Book Excerpt: The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich
In the heartwarming parable “The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich,” author David Bach, along with co-author John David Mann (The Go-Giver), tells the story of Zoey–a twenty-something woman living and working in New York City–who learns “Three Secrets to Financial Freedom” from a wise and mystical coffee shop barista. In the excerpt below, Zoey first meets the mysterious Henry Haydn, the elderly barista at her favorite Brooklyn coffee shop.
You’re Richer Than You Think
“Do something,” Barbara had said. The next morning Zoey did something. She got ready for work and left her apartment fifteen minutes early. She didn’t see the point in talking to the barista, as Barbara had urged, but at least she could spend a little time inside Helena’s Coffee and get a closer look at that photo print.
She put in her order, stood in line, then took her double- shot latte and began strolling through the place, taking it all in. Exposed brick, vaulted ceiling (painted black so it all but disappeared), big pendant lamps with full-spectrum bulbs, and big, artfully lit photographs covering the walls, making the place feel like one of Brooklyn’s trendy art galleries. Trendy, but old- school.
She walked all around the coffee shop perimeter, looking at the sequence of prints. Some were of breathtaking panoramas: snow-covered mountaintops, raging rivers caught in mid-splash, vast forest tracts. A few were in locations she thought she recognized from her work at the magazine. There was a shot of the Great Wall, another of a few young men working the family vineyard in the Italian Piedmont. A brilliantly colored flock of macaws in the Peruvian rainforest.
They were all amazing, but she kept walking—until she reached The Photograph.
This was the one. This one. She stood in place, some six feet back, gazing at it.
It was not a spectacular scene, really, at least not on the surface. A seaside village at dawn. A little fishing boat, just visible on the right, preparing for the day’s catch. People trundling to and fro along the little harbor, going about their village business.
What was it exactly that drew her so?
She took a few steps closer, enough to read the tiny printed inscription posted just below the right-hand corner. Ah. So it did have a price tag: $1,200.
Zoey’s heart sank. Pricey for a photo, but then, this was an exceptional piece, wasn’t it. And, really, $1,200 was not all that much in the big scheme of things. It was less than a month’s rent. Zoey ought to be able to afford it. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen that kind of money just sitting in her bank account, available to spend on whatever she wanted.
Oh, right, now she remembered when: that would be never.
She bent down and looked at the label again, to see where the shot was taken, but it didn’t say. In fact, other than the price, the only information provided was the photograph’s title, which consisted of a single word, in quotes:
Yes. It seemed like an odd title for a photo of a seaside village.
Yes what? Although, now that she looked at it again, it certainly
felt like a Yes to her. What was the location? Had to be one of the Greek islands. “Where are you?” she murmured. “Rhodes? San- torini?” No, that wasn’t it. “Crete?”
The voice was so close to her ear, it made Zoey jump, and she nearly spilled her latte.
“Sorry,” the man said. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you. You were pretty focused there.” He nodded at the photograph. “Caught your eye, that one?”
Zoey nodded. “It’s beautiful. The light is amazing. Very Yes,” she added, pointing at the label. The elderly man peered at the label, then nodded. She stuck out her hand. “I’m Zoey. Zoey Daniels.”
The man shook her hand. His skin was dry and cool, like fine canvas. “Henry Haydn,” he said. He pronounced it hidin’, as in “hide-and-seek.” “Like the composer,” he added. “Though not as famous.”
“Henry,” she said. Of course. She recognized him now: the barista. “Maybe more famous than you realize.”
The man cocked his head, as if to say, Oh?
“My boss told me about you,” Zoey explained. “Said I should come in and talk to you.”
“Ah,” he said. “About what?”
Zoey opened her mouth to answer, then closed it again, then grinned at him. “You know, I have no idea.”
He smiled and nodded toward the photo. “Don’t see a lot of people gravitate to this one,” he said. “Mostly people are drawn to the more dramatic shots, you know? Mountains, canyons, river rapids, things like that.”
Zoey could understand that. “This one, though,” she said. “It just seems so . . . alive.”
Henry nodded. “Personally, it’s my favorite out of all of ’em.”
Zoey stood and did a slow 360-degree turn, looking all around the place, then back at Henry. “Mine too.”
He cocked his head again. “Well. It’s not taken, you know.” Zoey laughed. “I wish! But I’m afraid I couldn’t afford it.”
