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: 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.