- Share your favorite videos with friends
- Comment on videos and join the conversation
- Get personalized recommendations
- Enjoy exclusive offers
Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
A friend of mine called him up and said, hey you know, you know let's work together again, because he was running what was then by the way I am also the lot of companies I mentioned are no longer with us, like Pan American Airways, once was America's biggest and most successful airline and he he would have that account and that was one of the big accounts of J Walter Thompson which was the biggest advertising agency in the world. So he said, you know, have a job over here and that was an easy transition, because they were eager to give any one who had that account, you know a job, and only two copywriters were hired in those days for training program in J Thompson guess what, I was one of them. And then I was promoted because our clients came from the same background. In those days there was sort of a Eastern Establishment that was you know, Henry Ford had gone to Yell Twp and Ford was the biggest account of J Walter Thompson, that kind of thing. So we were all hiring each other and congratulating each other and we looked at and say, wow wasn't this great, you know, it's almost better than working for a living, because we sit around and make up these sort of nonsense jingles and you know, go to recording studios and get big salaries, six figure salaries and when we were very young, and so it was sort of a yeah, escalator going up. I was just talking to by the way, I am so grateful that Jennifer, a Barista at Starbucks is with us tonight and she was a former teacher she says she is happier than ever, too, so a little validation for my story. But little different because Jennifer is a lot younger and mother to two young daughters and and she has discovered a lot quicker in life how much fun life can be when you get out of that escalator thing. But I was the one at I wouldn't have left voluntarily, that's why I don't want to get behind the podium and pretend you know, pretend like I am some guru about life, the Dalai Lama I am not. And I whenever got but that I was pushed off it pushed by this young woman I would say, you should be very unforgiving, you have to be perceived as macho, she made it up to the Board of Directors, then she took me to breakfast you know, she invited me to breakfast offsite, never do that in corporate life. When they say, hello, would you like to have no, don't go, its like the mafia you know, that's not a dinner you want to attend you know, breakfast wow, it's a most professional death that was she was greeting me but but she she used the words you know, lead designer, we have to let you go, we are sorry, you know, let me go, you know. And in other words I was fired and and it was sad. I really but I couldn't even admit to myself, I was sad it was a complain, because it is like the there is sort of a vow of silence in corporate life. If you complain in any way, if you say, hey I was fired, how do you get your next and they said we will help you with our consulting company, right, which worked out for a couple of years because friends said okay, yeah I know you you know, we will do some work, but then they all disappeared, either fired or move on to the fairways, where were they are today, teeing up balls or coming back, and so there was a silence at the back you know, so scary in America when you are trying to get work to have silence in the phones. But I still had this magical thinking, if I dressed in my Brooks Brother suit, put on my neck tie, that's what we do in the East. It's so great to see no one in a neck tie, I am never going to wear a neck tie again, you have got to ride out, was the way before us and in Denver. But I so I put on my suit and good luck and then about a couple of weeks before I walked into the Starbucks store I had also been diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was really scary, don't ever go to the doctor after a certain age either you know, they will just tell you that's physical but then they would say, we will just check on you know my hearing is not as good as it used to be in one, just have an MRI you know, it takes 20 minutes, no big deal, you know. But then the doctor, when I saw him he was smiling with a photograph as he came towards me, I thought wow what a relief, you know, because you go on to that MRI machine and you think, you know anything could be and when he came by he said wow, he said, you have one of the rarest brain tumors, no one almost get this thing. Oh how you know why is he smiling. But he said the good news is he said, that's my specialty, I am a brain surgeon, you know I can operate immediately and you know you know that was not my idea of good news. And he said you know, it's not cancerous, we can taken it out right away, it won't you know, affect your hearing. But then he said, "And most people survive the operation." I was like wow. But he just told me I was unique, I was one of the few percentage. So and also but then I told him as he was getting ripped up about you know, the possibilities of how he was going to show up by performing this incredibly he says, it' brain surgery and we have to bore into your skull and wow. And I said you know, I don't have any health insurance, because by that time I lost my health insurance and all the stuff and he slowed a step. You can just see this stutter in his eyes, you know sort of 50 grand of whatever he was imagining, because I still looked like I was prosperous, you know. He certainly said, okay well and we are still by the way, four years later we are still doing what he calls watchful waiting, and I call fear and trembling. You know after this book talk I have to go back for another MRI, but I still its' amazing in life, one minute you are saying, "Why me", right, out of all these billions of people. And the other minute you are saying, hey I just bought another couple of months you know, without this