There is a particular aspect of writing in a book that is deeply admired and wholly appreciated anytime a book comes to the house (more often than not) from Amazon with the blessing of Prime shipping: storytelling with the limited use of first-person. Writing and storytelling aren’t the same thing. Writing has to have a certain level of objectivity while storytelling really doesn’t. There’s a place for both of them in the world of literature, but as more books get read, more emphasis is being put on writers who can tell great stories without littering the pages in the first-person.
It seems picky, and it kinda is, and it’s not something that is even noticeable unless you’re a book snob or a writing snob, but whatever. This rationale was adopted thanks to the great Myles Brown. Myles said something once about how much smoother writing is when the first person isn’t bastardized all over the pages, and he is absolutely correct. Hell, writing a dissertation less than a year ago should’ve been enough proof of that because the use of first-person is absolutely prohibited in that style of writing. Anyways, autobiographies have a steady place on any bookshelf at work or at home, simply because it takes courage to tell your own story which is the case of How Starbucks Saved My Life, a book written by Michael Gates Gill.
While the book starts off with Mike at the Starbucks that eventually saved his life, he did tell the story about his start at the advertising firm where he ended working for over 20 years. Storytelling is pretty much at the root of the book, a book that has themes of reflection, inspiration, frustration, motivation, illumination and other pretty-sounding words. The backstory about Mike’s dad and his role in helping Mike adopt the approach he took to his professional life is relatable to folks doing what we have to do on a daily basis. There’s a section in the book about the sheer amount of time he spent at work and how it took away from his family and watching his kids grow up, but he was never critical about his former employer. The career gave him a chance to provide for his family, and he knew that, so he never bashed them. There were some missteps he made along the way in his professional and personal life, but it never took away from his ability to be at the top of his profession.
When Mike got fired is when the straw broke the camel’s back, when the rubber hit the road, when the shit hit the fan. Mike worked at the firm for over 20 years, but he knew the end was near when it came to the job. After being let go from the firm, he ended up in Starbucks to unwind and to figure out what the hell he was going to do with his life. Starbucks was hosting an open house for anyone who wanted to get a job, but he didn’t even notice that when he was there. In his own words, he was just there to enjoy a latte and wallow in the state of self-pity and nostalgia. Despite not being there to apply for a job, that is when he met the person who would eventually become his boss, and that is when the book really came to life. She asked him, unwarranted and straight-to-the-point, if he would like a job. He was forced to confront some hard truths about himself, truths that probably would have never been confronted had it not been for the woman he worked for, the people he worked with, and the lessons he learned becoming a barista at Starbucks at the tender age of 63 years old. As someone who loves some Starbucks and will spend damn near any amount of free time in one, reading about the different types of drinks, pastries, the process of making them, the approach of the Partners (folks who work there) and how they treat their Guests was all fascinating to read.
From a storytelling standpoint, the book is fun, funny, thoughtful and reflective. For 268 pages, it’s like sitting with an OG (original gangster for those who don’t know the term) and listening to him or her tell their life story. There is always a place to learn from people who have a story to tell. What made this book even is Mike wrote that he learned from the people around him, people who were half his age or more, way more than they learned from him. He was happy to be a part of something genuine and authentic. He was eager to learn, he was appreciative, and he told stories about interactions at the job with Partners and Guests which illustrated that he was still a work-in-progress. There’s a lot of first-person in the book, which made my damn head explode, but it isn’t enough of a deterrent to not read the book. People who have had tough decisions to make, people who have had to swallow their pride, and simply people who have gone through their own trials and tribulations should be able to take something from this book. It can easily be modified to include your own career path and how people, events and elements contributed to the saving of your life as well.