Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

January 27, 2018


Howard Schultz has always had an innate purpose to be compassionate. 

It started when he was seven years old. 

He watched his father suffer on the couch with a broken hip and a broken ankle after slipping and falling on the ice. 

Howard and his family lived in Brooklyn’s public housing. His parents were high school dropouts — and they didn’t have a lot of money. His mother was a receptionist. His father, an army vet,  worked for a diaper delivery service. 

After the fall, his father couldn’t work at all. That took the family from living in poverty to living well below the line.

Within months, the family was too poor to even put food on the table. 

Howard saw the desperation on his father’s face daily. The desperation of not knowing if he would make it. The desperation of seeing his family suffering beyond hope.

Fred Schultz wasn’t dying of a broken hip or a broken ankle. But his spirit was broken and Howard took notice.

Howard Schultz burned the image of his father’s defeated, broken spirit in his mind. Even at seven years old, Howard knew what his purpose was. 

Help others. 

If he couldn’t ease suffering altogether, he would at least try to make the world a better place at every turn he could.  

And that’s how he lived his life from that moment on. 

Howard’s mother pushed him to go to college. He was already playing football in high school; so when he was offered a scholarship, Howard readily accepted.

But as college got closer and closer, Howard admitted that he didn’t want to play ball. He still wanted to go to college though. 

So he took out student loans, worked as a bartender, and sold blood to pay his way through school. Whatever it took.

When he graduated, Howard had a bunch of different jobs. He worked at a ski lodge, at a housewares company, and at Xerox. Finally, he got hired at a little four chain coffee shop called Starbucks. 

He loved the company that hired him.

So much, that he could see it turning into a huge chain of coffee roasters and coffee shops.

But the founders of Starbucks heartily disagreed with him and his idea of expansion.  They told him that they weren’t interested in that kind of growth. They were content staying small and relatively unknown.

They were focused more on their other investments. And so, Howard’s purpose shifted. He walked away completely. Left Starbucks. 

So Howard decided to start a coffee shop of his own. One he could grow and run the way he wanted to.

But he didn’t have that kind of money in his checking account.

He had to raise $1.6 million just to get it up and running. That was painful every step of the way. He pitched 242 people — looking for investment in his purposeful new venture. Of them, 217 people said “No”. 

For a short time, Howard was discouraged, but he would not be beaten. So he just kept asking. 

And he succeeded. 

His coffee shop, Il Giornale, was opened and was a success. He recreated an Italian atmosphere offering limited seating, ice cream, coffee and opera music. An idea he got while visiting Italy.

And people loved it. Howard’s dream was a success. Time was on his side.

A couple of years later, those early founders of Starbucks decided to sell their little coffee shop.

Howard paid $3.8 million for the Starbucks brand and the stores that were already in existence. 

Once the deal was made, Howard’s purpose changed — again. 

Howard wanted Starbucks to be a household name. And so, he started an aggressive expansion. 

Howard was so dedicated to making Starbucks exceptional that in 2008, he shut down over 7,100 stores to retrain his baristas. 

  • He was determined to give customers a human and deeply personal experience. 
  • He was determined to teach his employees that their job was important. That they each had a chance to change the world with their job.
  • He was determined to show the world that working behind a counter was not menial labor.

That it was appreciated and necessary to form relationships.

He wanted Starbucks to be a place that felt like home.

A place to gather. A place for community. Howard wanted Starbucks to be a regular part of people’s days. 

Home. Work. And somewhere in the middle — Starbucks. 

And his plan worked. 

With purpose, he grew Starbucks into an empire. From an original 6 store operation to over 27,000 shops worldwide.

Last year, in China, a Starbucks opened every 15 hours. Currently, 20% of people who drink Starbucks visit the store at least every other day. A commitment they are happy to make. 

And it’s not just the coffee drinkers who are satisfied with Howard’s work. 

As part of the overhaul, Starbucks offers tuition repayment programs for all its employees.

It also offers full healthcare benefits to everyone, even part-time workers along with stock options.  Howard doesn’t think of the people who work at Starbucks as just employees, he considers them as partners.

And Howard just keeps meeting the needs of the people. He recently announced that Starbucks would hire 10,000 military vets and their spouses, as well as 10,000 refugees. 


A little over a year ago, Howard stepped down as CEO of Starbucks when he realized his new purpose.

Social justice. 

Howard Schultz has openly shared his discouragement over the past few years with the condition of the American people.

From immigration to tax reform to race relations to poverty, Howard has said, “I think the country needs to become more compassionate more empathetic. We can’t have an America, and speak of the promise of the American dream and leave millions of people behind…” 

Rumors have surfaced that Howard Schultz may be considering running for President in 2020 to possibly fulfill that purpose. Howard hasn’t said the rumors are true. So it’s anybody’s guess. 

Could Howard have known at the young age of 7 that he would create a dynasty so globally encompassing his imprint would touch billions of people?

Probably not. In fact, it’s not apparent that he was ever motivated by the overwhelming desire for fame or fortune.

A sense of purpose is what drove his success.

He was purposeful. Whether it was working his way through college. Whether it was his passion to create a new coffee experience. Whether it was the decision to give employees free healthcare or free college tuition.

He had purpose. And that attracted wealth and happiness and a sense of fulfillment. But notice the order. 

Purpose first. Then success. That’s the exact same formula for you.

You are still going to have setbacks, obstacles, and problems beyond your imagination. But it is that sense of duty, of mission, of purpose that pulls you through the hard times to achieve success.

What’s the purpose for you? What is it that drives you? 

Do you know? Are you living it?

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.