Henry nodded at the latte in her hand. “If you can afford that latte,” he said, and he tipped his head back toward the wall, “you can afford this photograph.”
“Sorry?” she said. Had she heard him right? That made no sense at all.
“Perhaps,” said Henry, “you’re richer than you think.”
She gave a puzzled smile, thinking, What an odd thing to say. Still, she liked his energy. “That’s a very nice thought,” she said. “Really, though, I’m just looking.” She leaned closer again, scour- ing the background for detail: the narrow cobblestoned streets, whitewashed houses, the royal-blue doors and shutters. “Myko- nos . . . You think?”
Henry leaned in, too, then slowly nodded. “I do.”
“It’s so beautiful.” Zoey sighed. “What I’d really love,” she spoke softly, as if talking to herself, “is to be there, smell that salt spray, hear those seagulls. Take in the whole scene with my own eyes and ears.”
She straightened up again with a self-conscious laugh, then spoke in her normal voice. “Anyway. That’s totally out of the question.”
“Totally – out of – the question,” he repeated, speaking slowly, as if musing over the words. He cocked his head at her. “But that would depend on the question. No?”
Zoey wasn’t sure what to say to that.
“You like photography,” he said. “Tell me. Do you know the term ‘oculus’?”
“By Fulton Center,” she said. “I’m actually headed there right now.”
“No, no,” he said. “Not the structure. I mean, in photography.” Zoey frowned.
“Oculus,” he repeated. “It means figuring out where you want to stand. Where you stand, and what you see from there, is the key to putting together the right picture. That’s what creates the perspective you want. You know what I mean?”
Zoey nodded, although, to be honest, she was not at all sure she did.
“In photography,” the barista continued, “the oculus is where you place the camera. It’s Latin for eye. Only it’s really your eye. Because you see the picture first, you see, in your mind’s eye. In your oculus.”
“Okay,” said Zoey. She had never looked into the word’s meaning.
“Now, I’m saying photography,” he added, “but you could just as easily say a story you’re going to write. A trip you’re about to take. A meal you’re preparing in your kitchen for friends who will be over in an hour or two. The point is, you’re standing there, and there are three things: you, your lens, and the world. What will you create?”
What had Barbara said? He’s resourceful. To Zoey, “eccentric” was the word that came to mind. But sweet. Gentlemanly. Definitely old-school—like the coffee shop itself.
Henry Haydn glanced back toward the front of the shop, as if to make sure he wasn’t needed there. The Brooklyn hipster with the beanie and long beard behind the counter caught his eye and called over, “No worries, Henry. We’re all good.”
Henry looked back at Zoey and tilted his head toward a little high-top table in the corner. “Join me for a moment?”
Zoey smiled. “Why not?”
She followed him over to the little table, where they each took a tall stool. He picked up a well-worn Moleskine notebook that lay on the table, flipped open the cover, took a brushed steel drafting pencil from a jacket pocket, and began sketching, his hand flying over the page. A few seconds later he turned the notebook so she could see it.
A grave plot and tombstone with neat lettering on it.
Born ?? — Died ??
“Let’s say, this is the end of your life.”
“Really,” said Zoey dryly. “So sad, she died so young.”
Henry chuckled. “Humor me. Let’s say we’re writing your epitaph. Call it, your oculus.” He tapped the sketch with his pencil. “Here is where you’re standing, looking back at this picture you’ve composed: your life. So, what does that landscape look like?”
Zoey’s breath caught.
She hadn’t been able to put it into words, but what he’d just said was exactly what had been bothering her the last few days. What did the landscape of her life look like? She didn’t know.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not like where you end up.
“You see?” said Henry. “The picture happens first in your mind’s eye. Before you shoot. That picture is where everything starts. That picture is what guides it all. Your oculus.”
Zoey’s phone buzzed. She glanced down. A text from an eager intern at work early, wanting to know which set of copyedits to start with.
“You need to get to work,” ventured Henry.
“I really do,” said Zoey apologetically. “Thanks for the . . . for the chat.” She wasn’t sure what else to call it. Art lesson? Notes on perspective?
“Nice talking with you,” said Henry as she got to her feet and headed for the door. “Come back anytime.”
Copyright © 2019 by David Bach from The Latte Factor: Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
This excerpt was featured in the May 5th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.