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How Starbucks saved my life; Interview with Yale educated barista who finally finds his place in this world

Does the pressure and stress of your career feel like it’s killing you or is your work a place where you are making a contribution and are energized about the people that you work with? This week’s podcast is with Michael Gill, New York Times best selling author of "How Starbucks Saved My Life". Starbucks really did save his life in more ways than one. You may be thinking, "Did a Barista do the Heimlich maneuver when he was choking on a venti-non-fat-extra-hot-½ soya-½ skim milk Mochachina?" Well, not exactly. His story was not only fascinating to me, but Tom Hanks will be playing him in the story of his life – about the journey upward from an unfulfilled executive to a highly engaged Barista working at Starbucks. Michael grew up in New York, son of the famous writer Brendan Gill who wrote for the New Yorker. Like his father, he graduated from Yale and joined the world’s leading advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson. Michael had a great career climbing the corporate ladder, working with Fortune 500 companies like Ford and spending time in Toronto working on the Labatts account. He was in the business of selling the "American Dream" – "you will be happy if you drive this car, wear this suit or live in this home". He was in the "you are because you have" business. At age 53 he was taken out for breakfast, or what he would call his Last Supper, and was let go from his position. "I had given them most of my life, my talents and energy, spending most of my time working and away from my family". Michael’s identity and purpose came very much from his work. It gave him a place, title, income and status. As with others who are defined by what they do and are fired, there was an extreme loss of identity. He spent the next 7 years in a consulting wasteland trying to find a work role and organization that aligned with his professional and personal identity and which rewarded him in the way that he was accustomed. Then one day while standing in line at Starbucks, he was approached by a store manager and asked if he would consider applying for a job. "I walked into the Starbucks for a coffee – my personal and professional life were in the pits". At this point in his life, he needed someone to see that he still had something to offer and needed to know that he could still provide for himself and his family. He joined as a Barista and for the first time in his career he was accepted, supported and felt that he was truly making a difference in people’s lives. He found this by "not trying to be the master of the universe" and giving up the illusion of control for a much more exciting and enjoyable life. He was relieved from the "burden of status". 5 lessons Mike discovered in downsizing his career and upsizing his life: Question – "Are you happy?" Have you taken time to ask the happiness question and, more importantly, to listen to the answer? Contribution – "Work is serving, which is redemptive rather than manipulating people to do things. It is one person helping another person – so much more fulfilling than taking from people". What are the ways that you are contributing in your career? Balance – "The ideal life is a balanced life, where you have the time for work and friends and where you don’t commit to some sort of corporate vision". How can you create more balance in your life? Respect – "The way you are treated by the people you work with – my first day I was treated with respect in a way that I was never respected before at the executive level". Are you respected in your work situation by your leadership and peers? Open – "Some of the best things in life happen by accident". How open are you to circumstances, opportunity and people who can help you? The point to Mike’s story is not that you should run down to Starbucks and get a new role, although I am sure if that’s good for you, Starbucks would be happy to help. I think that the lesson is in the courage to spend some time on these important questions. You could then experience what Mike found in his journey. "Once you follow your heart there are a lot of happy surprises that happen". Looking for that large-double-exciting-extra-hot career? Join our free workshop based upon my book "Get the Right Job Right Now!" – one hour could change your direction in your career. Looking for more personalized support? Book an initial consultation with me. Your Career Barista, along the road with you! Alan