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Dave Shearon, MAPP, applies positive psychology to both law and education. Dave writes articles about applications of Positive Psychology to law and education at his site. He co-authored the recently published book, Smart Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth. Full bio.

Dave's articles are here.

Over the last year, I have started to develop my stories. At first, they simply came out as part of speaking to audiences of lawyers about positive psychology. Eventually, I realized that I was just doing what many of those I admire do also. Marty Seligman has the “Nicky story” and Karen Reivich tells her “coaster story.” David Pollay is a master storyteller.

How Starbucks Saved My Life

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill is Mr. Gill’s fall and redemption story. Of course, it starts in a Starbucks. Mr. Gill, in his early 60s, is glumly worrying about his failing consulting business, his son from an affair that broke up his marriage, and his brain tumor. A young, African-American Starbucks manager sitting at the next table asked, “Would you like a job?” He accepts, and over the next year, the high school dropouts with whom he works at Starbucks teach him about the importance of relationships and the strengths in each of us. After decades as a top executive in the advertising industry, he finally finds happiness at work. Those are his words, not mine. The book is a great read. If you need an idea for a Christmas present, you could do worse!

I think the positive psychology connections will be obvious to PPND readers. I would simply like to also point out that, by emphasizing the ability of those without a college education to contribute to our society,this book provides a valuable service to the K-12 education establishment. Too often, those in policy and administrative leadership positions talk and act as if college is the only possible purpose for K-12 schooling. By showing us how those who do not, for one reason or another, succeed in a school environment may yet use their strengths to contribute in our society, this book provides a valuable service. (And those who knock the work as “demeaning” haven’t read the book and don’t understand engagement or calling.)

According to Ap Dijksterhuis, the powerful analytical engine of our unconscious thought does not do precision. This powerful part of our mental apparatus, a/k/a “the elephant” (Haidt) or System 2 (Kahneman), handles quantities more as qualities than as precise amounts. Statistics and facts, therefore, can only do so much to persuade us. Stories persuade us. Thus, perhaps in some way, How Starbucks Saved My Life might be a very significant book for positive psychology. At the very least, it can encourage each of us to find our own stories and have the courage to tell them. Thank you, Michael Gates Gill!



Gill, M. G. (2008). How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else. Gotham.

Haidt, J. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic Books.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. London, Allen Lane.

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Senia 18 November 2007 - 10:18 pm

Great story, Dave. Thank you. Very interesting angle on what works. Sometimes, life is just simple. You also make it sounds like the author captivates the reader, so I’ll certainly leaf through the book out next time I’m at a bookstore.

Barb 23 November 2007 - 12:21 pm

Enjoyed this article : I get Positive Psych. GoogleAlerts & this was one. I do not read all but glad I read this one. Liked the comment that the ‘unconscious does not do precision or focus on quantity’ – assume translates anything relating to hardscience/statistics/numbers to the ”’core message and/or Word/feeling meaning they are telling one”’ — —
I received a MA in an area of Pos.Psych. 2 yrs. ago, find the new ‘Psych. branch’ of PP a potential partial panacea for OurAge … from an old song:
accentuate the positive, xxx the negative, ETC.
if we can work via providing more TOOLS thru psychology, sociology, social Sci., philosophy to our world, U.S. citizens included and maybe serve as LEADING the WAY …
to create a Half-FULL-Glass mentality, accentuate GRATITUDE and Optimism …. maybe local, national
and global war, distruct, animosity & NEGATIVE can
slowly soften to more concensus, compromise and conviviality …. Let’s get goin’ , as they say. ~TODAY is the first Day of the rest of any living being’s LIFE~ * to go back to a overdone saying of some years past. i leave U with ~~ Be with those who help your Being ….. Barbara Ann


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