From Bitterness to Understanding: Howard Schultz’s Path to Parental Appreciation

Shah Mohammed
4 min readNov 27, 2023

In the journey of transforming Starbucks from a small bean-selling store to a global phenomenon, Howard Schultz’s personal story plays a crucial role. His early life was marked by financial struggles, a narrative that shaped his perception of his father.

During those challenging times, Schultz held his father responsible for the family’s hardships. His father, a hardworking man employed in various blue-collar jobs like truck driving, selling diapers, and driving a cab, often had to juggle two or three jobs to make ends meet. Despite caring deeply for his kids, Schultz’s father felt defeated and worn down.

The family’s economic condition was tough, and they couldn’t afford their own home, residing in subsidized housing projects that carried a certain stigma. As Schultz grew older, clashes with his father became frequent. Schultz harbored bitterness toward his father, viewing him as an underachiever who lacked responsibility. In Schultz’s eyes, his father, despite putting in hard work, faced challenges in making substantial progress in life. Schultz believed his father could have achieved more if he had only shown greater ambition and determination.

This perception intensified Schultz’s fear that he might one day end up like his father — a life marked by perceived failure and incapacity. He was determined not to follow the same path, working hard to avoid becoming what he saw in his father — a symbol of unfulfilled potential and a person who couldn’t seize control of his own life.

As Schultz ventured into his own entrepreneurial journey, acquiring Starbucks and witnessing its growth, the bitterness towards his father began to diminish. However, traces of resentment lingered. A few years later, as Schultz’s father lay on his deathbed, conflicting emotions waged a battle within Howard. The predominant feelings were overwhelming sadness and the lingering bitterness that stemmed from his perception of his father as an inadequate provider who failed to take charge of his own life.

Following his father’s passing, Howard sought solace in the company of a longtime friend who had known him since childhood. During their conversation, Howard shared the conflicting emotions he harbored about his father. In response, his friend offered a perspective: “If your dad had been successful, maybe… you would not have had as much drive as you have. And you might not have achieved such significant success in life.”

This statement resonated with Howard, making him reflect on the driving force behind Starbucks — fear of failure. Gradually, he reconciled with the bitterness he once held and gained a newfound respect for his father’s memory. Howard realized that life is influenced by various circumstances and factors beyond one’s control and an individual’s success is shaped by a complex interplay of these elements.

In hindsight, Howard acknowledged that his father did the best he could. He understood the unfairness of blaming him for not overcoming circumstances beyond his control. This realization marked a significant shift for Howard, fostering an appreciation for the complexities of life and the understanding that individuals navigate their paths amidst a myriad of challenges that influence their journey toward success.

Howard Schultz's journey highlights the complex dynamics of familial relationships and the impact they can have on our perceptions. Here are some pieces of advice derived from Schultz’s story to avoid misconceptions about our parents:

Embrace Empathy: Before passing judgment, try to understand your parents’ experiences, challenges, and the context in which they made decisions. Empathy can provide valuable insights into their journey.

Recognize Limitations: Acknowledge that individuals, including parents, are influenced by external factors, biological factors, and constraints. Be mindful that they might have faced limitations beyond their control.

Open Communication: Foster open and honest communication with your parents. Share your feelings, concerns, and aspirations. This dialogue can lead to a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.

Avoid Unrealistic Expectations: Be realistic in your expectations of your parents. Understand that they, like everyone else, are fallible and may have faced circumstances that influenced their decisions.

Reflect on Perspectives: Consider multiple perspectives, including your parents’ viewpoints. Reflecting on their experiences can provide a more comprehensive understanding of their actions and decisions.

Learn from Their Journey: Recognize that your parents’ journey, with its ups and downs, contributes to your own growth. Instead of focusing solely on perceived shortcomings, identify the lessons and strengths derived from their experiences.

Appreciate Unconditional Love: Even in challenging circumstances, many parents express love and care in the best way they know how. Appreciate the positive aspects of your relationship and the love that may have been a constant, even if expressed in unconventional ways.

Embrace Forgiveness: Holding onto resentment can hinder personal growth. Embrace forgiveness and understand that people, including parents, are susceptible to making mistakes.

Focus on Personal Growth: Channel energy into personal growth and self-improvement. Learning from the past allows you to navigate your own journey with resilience and determination.

Build Your Own Path: While understanding your parents’ influence, remember that your life’s trajectory is unique. Use their experiences as lessons to shape your path rather than letting them define your destiny.

Schultz’s story serves as a testament to the resilience found in reframing perceptions, ultimately leading to a deeper appreciation for the profound impact of familial influences on our journeys.