From a small-mill town to being a Boston Public Schools (BPS) teacher to the life of riches as a real estate developer and restaurateur, Jamaica Plain resident Rob White has led a well-traveled life.
But at one point, White looked inside himself and felt spiritually empty. That sparked White on a journey of self-discovery and eventually penning the book “And Then I Met Margaret: Stories of Ordinary Gurus I’ve Met,” in which he details the pearls of wisdom he has gained throughout his life.
“Every human being has unlimited potential. If you challenge yourself, you find you can succeed,” said White during a recent sit-down interview at J.P. Licks.
White, who some JPers might know as the man who walks around Jamaica Pond with his parrot Shakespeare on his shoulder, grew up in the Western Massachusetts mill-town Athol.
White always assumed he would follow tradition and work in the mill after graduating high school. But a manager at an after-school job noticed White’s meticulous work ethic and told him he was “college material.” That helped change his way of thinking and he went on to attend the University of Massachusetts. The manager is just one of 21 ordinary gurus White writes about in the book.
Another guru was a student named Debbie who he taught at the Curley School in JP. Debbie asked White how she could become “smarter than I think I am,” meaning to gain confidence and change her behavior so she could act with more intelligence.
White taught her how and realized in the process he needed to do the same. He had always had a dream of wanting to start his own business and now he understood he needed to believe in himself and do it. That led him to become a successful real estate developer on both the East and West Coasts and opening the restaurant Devon on the Commons.
It was at Devon on the Commons that White met the guru whose name graces the title of the book. White said that at the time he was a “braggart” with a lot of money, fancy cars and beautiful houses. One of his former colleagues at BPS suggested a field trip to his restaurant and White was excited to showcase his talents and motivate a new generation of entrepreneurs.
White asked the students at the end of the restaurant tour for questions and a named Margaret got up and asked him if he liked her red dress. He realized that the child was still in that stage of life when it was all about “me,” but that he needed to get past the view of the universe revolving around him.
The book is available on amazon.com, where it has become an international bestseller. White said that when people read the book, he hopes they realize that “we are all maestros orchestrating our lives.”