guy operating on me. But a couple of weeks before that had been he also told me and so I was fired and by the way, I also got my divorce, my family thing is, you know in disarray, but I went back you know how sometimes you go back when life is really hard to you, your childhood memories, some happy time and I went back to the neighborhood I grew up in Manhattan, we had a little brownstone in East Seventy-eighth Street, a very nice shanty street and that can cough in the city and I noticed there was a new Starbucks store there where, you know the flower shop had been in my youth. So I went in I said, well you know, I might not have much in my life. I was sort of writing a chapter of and then it ended you know, that kind of thing. But I am going to have a latte you know, and I went in and I had a briefcase, my suit, and I tried to you know I got my latte in I was just about to start you know, fake phone calls, you know to sort of the master of the universe was still, you know, at least going through the motions and by accident I wandered in a Starbucks store that was having like a hiring event, in other words different people were different managers from around the city were coming into see if they could like hire some baristas. And I didn't know that, but I happened to sit down next to this young and attractive African American woman and she said, "Would you like a job?" And suddenly you know, finally, because I couldn't go ask for help, I couldn't even tell my family friends, hey I am getting broker and broker, I am in desperate need of a job you know how you get trapped in that the cocoon of sort of self pity and almost denial. You know something will happen, may be I will get out. But when she said, you needed "Would you like a job?" I said yes. So I broke through you know there is something about that moment. I said I was so desperate. And then she said, well just fill up this application and drop it off and I knew I would fail. So I also had the courage because it takes courage at 63 to sort of say I need help, and I said, "Yeah, but you got to help me with this", you know, I didn't tell her I never filled out a job application in my life. But I knew I never had to, I knew even if I had done it, I would have said something like, you know I was Creative Director, do you want me? Then I would have gotten hired, you know I would have been mixed up about it, because I was still in the entitlement titled positions, you know. So she was kind enough and once again, this is the kind of person I would never have thought about hiring or inviting into my elite group, right, that were doing all these great stuff, because my background, you would only hire people that talked, acted like you, educated like you, we were the only ones who were you know good enough. And and certainly but she saw me and I was obviously decades older than most people that she probably would even you know, work with. But she I think she pity it might be wrong, well I think she had sympathy, she realized I needed help. So she I sat down opposite to her and she said you know let's go through it. She said, okay do you have any retail experience? So I said, well what is retail? She said, well you know Wal-Mart. But I said, well I have never been in a Wal-Mart. So I said I tended to lose her, you know I could see so I remembered I had done a mission statement or something for Burger King, I said, well I worked with Burger King, she said oh Burger King, good you know. So she was on my side you know what's that helped how wonderful that felt, that she was going to help me make it. And that's the other thing that I had never done. My previous life we have had minority hiring programs you know, but I remembered vividly not at that time, but looking back and now remembered how I would didn't believe it would work and guess what, it didn't work you know. The person I was assigned you know, she made a few errors, I said she will never do it. She went to the Community College, she didn't go to Ivy League, she was wrong gender, color etc you know, consciously or subconsciously I didn't think it would work and it didn't and this young woman was going to help me make that transition. So sort of the world turned upside down. But she did she said okay now and then she called me about a week or two later saying, okay come over to my store, its on the West Side of you know, 93rd Broadway, wow that was scary too. I had never been over the West Side. I didn't know what it's like in Denver, there are certain neighbors you don't want to go to, you know, what they call mixed neighborhoods or what they call you know, up and coming or it's you know, nicely but tricky people, at any particular point you could be mugged or whatever it is, you know, New York New York, sort of -. So didn't really I said, well I thought you were on East Side, you know, 78th Street you don't worry, because that was I was you know, I was clinging to those sad passages of my former life. At least I would be working in the Starbucks in my neighborhood, you know and my own neighborhood. But she said, no, no, I am the manager of the store over there you know, do you want to work for me or not? In other words, for her she was going through a list of people and she was getting impatient, because she probably reached out to me and she was going to help, but to a point - you know and so I said "yes I do" and so she said show up and you know get some black pants, white shirts - you will have a black pants, white shirts or or khaki pants and white shirts and that kind of thing and so I showed up and when I entered the store I was still worried you know as I was going through that process of - I never imagined, you know I never had those expectation some day I wear a green apron and a black base ball cap and serve coffee you know, that had not been in my mind, so I was still in that state of sort of what what am I doing here and I came in and - but she came over to me and she brought me to a table and she gave me some delicious