What You Can Learn from “The Pursuit of Happyness” Article by: Jim Rohrbach
“If you want to, one day you could make a million dollars.”
Betty Jean Gardner to her son Chris Gardner
I want to share some lessons from the story of Mr. Chris Gardner, the subject of both the book and the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Chris Gardner is an impressive example of a person who has applied the principles of success against seemingly overwhelming obstacles, demonstrating that if HE made it, anyone can.
And what obstacles he had. Gardner happens to be African-American, not exactly a prime recruiting prospect for a financial services firm (his chosen profession) in the late 1970′s. He had no college degree, only a high school diploma and a stint in the Navy. In his youth he was emotionally and physically abused by his step-father, and was occasionally placed in foster care. He became a single parent who was at times homeless while working as a stockbroker, shuttling an infant son from daycare to homeless shelters while somehow keeping his day job going. In desperate hours he sometimes slept under his desk. The kicker of all kickers: At one point he and his son had no choice but to sleep in a subway station bathroom — how do any of your obstacles measure up against THAT?
And yet he rose to excel on Wall Street. Today Chris Gardner is the head of his own international holdings company with offices in Chicago and New York. He is active in many philanthropic organizations including the National Education Foundation. He has been honored by many of these, and has met with President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Let me run down some of the success principles he followed that made him who he is today:
Mission Chris Gardner seems to have been on a mission since the time his son was born — to be the father that he never had. Come hell or high water, he was going to find the way to provide his child with the kind of advantages that were totally out of reach for him. Each of us needs to determine what kind of mission we are on if we want to keep the fire burning when adversity is raining down on our career.
Positive Mental Attitude The quote above from Gardner’s mother is one sterling affirmation. When Chris’ mother spoke these words he was just a teenager. But they stayed with him his whole life, and the words kept flashing through his mind on his journey to success. What we tell ourselves we are IS who we are, so words of affirmation and inspiration must be embedded in our minds if we want the
Persistence and Determination The people who succeed have made up their minds about what they want, which is why they succeed. Chris made up his mind and stuck with it. That initially involved a minimum of 200 phone dials a day to people who often hung up on him. Most people don’t have that kind of conviction, which is why they flounder in mediocrity. I’m not one to judge what level you seek in life — I just want you to observe that if a Chris Gardner can make up his mind to go to the highest level, so can you.
Visualization In the book Gardner talks about a life-changing encounter: In a parking lot he met a well-heeled gentleman who was driving a red Ferrari. He had to know what this person did and how he did it. Turns out the gentleman was in the financial services industry, making a great living by mostly talking to people on the phone. At the time they met Chris was selling medical supplies, driving all over town and barely getting by. He thought, “Hey — I can talk to people from a desk in a nice office, avoid parking tickets and get the car of my dreams … that’s what I want to do!” And from that point on, no matter how difficult things became, Chris held on to his vision of what he wanted. What pictures are we holding in our mind on a daily basis.
Giving Back Since Chris Gardner made it big time, he has made a point to give back to organizations that at one time supported him in his quest. I’m convinced the highest achievers always have a “cause” — something they believe so strongly in as to continually inspire their everyday interactions to the next level.
Chris Gardner’s remarkable achievements show that no matter what obstacles you face, the rules of the game of success are the same for everyone. If you follow the rules, no matter how tough it gets, you too will reap the reward of your own “Pursuit of Happyness.”
Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” coaches business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He has helped hundreds of individuals to achieve their goals since he developed his first coaching program in 1982. To arrange a Free Consultation with Jim, go to www.SuccessSkills.com.