 2008 movie starring Tom Hanks. Baker's enunciation and cadence perfectly match the essence of Gill, a well-bred and erudite-yet down-on-his luck-advertising executive who discovers the true meaning of life while working as a Starbucks barista. Baker also delivers especially evocative performances of Gill's hardworking-but fun-loving-young colleagues Kester and Anthony. His portrayal of store manager and mentor Crystal seems slightly underwhelming given her character's pivotal role in the story. All in all, Baker remains true to the spirit of the material, and his rendition of the workplace banter should ring especially true with service industry veterans. Critics quick to dismiss the project for its high-concept elements will probably remain unmoved, but fans of such popular inspirational/motivational memoirs as Tuesdays with Morrieshould find the experience good to the last drop. Simultaneous release with the Gotham hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Wall Street Journal
In the best tradition of The New Yorker, How Starbucks Saved My Life is one great read.
The Christian Science Monitor
An intriguing look behind the counter of one of the world's most recognizable brands.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
How Starbucks Saved My Life works as an interesting memoir of one man's transformation. But it could also work as a wake-up call to corporate America.
Kirkus Reviews
When a formerly high-level exec hits rock bottom, he finds salvation behind the counter at Starbucks. Son of famed New Yorker editor Brendan Gill, the author was unceremoniously fired from J. Walter Thompson after 25 years as a creative director. While trying-and ultimately failing-to run his own consulting business, he engaged in a marriage-ending affair that left him broke as well as unemployed. He subsequently found himself drinking a latte at Starbucks during a "Hiring Open House." When a confident 28-year-old African-American woman offered him a job, Gill found himself transformed from a name-dropping, high-society hobnobber into an everyman who had to relate to people from all walks of life. In the fast-paced world of coffee purveyors, the only thing that counted was his ability to do the job and work alongside the other "partners" (Starbucks-speak for employees). At its core, the narrative is an inspirational story about someone who learned late-but not too late-in life that money and status aren't everything. If Gill is to be believed, Starbucks is a magical realm where people of all races, creeds and lifestyles intermingle, a place where customers treat baristas with respect bordering on hero worship. Unfortunately, what little enlightenment his memoir has to offer is swamped by Gill's mawkish tributes to a mega-corporation. Tom Hanks, whose production company has optioned the book, will have a tough time redeeming this nauseating paean. Way too much sugar. Film Rights to Playtone

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592404049
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/02/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
83,715
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years

What People are saying about this

Wayne Dyer
A great lesson in finding your highest self in the unlikeliest of places-- proof positive that there is no way to happiness-- rather, happiness is the way.
Thomas Moore
How Starbucks Saved My Life is based on the simple idea that down-to-earth, humbling labor can help you re-orient your values and priorities and give you new life. It will speak to anyone in need of radical surgery on their worldview, and that includes most of us. Sit down with a cup of coffee and this book and entertain yourself toward enlightenment. (Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, Dark Nights of the Soul, and The Worth of Our Work)
Denis Waitley
I like my Starbucks, but I loved this book. It hit me emotionally and intellectually, right in the gut. The message, what the world needs to embrace most, made my cup runneth over! (Dr. Denis Waitley, author of The Seeds of Greatness)

Meet the Author

The son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, Michael Gates Gill was a creative director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising, where he was employed for over twenty-five years. He lives in New York within walking distance of the Starbucks store where he works, and has no plans to retire from what he calls the best job he’s ever had.

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How Starbucks Saved My Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 113 reviews.
Perpetualkid More than 1 year ago
first of all, i LOVE starbucks, which is what caught my eye about the very starbuck-sy feel of the cover. After reading the first chapter, I was hooked. Gates' writing style is swift and easy to read, but chock-filled with antidotes from what he calls his "past life"--a life of luxury and wealth. His story of his downfall is relatable (it can happen to anyone!) and his story of overcoming his state is both inspirational (i am starting a new endeavor myself so reading about someone else's endeavor was strengthing and enlightening) and encouraging. it is never too late to start anew, he shows us. and his honest and heartfelt story of his own life is definitely a must read! His details and his stumbling in starbucks, to what he learns during it all.. I've recommended this book to everyone--and my brother is hooked!! Great for gifts to recent grads from college (my brother) or someone just starting work (myself). LOVED it!
PBWriter36 More than 1 year ago
While slow at times, the Writer does a nice job of demonstrating how enriched his life was and how (on a different level), how enriched it becomes. With his flashbacks, annoying at times, he really let's the reader get into his head. Overall I enjoyed this book and would love to work at a Starbucks after reading it ;)
mimiAR More than 1 year ago
I have given many copies of this book to friends and family(they all enjoyed it.) and have reccommended it to many more--including dozens of Starbucks employees. None had read it and few had heard of it. Surprising. Such good publicity for the company. I thought this was a wonderful story about a man whose life was in shambles through misfortune and his own stupidity. He then gets a thoroughly unexpected second chance. I loved getting an inside view of the operation too.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
OK, I am a Starbuck's nut. I go to Starbuck's every day I can. It's not just the coffee (double tall, extra foamy latte in the morning and/or grande coffee light frappucino, add a shot of espresso, in the afternoon), it's about the whole experience. A place that feels like mine, getting to know the staff, the whole gestalt. So what I may have enjoyed most about the book is the whole Starbuck's story about training and staffing and how a good manager builds a team and makes her particular store such a go-to venue for her customers. It may also be that I spent many years in the advertising business, like the author/main character, and really get what he's talking about. But it's also a story about life turned upside down and how to survive, even grow, in an entirely new place. I'll admit that I was wary of the story of a high level ad exec falling so far as to have to take a job as a trainee barista at Starbuck's. It didn't seem that the ego of the former could ever accept being the latter. But he convinced me that he really could be happy in this new world and that he was a better person for it. I still wonder how long he will last at it (until after the film is done perhaps?) But I don't doubt at all that he is now and will always be a very different person from the one he used to be. And now when I go to Starbuck's, I look with much more interest at the employees, their behavior and attitudes, and how it all relates to me. The book is in that sense a primer on growing and managing a good customer-driven business. And, for some people, how to accept who you really are and what you really should be doing with your life. It's a fast read, an easy read, and you just may stop and think a bit about what he has to say.
kronan1 More than 1 year ago
Loved it............................................ Michael Gill is winner. Not easy starting at the top and working your way down.   But this is a man who adjusted his attitude and made down up.  Kudos to you Mike.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story and great book! A quick and easy read that I didn't want to put down. Very inspiring.
Lmartin1228 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book, quick and inspiring!
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aimlyss More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book about a man born into privilege that ends up losing almost everything and then goes to work at Starbucks. I always like 'behind-the-scenes' tidbits of places I visit. In fact, last night Allyson and I went to Starbucks and I noticed the "Partner of the Month" sign. Starbucks calls their employees 'Partners', so that was fun. The book was a quick, easy read. The only thing that bugged me was the constant name-dropping, that I could have done without. One thing the author said that I really liked was "I had sought to give me comfort, and which had failed me so miserably when things went wrong....Now, I told myself, with a growing courage, I had found with Starbucks a better reality ... not based on external status symbols but on a real feeling of confidence and support and genuine affection and even admiration for and from the Partners and the Guests." This book is being made into a movie with Tom Hanks, due out in 2012.
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