By Willie Jolley
NNPA Columnist

Chris Gardner wrote the book, The Pursuit of Happyness, about his story of being homeless and rearing son while working on getting into the stock industry. The book became a #1 New York Times bestseller and blockbuster movie, starring Will Smith. The movie of the same title went on to receive a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award.

When the term “renaissance man” was coined, they had Chris Gardner in mind. He is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, philanthropist, international speaker and proud single parent, which are all titles he fought and struggled to own.

After receiving his high school diploma, Chris joined the Navy. After his discharge, he worked as a medical research associate for a scientific supply distributor. With the birth of his son Christopher Gardner Jr., he was determined to find a career that would be both lucrative and fulfilling.

Chris was always fascinated by finance. With no college education or prior experience, he studied and passed the test for an entry-level position at the investment firm Dean Witter Reynolds. The first time he stepped onto the Wall Street trading floor with ticker tapes flying and bodies moving fast, Gardner knew he was home.

Now, the only challenge was, he had to be willing to live on next to nothing while he learned a new trade. He lost his apartment. His wife left him. But, Chris was determined to keep and rear his 14-month-old son, a decision undoubtedly influenced by his never having met his dad.

He remembered the early advice someone had given him, “Your future is the combination of all the decisions you’ve made earlier. Decide to become world class at whatever you do!”

Gardner became a member of the homeless working class. He kept his small family together, often sleeping and bathing in the bus station bathrooms. It’s estimated that 18 percent of the American population find themselves in that predicament today. Calculations from different sources show that at least 2.3 million people experience homelessness at some time during an average year, most of whom have families. Consequently, during a typical year, between 900,000 to 1.4 million children are homeless.

Over the course of 25 years, Gardner went from working for Dean Witter Reynolds and Bear Stearns to founding his own brokerage firm and going on to become a multimillionaire. Today, Gardner is involved with homelessness initiatives assisting families to stay intact, and assisting homeless men and women who are employed but still cannot get by.

His book has been translated into 44 languages and the movie is the first American film ever shown in China.

Chris Gardner says, “Don’t never let someone tell you what you can’t do! Let the world be your classroom. Remember, wherever you end up, you drove yourself there! Then you can drive yourself out!” Be clear, concise, consistent, and committed to your goals. Surround self with smart people, who are the best at what they do! Get smart people, and then listen to them.

Here are the take-a-ways I gleaned from interviewing Chris Gardner:

1. There is a price to pay for success, and it has nothing to do with money. It’s all about work.
2. Make a commitment to become world-class at whatever you do. Not good, not pretty good, but world-class.
3. Your future is determined by the decisions you make today. So make wise choices.
4. Wherever you end up, you must take responsibility that you drove there. But if you don’t like where you are, you can drive out.
5. The cavalry “ain’t coming,” so you must become your own cavalry.
6. You cannot change something until you own it. So own it, and go about the work to fix it.
7. Commit to your Plan A and make it happen. Don’t even deal with Plan B, because if it were really good, it would be Plan A.
8. To be successful, you must be clear-minded, concise in your plan, compelled and committed to make it happen.
9. Surround yourself with people who are positive and committed to excellence.
10. Keep learning. Keep growing. Learn from life, great books, great people and experiences. Let the world be your classroom.

Willie Jolley is America’s #1 Inspirational/Motivational Speaker/Singer/Author! He is the host of the #1 Motivational Show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and the opening speaker on the national “Get Motivated Business Seminar Tour.” A member the National Speakers Association’s Hall of Fame, Jolley was named “One of the Outstanding 5 Speakers In The World” by Toastmasters International. He is the author of several best-selling books and can be reached through his website (www.williejolley.com).


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