What I’ve learned working at Starbucks

When people hear that I used to work at Starbucks, they’re surprised, even shocked. They ask me if I’m joking, convinced that I’m the last person that would ever take that kind of job.

And I used to brush it off too. I’d be embarrassed and say that that past isn’t really worth mentioning.

But that’s where I was wrong.

A past, no matter how embarrassing you think it is, is a part of who you are as a person and a part of who you’ll become. A past, no matter how insignificant you think it is, will have influenced your decisions in life at some level whether or not you realize it. A past no matter what is always worth mentioning because there’s always a story to be told, a lesson to be learned.


It was the summer right after high school. I had applied to my local community college and figured I’d get a job somewhere so I could pay the bills while working on my startup. On a whim, I took up a friend’s recommendation and applied at the Starbucks I had frequented often in the past.

The application and interview process was surprisingly easy. Just a few simple questions to answer and I was hired.

Work was straightforward, but tedious and of a repetitive nature. Grab a cub, press a button, steam some milk, serve. Repeat. On most days, that’s all you’d do — make drink after drink all the way until the end of your shift. There was never any thinking to be done, other than trying to remember if the syrup was already added. It was all just about following instructions.

I worked at Starbucks close to half a year before I quit. When I left, I didn’t even give two weeks prior notice; I just decided at the spur-of-the-moment to tell the manager one night that I no longer wanted to work there.
I had had enough.
I no longer wanted to work at a place I wasn’t passionate about, that felt stagnant with no opportunities to grow.
I no longer wanted to work at a place where the culture consisted of drama and gossip.
I no longer wanted to work at a place where I couldn’t learn anything.


If you ask me what I’ve learned by working at Starbucks, it’ll be the realization of never wanting to work at that kind of job again. It’ll be the realization that I won’t be satisfied ever until I find a job where my growth won’t be limited realistically in a mere three to five years. It’ll be the realization that the kind of job I want is one that’ll challenge me and make me feel as if I’m accomplishing something, a job that I’m passionate about.

The experience at Starbucks has been crucial to the success I’ve had and will continue to do so towards my future because it’s a constant reminder to never set my sights too low, to never lower the expectations I have for myself so I can push myself to do more, and achieve more.

Working at Starbucks was a turning point in my career; it gave me perspective. I was tired of waking up at 4:45AM, all for the sake of making beverage after beverage for people who’d never truly care. I was tired of being stuck at a job that taught me nothing and gave me no hope for potential growth. It made me realize that I sought more from myself, and made me realize that I didn’t want to live like this, that this wasn’t fulfilling for me. It made me realize that there are better things I could be doing with my time.

Starbucks also taught me about optimism. I had been too optimistic in my own abilities; I had believed I was capable of both working close to full-time while running a full-time startup. It was silly, a mere pipe dream. By the time my shift had ended and feet were aching, I was already too tired to work on anything else. The progress I made on my startup that year was less than the progress I had made in any of the months after quitting.


When people ask me about that part of my past, I don’t hide it anymore. I don’t brush it off, disregard it. It’s a part of who I am, and who I’ll become. My past is the key to my future.

It’s important to realize that every piece of your past can be considered worthwhile, impactful to your development as a person. Every mistake, every victory you’ve made is a part of who you are. Your past reflects the experiences you’ve been through, the lessons you’ve learned, the knowledge you’ve gained. Every opportunity you’ve taken or missed determines the very progress you’ve made in life. Without a past, we’d be no one. We wouldn’t have a story to tell.

Our past teaches us to learn from our mistakes, to celebrate the struggles we’ve overcome and to find joy in exceeding the limits we set. No matter what your past is like, no matter the hardships you’ve been through, no matter the fortunes you’ve been given, there’s always a lesson to be learned from our pasts. Someone who struggles through hardships learn to grow resistance towards obstacles; they gain persistence and become determined to succeed. Someone who’s lived life spoiled will eventually learn to experience the harsh difficulties of the world; their past will then become a constant reminder for them to never take things for granted and to put in the effort.

The best thing we have other than our future is our past because it’s the best guide we have in obtaining the life we want. It teaches us exactly what we need to know, what to avoid, what to focus on, who to care about, what works and what doesn’t. It’s our pilot, our compass; it’s what we’ll use to drive ourselves forward. Without it, we couldn’t be anywhere or be anyone at all.

The next time you’re embarrassed about a part of your past, don’t. Embrace it and rejoice it in, even if it’s for the sake of the lesson learned. The future is built on your past, one step at a time.

“The past is your lesson. The present is your gift. The future is your motivation.” — Anonymous

About the author

Jon Lee

I travel the world in search of lessons worth sharing. Addicted to culture shock and transparency. Currently working on heeyy and duuck.

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