There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.

This is the kind of passionate conviction that sparks romances, wins battles, and drives people to pursue dreams others wouldn't dare. Belief in ourselves and in what is right catapults us over hurdles, and our lives unfold.

"Life is a sum of all your choices," wrote Albert Camus. Large or small, our actions forge our futures, hopefully inspiring others along the way.

Ultimately, closing our stores was most powerful in its symbolism. It was a galvanizing event for Starbucks' partners—the term we use for our employees—a stake in the ground that helped reestablish some of the emotional attachment and trust we had squandered during our years of focusing on hypergrowth. A bold move that I stand by today, it sent a message that decisiveness was back at Starbucks. No doubt, after that Tuesday, thousands of Starbucks espresso shots were poured like honey. But a symbolic act and three hours of education would not solve our mounting problems. We had a long, long way to go—further than I had imagined when I returned as ceo. In the winter of 2008, the fight began for our survival. What we faced was nothing less than a crucible, and I had spent the past year preparing for it.

Reprinted from Onward by Howard Schultz. Copyright (c) 2011 by Howard Schultz. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.