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

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Product Description

Now in paperback, the national bestselling riches-to-rags true story of an advertising executive who had it all, then lost it all¡ªand 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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Engaging Book, but Gill is More Devoted to His Work Than to His Family
    I really enjoyed the book and as a previous reviewer noted, it gives you a great amount of appreciation for Starbucks. The book is really about how a self-centered yuppie learns that it is better to give than to receive. It is more fulfilling to serve others than to be served by others. I never thought that a book about learning how to be a coffee barista would be so engaging and interesting, but it was.

    However, M. Douglas is certainly right when he notes that Gill has always been more devoted to his work than to his family. That holds true in Gill's second life: He is more devoted to his Starbucks family than to his flesh and blood family.

    Gill also skims over the topic of his marriage and makes no apology for being a adulterer and a cheater, though he does express remorse for not being a better dad.

    Gill's personal flaws and his seeming unawareness of them mar what is otherwise a very enjoyable book. ...more info
  • Exactly as they promised
    I would buy from them again without hesitation. Book was in better condition than I thought, and was sent on time without any hassles....more info
  • Inspirational, Quick Read

    This is a great book. I read it in less than a day. It tells the story of a man who was on top, a member of Skull and Bones from Yale, part of a privileged society, someone who spoke with Hemingway, Thurber, Frost, Eliot and other literary giants and then made a career in advertising, only to be thrown out of the society because he was too expensive and no longer young (at 53). He spends the next ten years struggling as a consultant, loses his identity and cheats on his wife. He gets another woman pregnant and then gets divorced, losing everything in the process, including his four children, who see him grudgingly.

    Starbucks, in the form of Crystal, the store manager at 93rd and Broadway, throws him a life raft. He takes it eagerly and learns many menial tasks in a rebirth for him. He is finally happy.

    Gill tells this story in a compelling way and keeps you reading. The character development is very good, and you feel close to others in the store in addition to Crystal.

    I felt very happy for him as I finished the book, as he definitely is in a better place than he ever was before. It appears that he has a better relationship with his children, his health is better, and he is happier.

    As other reviewers have noted, Gill still doesn't have his priorities straight. His work comes first and always has. He also glosses over the fact that he had a child out of wedlock with another woman and ruined his marriage and his life.

    But, he picked himself up and took pride in small things and got happiness out of life. Kind of makes you want to work for Starbucks!

    This is being made into a movie by Tom Hanks and Gus Van Sant. No details beyond that, however. ...more info
  • GREAT!
    I loved this book! I could put it down once I started reading it. I am from Brazil and pick it up on a bookstore only for curiosity, but I loved it. Great reading....more info
  • He didn't sell me on his new life, felt meh over all
    When I picked this book up and first started reading it, I thought I would really enjoy it. It's about a former rich high and mighty ad exec losing his job and having to work at Starbucks and realizing he actually likes it. And the parts of the book where he was learning to be humble and appreciate the little things in life, and work with people different than him were very enjoyable to read. But sadly, each chapter would have a flash back of his rich arrogant life, with no reason or purpose, and he would shamelessly name drop. He might be rushing to the train to get to his starbucks shift on time, and it will for some reason, cause him to recall the time he worked with Jackie O for a fundraiser, and she personally thanked him because he saved the day. Or another time he is talking to a co worker who is having tea, and this makes him want to write for 3 pages about the time he met the Queen of England, and how impressed she was with him. That and his cheesy sales tactics he loves to talk know, the kind smarmy motivational speakers use, really knocked the book down quite a bit. I ended up flipping past several pages a chapter. But again, when he was his new humble self, i enjoyed reading about his adventures. But how humble is your new self when your book, which is entirely about how humble and happy you are in your small life is about half filled with celeb name dropping and achievements galore? ...more info
  • One big ad for Starbucks
    Starbucks really did seem to change Mike's life... but that doesn't the story great literature. It seemed like one big ad for Starbucks....more info
  • Transformation is Superficial at Best
    This book was insincere. Contrary to the "everyone else" of the subtitle, Mike comes off as a self-indulgent, status-conscious elitist, feeling the need to let the reader know that he has rubbed elbows with the rich and famous. This would have been a much better story if he had left those vignettes out and told the reader what he really learned from his experience and how it changed his outlook and behaviors. For example, I didn't see an attempt to make amends to his children for years of benign neglect. The only transformation I saw was in wardrobe, not in attitude. A jerk is still a jerk, whether he's wearing a pinstriped suit or a green apron. ...more info
  • A Hopeful Self-Examination with a Shot of Espresso
    A suprisingly insightful book that melds the author's fascinating list of acquaintances, Starbucks store culture, and his reflections on his own struggles and failures. A typical self-introspection book this is not. The author humbly reveals his failures and rewards the reader with charming remembrances intertwined with his current day lessons learned. This is a very good read....more info
  • A great human story
    After listening to William Gates Gill tell his true life story at a recent conference I searched for his book to see if it was as interesting and moving as his oral presentation.