coffee. Jennifer loves coffee, I love coffee, it makes a big difference, that making a transition that that that actual business is drinking coffee. Who would have imagined that the actual business is enjoying yourself drinking coffee? It's that was great anyway, may be it was a sumatra it was delicious, then she also brought espresso brownies for me to eat and I have always loved brownies, so you know how those simple things and - not so simple because I had never in 26 years you know as the top executive in corporate America ever in my wildest dreams ever imagined bringing coffee for any one who worked for me I mean I say I don't say this as a pride but isn't that sad? I never never well though it had been across my mind to make that gesture of - and I and the first day at work I wanted say "hey we got these 18 things to do", you know I would not - you know my first boss told me in advertising, "fear is great motivator" so we have already gotten into you know how can we but she may be comfortable - she welcomed me in other words, she took time despite the busy retail of our and that was the other thing that sacred me a little bit because it was so busy you know I I saw these young 20 some things and basically or mainly African American, I would be a minority at the store and they were moving with such grace and speed to you know moving ventis or grandes or cappuccinos or frappuccinos wow and I know I had been an athlete you know as a third-string football player, the kind of guy only invited to the game when we are like 50 points ahead you know and these two were moving so quickly and also I heard the register going and and money was not a good making changes you know even with the simple transaction with with the challenge for me, that's one of the reasons I was there, I was no good in managing money. So that worried me, so I said you know at first I said "this job is below me and its humiliating then I said "wow, this could be a way beyond me you know, I really thought at that time that gosh you know being fired from J Walter Thompson one thing but being fired from Starbucks within a couple of days, that would be wow how do I explain it even to myself and I was scary, then she introduced me to the I met a young guy came into with a bit bulky and had one of those du-rags around you know phones you know know things in his ear and he was a kind of person I went to you know he looks either like a gangster or gangsta rap or what ever, but I would have avoid him, you know cross the street to avoid him and she said Kester Kester come over here you know meet Mike and and you know Kester is going to be your training coach, wow you know but he gave me a big smile that actually turned out that Kester help me because he just - you know he always said Mike you will make it, you know like first day on the bar, I dropped a whole container of milk he says everybody does that you know in other words instead of thinking I wasn't going to make it like I had thought towards other people that were different than me, he thought I wasn't going to make it. I was sure to make it, it's just a question of of how but I I did sort of a - I thought a very sure thing is I didn't try by the way to make any drinks or cash registers just luckily Crystal was the name of the manager and she she had a cleaning problem, so I merely said "I love to clean" now I never had cleaned in my life. I never cleaned my office you know some of those who have meet this cleanly, some one is coming up. I never cleaned my home in my you know all that stuff is done and so but I had to - I knew I had to do something that could be valuable, so when she said that's great we have a we have a grout problem I should call it a grout opportunity and that's the dirt between the tiles you know so I I said "wow I love to - you know I can do this" you know I got a little brush and then she and then I also discovered I could clean a bathroom and she said boy Mike I have never seen any one clean a bathroom like you I mean I was detailing a Ferrari you know, it was like sparkling and you know it's so because I think none of you probably could really, probably imagine this satisfaction you could get out of that finite achievement because I reached the point in my life where I didn't seem to be useful or have any value, you know that were just scary and - not not to be seen as contributing and now I can do some thing and then gradually yes I went on to the register and and but even today I - the other day I made changes says what changes should be like 17 dollars 31 cents and this says for me says for all the guest but I you know I I for some reason I am still having to drop making conversation and change so you know I give him back three dollars or some thing and he said you know Mike I think it's 17 and I am making drinks with Jennifer, we are talking about it - you know this lady came on the other day, Grande you know two pump sugar free vanilla, non fat, extra hot no foam latte, you know so I was making the milk and I dropping the - just it's it's tricky to drop just two pumps rather than the usual four, I was concentrating and I gave to her and she smiled, I smiled "wow! I did it you know" and then she came back two seconds later, later she said "Mike, I think something is missing from my drink". I said what is it? she said the coffee. I forgot to drop the coffee, little things like that. So I am still learning three and a half years later. But you know one of those nights closing with Kester after mopping and doing those tables and all so, I went on the street in in this west side which is tricky but it was you know it was after midnight and it was dark but you know I put my hand on my heart and I said you know I am happier than I have ever been and it took me unaware as you know sometime happiness can creep up on you and just surprise you. Even today I am not quite sure what I think part of it was, wow I don't have that huge so - superstructure of status, of big houses and big and expense accounts and a