If at first you don’t succeed, try Starbucks??

Michael Gates Gill, son of privilege and New York society insider, was the very model of what moms want their sons to become until he was eased off the corporate merry-go-round at 53.

Yale graduate, member of Skull & Bones, Executive vice president at J. Walter Thompson on major accounts, children going on to college, all was going well until the new owners of JWT decided that he didn’t fit the lean, mean, hard-charging image they wanted to project.

As many others have done, he went into business for himself and even wrote a book about it. But, ten years later, his life as an entrepreneur had collapsed, an ill-advised affair left him at a new low point in his life, and he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

While sitting in Starbucks painfully going through the motions of contacting prospective clients, a chance encounter with Manager Crystal Thompson gave Michael a new start in life.

On the way to his personal and financial redemption, he learns to clean toilets, run a cash register, and become a coffee master. None of this was easy and he made plenty of mistakes along the way as he recounts in his essay in the Sept/Oct 2007 AARP magazine.

He has now written a book, How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, and it also appears that Tom Hanks will be starring in a movie adaptation of the book.

I haven’t read the book and I am writing this only to illustrate that this is an increasingly common career situation and that personal redemption is possible with enough work and persistence.

His story also illustrates that it may take more than one attempt to recover from a massive career dislocation. His earlier book about his entrepreneurial experiences was called "Fired Up!: The Proven Principles of Successful Entrepreneurs". 

It seems that he may not have covered all of the essentials, as his consulting practice eventually dwindled and he had to regroup and start again.

From what I have read in the AARP article, it appears that this time he has made some significant changes in his approach to life and that may make the difference in his latest career(s).

I wish him well.

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0 Responses to If at first you don’t succeed, try Starbucks??

  1. Jane Chin says:

    Believe it or not, when I considering quitting my corporate job to go out on my own and seriously uncertain of whether I could actually “make it stick”, I took comfort in the possibility of working at Starbucks!

  2. Mouse says:

    One of the greatest gifts that I took from The Rat Race was humility. I had become so stuffed with success and full of my own importance to clients and colleagues that I was in danger of becoming a right little madam! Being bullied and pushed around certainly taught me not to be so smug and complacent and that the higher you climb up the ladder of success, the further you fall when someone pulls it axay from the wall of work

    and, you know, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working for Starbucks, in fact, think how fabulous it must smell in the shop all day, and all those happy consumers to serve!!!

    I wonder if they’d open a store here in Bittany, I’d happily work part-time there!

  3. Tim Matheny says:

    Yet another illustration of “life is what you make it”. I have re-entered a field that I spent 25+ years toiling away, being only as good as my last inspection or performance against plan stats. I’m back in it, but with a new mindset. I am also developing a plan for when it is no longer mutually beneficial. I intend to leave it behind with class, pride and a young replacement fully trained. Thanks for the positive and practical information.

  4. Melissa says:

    This article and its comments provoke a lot of negative reactions in me. Many people work at a chain coffee house or cafe– then they quit. They quit because the work is a far cry from smelling coffee and being near happy customers all day. (Think about it, you are interacting with people BEFORE they get their coffee fix.) I’ve noticed that when you wear a uniform that doesn’t come in your size and is hideous besides (none of that “office work has a uniform too”– there is a difference between a dress code and a uniform), people feel like they can treat you poorly.

    Yes, life is what you make of it, to a certain extent. But when you hate your barrista job, it’s not because of your mindset. It’s because external factors really do suck. When you can’t reconcile yourself to doing repetitive tasks and working for a management that constantly tries to make you feel like you’re not good enough so you won’t ask for a raise, don’t bang your head against the wall so you can lose a few brains cells and become dumb enough to be happy there. Make your life better by leaving.

    This article was mainly helpful in that it pointed out that having a job (pretty much any job) makes you feel better and increases your confidence than having no job. Also, you never know where you are going to find your niche. It does take experimentation and in today’s world it is never over.

  5. Mouse says:

    Melissa
    I see the sense in much that you say but, I worked in technical support, in a job where people called me when they had just lost their mainframe computers, oft times their internet banking systems had melted. Probably the IT equivalent of not having had their first coffee fix…
    The stress and pressure was tremendous but, oh the pleasure of having someone say “Thank you, it’s fixed” out-weighed the bad and, I would suggest, there is an analogy with the position of barista.

    People come in pre-caffeine fix and leave smiling and happy because of you

    Every job has its drawbacks
    Nothing in life is perfect
    It is that which we make of it…
    Oui???

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