John Mackey Tells ‘The Whole Story’ in New Book

John Mackey’s latest book, The Whole Story: Adventures in Love, Life, and Capitalism, offers insights and lessons from the launch of Whole Foods Market to its $13.7 billion acquisition by Amazon. The Whole Foods Market Co-founder recounts 45 years of leadership and the evolution of the international brand.

In 1978, Whole Foods Market narrowly avoided a premature end due to bureaucratic red tape. Mackey was transforming an old Victorian house in Austin into a natural foods store, but lacked the necessary permits. A city official halted construction until the permits were obtained, a process that could have taken months and potentially bankrupted the fledgling business. On the advice of an associate, Mackey resumed construction at night to avoid detection by officials. This bold move paid off, and Whole Foods Market was born.

This near-death experience is one of many examples in Mackey’s book, which mixes memoir and business advice. Published on May 21st, The Whole Story also highlights numerous missteps. “There’s an amazing amount of experiences we had and mistakes we made that you might as well learn from so you don’t have to repeat them,” Mackey says.

Among the lessons Mackey shares are the importance of having a shared mission, the strategic timing of raising investor capital, and the necessity for companies to evolve or risk extinction. Reflecting on Whole Foods’ journey, from its modest beginnings to its acquisition by Amazon, reminded Mackey of his transformation from a self-described “hippy health nut” to the CEO of a major international brand. “It allowed me to relive the 45 years I spent at Whole Foods, both the highs and the lows, and to remember how I learned and how I grew,” Mackey says.

 One constant throughout Mackey’s career has been his passion. His enthusiasm for leading a dietary revolution and maintaining a positive mindset, even during challenging times, has been a cornerstone of his success. “If you’re excited about something, you’re gonna be passionate about it,” Mackey says. “As long as you have purpose, you’re mission-driven, and doing something you personally care about, you’ll be in a good place.”