big life but I got a little life. Ooh! What a relief, what a relief and I go home now to a little apartment you know it has - I I thought it was a coo, I - I called it American minimalist style because I once had a hardware store saw these white picnic furniture you know these little - like chairs and tables and the chairs cost five bucks and the table cost 20 or something. So I have got a dining room set for about 35 dollars and that a New York Times reporter visited me in my home you know she just wanted to see how I was living and the sort of the life I am in and she said I got to stop being a reporter for a minute, she was really shocked, two minutes of silence you know she was a very talkative, causative. She saw this apartment, just no - nothing you know just this little picnic table, a one bed room etc and she said "you know I have got to stop being a reporter" you know because reporters hate to do that, they they want to be professional. I have got to stop being a reporter for a minute, I said "okay" She said "you have got to get a couch" you know wow you know this is terrible you know you are living like a - you know a college student. But maybe that's the idea a a college student without books you know because I have deassentioned - you know museums get rid of stuff and once again I am not recommending this to everyone but it is such a relief to me to come out and this is little renovated - apartment. I am living in the same town I grow up into a 25 room house. 25 room house with so many - so much stuff and it is such a relief to come home. I don't even have a TV because I would be pathologically watching you know the talking heads if I did, but I play music, I read a book and I think that time and that lack of stuff even if it had emotionally and mentally has given me the chance to write write this book. My daughter Annie told me to keep to journal before - while this all was happening before Starbucks so after about a year I I said this might be a story worth - worth sharing and the other aspect of that I think is is the part time job of it. And I know many of you probably are working hard at full time jobs but in America I think we go over board in that puritan ethic of you know "The devil makes works for idle hands" it mean I was working 12 hours a day and when I wasn't working I was thinking about work and what a sad thing that was, so I was playing with my kids and I wasn't really aware you know I was thinking about - Oh! I got to get this campaign or this politics or this memo it's it's such a sad, we live such a evanescent and and just precious few moments on this world to fill up that full with work and to be saying, what you will do, what we mean when we just ask each other, what we do or virtually saying "what is our work, now what is our life and because Starbucks is a part-time job with full time health benefits by the way for me and my kids and everybody. But because of the part time job, I think I I get up out of bed at 4 AM in the morning and at '67 I creep and crawl out but I get about 5 AM and I make coffee and share coffee with my partners and with the guests and it's enjoyable but in 1 O'clock I go out the door and I don't have to think about it. It's a finite part-time job. It is giving me a full enjoyable flowing - full time life and I I was so grateful for that and I think that's a big part of my happiness too, not only dropping those need to pretend like I could control life, you know because we also feel in America we can plan things out like a marketing plan for ourselves, we are going to do this, we are going to do that and if we forget that spontaneity and accidents, so that joy of life or the magic of life, that's when you can receive the unexpected blessings of life. So I think if there is one lesson I would say is that I was trapped somewhere on in that upward escalator and then and the downward escalator in a little box that I couldn't get out, I was so uptight and scared and that it could be worse if I did anything completely different and what I discovered and I think when Tom Hanks called to say do you want to make a movie of this and you wanted to play me you know weird uh-huh?. I I weird I mean that is totally unexpected. I am still in a stage of shock about that because I had written a different ending that to you know that - this is not a script that Hollywood be calling because I had such a wonderful life to talk about, right? So - but he said what appealed to him wasn't that was when you was unsuccessfully successful he he is much younger I think he is like 50 this year, he said is that jump to a whole new life, that you never imagine, that's the key. We - I didn't planned or I never imagined it, I never would have expected that I would be so happy and that that have appeal because you know it's sort of saying "there is a whole new life after your normal life - a few hour - the life you try - try to plan and that can be, if you just have the courage to reap, I had the desperation, I had the - you know just and I was given that helping hand that - but I don't think I would have done it still if I hadn't had that you know being trapped in that box but I think the one lesson out of this is you know we say to America, "look before you leap". My my only advice would be to to leap before you look. Just get into a whole new life because you could get at the very least I think it's rejuvenating, wow, I can move, I can contribute, I can be useful, I can be happy. But also for me it was reductive because it made me feel that I was more in the spirit of what was actually so much better life which had nothing to do with my previous life. So anyway I just wanted to say that I am so grateful to be at this great bookstore and I I know how many other things in your life you have to do, sounds so grateful that you came and I am I am - so feeling of joy and I am actually surprised happiness that I can I can share my story, I am walking around talking and share my story with you tonight. Thank you very much.