    It was better than the oral presentation (which was great) as the book gives more details of the author's life....more info
  • Humbling
    I found the book to be enlightening. It provided a view from behind the counter of service oriented work. The perceptions of customers, services workers and former colleagues were intriguing. I found the name dropping to be a bit tedious but felt it was necessary to give us all a look into the author's former privileged life. The fact that the author went to Yale and was challenged to run a cash register was not far off the mark. I know several white collar individuals that have expressed the same fear. That he found more respect in service work than advertising was a good lesson. Indeed, this was a humbling experience....more info
  • good, not great

    About: Biography of Gill, an ad exec who gets fired, has an affair, gets his mistress pregnant, gets divorced and gets offered and accepts a job as a barista at Starbucks.

    Pros: Mostly enjoyable, positive, light and easy read.

    Cons: Switches from the present to tales about the past often and it can get confusing. Name drops famous people he has met (although this may have been done to set up a contrast between "then" and "now" in his life). Chapters a bit long. Says coworker Anthony is 19 and notes that Frank Sinatra died before Anthony was even born. This isn't true, Sinatra died in 1998. Epilogue would have been nice....more info
  • What a RIDICULOUS and utterly PREDICTABLE book!
    PUH-LEASE! Spare me the all too predictable story line. Educated yuppie loses high powered job- obtains employment at retail foodservice (in this case, coffee) outlet- learns to appreciate and live like the 'wage slave' schlubs. GIVE ME A BREAK! Anyone in their right mind, who has worked long and hard for a higher education, with excellent job experience and pay to boot, who has to radically 'downsize' to a lowly, servile teen job, would be in the throes of a major depression and highly dissapointed in his/her misfortune. But apparently not this buffoon... unless, of course, he can capitalize on it by concocting a bunch of B.S. in order to write a book about an unconventional topic! Like P.T. Barnum said, "there's a sucker born every minute." Don't be that sucker and read this drivel!...more info
  • Good Read
    I bought this book as a Christmas present for my Son, I think he read it in one sitting. He passed it on to me, I took a little longer to get through the book not because I didn't like it, I went back and re-read a few parts. Highly recommend this book ...more info
  • A great human story
    After listening to William Gates Gill tell his true life story at a recent conference I searched for his book to see if it was as interesting and moving as his oral presentation.

    It was better than the oral presentation (which was great) as the book gives more details of the author's life....more info
  • Gill still doesn't get it
    This is a quick, easy read. It is relentlessly positive and borders on corporate PR for Starbucks. I do give the auhtor great credit for his enthusiasm and embracing a corporate culture and hard work even when it might have been embarrassing or difficult.

    I came away, ultimately, with a tremendous respect for Starbucks, but not much regard for Michael Gates Gill.

    His great tale of being a normal working man came after he had no one to support but himself. I saw his Starbucks adventure as a second adolescence for him -- just him, his chosen path, and no other responsibilities. Was this really that different than his self-indulgent career at the advertising agency and the absentee fatherhood it brought with it? The author seemed to miss this parallel entirely.

    The author's great tale of personal victory came after he had already cheated and failed his family. How do you not tell your wife you're having a baby with another woman until after it's happened? Gill talked endlessly of the steps Starbucks took to respect its employees, but the steps he took to mend things with his family -- talking to them for a few minutes when they visited his store, seeing his son play lacrosse a couple times a year, emailing his daughter now and then -- seemed to fall far short of the standard Starbucks set for interpersonal relationships. Gill's coworkers showed Gill more respect and care than Gill showed his own family. He was never apologetic about his absenteeism and infidelities, citing his sexual needs and a cold marriage in an off-hand manner, as if that was plenty of explanation. At least he managed to feel sorry on a basic level about the apathy he had shown for his children's lives, but that was as far as his reform managed to get.

    I don't go to Starbucks, so I have no rooting interest. But I came away from this book with a solid respect for their organization and the way they treat their employees. I wish I could say the same for the author....more info
  • Hard to put down
    This is a story that these days you may here about alot. A man with the world at his feet looses everything only to come to a realization that it was the best thing to ever happen to him. Finished this book in about 2 days because of the simple fact that it was hard to put down. At times you feel bad for Michael Gates Gill while at other times you cringe but all and all the story is there and it is fascinating. ...more info
  • Great story
    I thouroughly enjoyed Michael Gates Gill story about his fall from the highest echelons of the advertising world to his slow and painful climb from the depths of despair while working at Starbucks as a new trainee. In many ways Mr. Gill is too hard on himself when he says that he did not have to fight for his job in advertising, that he was handed the job, due to his ties from Yale and from his family background. He was only doing what many of us do in today's world, we use the networking that we have, be it family contacts, contacts from sororities or fraternities, and contacts from other jobs. I don't think that he had the advertising job just handed to him since he had to do hard work to maintain that job for over 30 years.

    This book has alot to say about many things, about the difficulty working in the corporate environment today, the treatment of older workers, and the stress of the coporate environment.

    Mr. Gill shows us how a more enlightened culture,such as Starbucks, which supports it workers and looks for ways to include the worker in the every day promoting of the corporation, can lead to a better working environment for all of us.

    This is a very enjoyable read on many levels....more info


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