[Inspiring & Light] How Starbucks Saved My Life book review

by Michael Gates Gill
1-Sentence Summary. A riches-to-rags true story of an old man who has always been rich his whole life, suddenly lost everything and had his life transformed by working in a Starbucks with people that opened his eyes to to be more grateful and thoughtful of what “normal people” had to go through in life.

Why I Picked It Up? The book was everywhere and people were recommending that it was a very good read. In addition, the main character came from an advertising agency background – which I am from too and I felt that his story was highly relevant to mine. (You’ll never know when your company will boot you off because you’re not young enough for the industry.)

Why It’s a Gem

  • VERY LIGHT READING. Almost everything about the book helps readers to enjoy it as an easy read as much as possible. From the strong story, to the simple writing and words used, and even the book is in a smaller size, making it easy for you to carry and read it anywhere.
  • INSPIRING & HOPEFUL READ. Here’s a 53 year old guy, struggling to make ends meet as he fell rock-bottom from his previously successful life, downgrading his life and doing a that you’d normally see high-school students do for summer jobs – working at Starbucks, cleaning toilets etc. He later on succeeded in leveling up until he became a ‘coffee master”‘. Makes you feel warm like, “If this old guy can get up from rock-bottom, then I can do it too!” Aside from that, there are plenty of inspiring stories everywhere, especially of his Starbucks colleagues who each had their own diverse hardships and colours to the book.
  • HONEST VOICE. I like it that there are several times where he would be honest and admit in appropriate parts where he might be a fool, a cocky arrogant guy, or a selfish jerk. An autobiography where the main character admits to his fault is good – it’s a real true story where people make mistakes (and still continues to do so). The difference is whether the character will realize their mistakes and whether they’ll do anything to change it.
  • INSIGHT INTO AN ADMAN. This might be biased, but I really like his mini-stories of the different pitches and clients’ antiques that he had to face while he was at a huge ad agency. I felt that they were amusing and they sort-of mirrored my work life too.
  • INSIGHT INTO THE STARBUCKS WORKING LIFE. I don’t know how much of the stories in this book might be “manufactured”, but it was really interesting and heart-warming how the book portrays Starbucks’ working life, values and the importance it places in respecting their employees and visitors equally, to the point that even if a homeless man came in to use their washroom without buying coffee, the Starbucks’ way is to allow the man access to their washroom. Intentional or not, this book is definitely a great branding exercise for Starbucks.


Why It’s a Rock

  • CONSTANT UNRELATED FLASHBACKS. Throughout the book, he will be flashing back to his memories of meeting some world-famous celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway. Now this might be a good thing as aside from having tidbits of interesting celebrities’ trivia, it also showed huge contrast from his before-and-after life of being rich then poor. However, I find myself more absorbed in his current reality of working in Starbucks and find it really disrupting the flow when he will suddenly switch into unrelated flashbacks of his past. Goes to show how strong his current story is, as compared to the glamour of his old life, eh?

015897-yellow-comment-bubble-icon-animals-animal-panda3-sc37 (2)  As A Reading Panda, I’d Give It :

bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1bamboo_1 (8 out of my 10 bamboos)



Favourite Parts

There really is no favourite quotes in this book, but more of interesting parts or mini-stories that were presented.

One favourite of mine was when the author’s school headmistress supported by him when he couldn’t read at school. Another was when he pretended to shoot an Account Executive with a gun to convince clients that the team is serious about their business. Another are the several times the author explains the complications of the work at Starbucks, that nothing is as simple as it seems – from taking orders, to handling the cash registers, and even the long list of duties you have to complete if you are opening up the stores in the morning.

Great light-reading book. I finished this within 3 days.


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