The Power of Perseverance in the Pursuit of Happiness
**This article was written by the Founder of DJ Connection (Tulsa Wedding DJs), U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year and America’s Number #1 Business Coach – Clay Clark
Christopher Paul Gardner (born February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today he is a world-renowned author, motivational speaker, stock broker, business owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist. However in the early part of the 1980s, Chris found himself homeless and raising his folder son. In 2006, Will Smith (the actor / entertainer) heard about his story and ultimately had it turned into a movie called the Pursuit of Happyness.
Today Gardner is the CEO of the stock brokerage he started. Gardner Rich & Co is based in Chicago, Illinois. Chris lives in both Toronto & Chicago. As Gardner travels around the world sharing his story of success, he credits tenacity and perseverance as being the reasons he overcame homelessness. Gardner says that the “high expectations” what were placed on him by his children, Chris Jr. (born in 1981) and his daughter Jacintha (born in 1985) kept him motivated.
Gardner was raised by his parents Thomas & Bettye Jean Gardner. He was raised in a blended home with a half-sister that was older than him and two younger half-sisters that were younger than him. His biological father abandoned him and his step-father was physically abusive to him growing up.
He grew up going in and out of foster care. The situation reached a climax when his mother tried to actually burn down their house with their step-dad still in it.
While growing up in the foster care system, Gardner spent time with his three maternal uncles. He became very close with his Uncle Henry. However, Henry drowned in a river. At Henry’s funeral Gardner discovered for the first time that his mom was in prison because she was only allowed to the attend the funeral with a prison guard escort. From prison, Gardner’s mom tried to encourage him by telling him that “The calvary ain’t coming.” She often told him that he could “only depend on himself” if he wanted to become successful.
After high school, he followed in his Uncle Henry’s footsteps and joined the Navy. After finishing his duty in the Navy he moved to San Francisco to a pursue a medical career. On June 18, 1977 Gardner married a woman named Sherry. Over time Gardner decided to abandon his medical career aspirations and his wife. He began working as a lab assistant making $8,000 per year. This was not enough money to support himself and his live-in girlfriend.
Creating his own opportunities.
To support himself and his son financially Chris transitioned into the world of medical sales. Having been previously afraid to operate in a commission only environment, he was now forced to do so. Soon he found himself making more than $16,000 per year (double of what he had been making). During this time he became very success conscious and found himself looking for opportunities around every corner. One day a pivotal moment occurred. After completing a sales visit to the San Francisco General Hospital her ran into a very well-dressed man in a red Ferrari, named Bob Bridges. Gardner was so impressed he couldn’t stop himself from asking the man, “what do you to for a living?” He followed the man all around the parking lot just to ask the question. The man told Gardner that he was a stock broker. Gardner instantly had his “aha moment!” This was his plan he was now going to become a stock broker.
Gardner got his information and tenaciously followed up with the man. Bridges organized meetings between Gardner and branch managers at the various stock broker firms that were offering training programs. For the next 2 months Gardner consistently had to cancel his sales appointments to do interviews with the big firms like Merrill Lunch, E.F. Hutton and Smith Barney.
He amassed a huge collection of parking tickets during this time. After nearly 3 months of pursuing interviews, he finally was accepted into the E.F. Hutton training program. Soon he quit his sales job so that he could focus on becoming a stock broker.
Then his live-in girlfriend accused him of beating her (which he denies). When he went to the police station for questioning they discovered he owed over $1,200 in parking tickets. Because he was unable to pay them he was ordered to stay in jail for 10 days.
When he got out of prison he returned to an empty apartment. His live-in girlfriend had taken all of his suits, his furniture and everything he owned. He soon found himself homeless.
Moving On Up
In order to get himself out of the hole he found himself in, Gardner began setting goals for himself that were dramatically higher than those placed on him by others. Because he had spent 10 days in prison he had to switch to a different program. This program was through Dean Witter Reynolds. To insure his success, Gardner doubled the goals that were being set for him. Instead of making 100 calls per day, he committed himself to making 200 calls per day.
While staying in homeless shelters at night, he arrived to work early in the morning. In 1982, Gardner finally passed his licensing exam. Eventually Gardner was recruited by Bear Stearns & Company. 4 months after leaving him, his former live-in girlfriend returned with his son. She left his son with him and disappeared once again. The homeless shelter where Gardner had been staying would not accept children. So once again he found himself on the street. Finding a place to sleep each night was an adventure every day. Some nights Gardner and his son slept in the locked subway bathroom. Some nights they slept in the city parks. From night to night, they never knew where they would find themselves sleeping. Gardner and his son continued on in their fight with homelessness for nearly 1 and 1/2 years before he began to realize the fruits of his efforts.
- What self-imposed challenges did he face?
- What external challenges did he face?
- How did goal setting play a part in his life?
- Why is he more successful than most people?
- What unique skills and talents did he possess?
- How did external forces effect his approach to sales & marketing activity?