From Homeless to Multimillionaire

I watched the movie The Pursuit of Happyness when it came out 10 years ago and I remember being profoundly touched by the message of never giving up and almost anything is possible if you believe it is. I even remember shedding a tear or two as the hero wins in the end! There are some great principles in this film including the all-important never giving up!

This week a former coaching client of mine Tim, sent me a link to a recent newspaper interview with the person featured in this rags to riches story Chris Gardner. This brought back all the memories and emotions from the film. I have just noticed that Chris Gardner was born on the same day, month and year as I was – 9th February 1954 what a coincidence! The following is the newspapers review of this great story.

What a great story

The amazing story of Gardner’s life was published as an autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, in May 2006, and became a New York Times and Washington Post #1 bestseller. The book spent over twenty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into more than forty languages.

Worth an estimated £48million, the 62-year-old now spends his time giving speeches in more than 50 countries after founding his own investment firm. His journey from homelessness to fortune is incredible – and has been depicted in the 2006 Hollywood film, The Pursuit of Happyness.

Against all the odds

Starring Will Smith, the movie shows how Chris refused to give in as he tried desperately to build a better life for himself and his young son. During the year, he was homeless in the early 1980s, Chris could not afford to rent a home, so had to sleep rough with his small child. In the subway station toilet, the pair would play a game called ‘shush’, where they would remain ‘invisible’ despite what anyone said ‘on the other side of the door’. At the time, Chris’s son was still in nappies.

Born February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and family illiteracy marked Christopher Paul Gardner’s childhood. Gardner published his autobiography out of a desire to shed light on these universal issues and show they do not have to define you.

The importance of a good mother

Gardner never knew his father, and lived with his beloved mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, when not in foster homes. Gardner is indebted to Bettye Jean for his success as she provided him with strong “spiritual genetics” and taught him that despite where he came from, he could chart another path and attain whatever goals he set for himself.

He joined the Navy out of high school and after discharge moved to San Francisco where he worked as a medical research associate and for a scientific supply distributor. In 1981, as a new father to son Christopher Gardner Jr., he was determined to find a career that would be both lucrative and fulfilling.

Unpaid internship

Fascinated by finance, but without connections, an MBA or even a college degree, Gardner applied for training programs at brokerages. He eventually won a position as a stockbroker intern at Dean Witter in 1981. While attending the unpaid internship program, Gardner spent a year on the streets with his two-year-old son. They took refuge at night in a church shelter or the bathroom of a BART subway station in Oakland, Calif. Nobody at work knew he was homeless and that he had only two suits which he wore every day for 12 months.

Today, Gardner is a multimillionaire, a motivational speaker, a philanthropist, and an international businessman who is about to launch a private equity fund that will invest solely in South Africa. His partner in the fund? Nelson Mandela. Not bad for a guy who, six years before founding his own brokerage firm, was “fighting, scratching, and crawling my way out of the gutter with a baby on my back.”

A clear plan

Chris said, in order to change your life, you need a plan. He called it the C5 complex. “Your plan has to be clear, concise, compelling, consistent and committed,” he said. “When you’re trying to do something that you’re truly passionate about there is no plan b. “Plan b sucks.”

Wow what a story and what determination! Has anything from this story resonated with you? I’m guessing that when I saw this film certain things resonated that I wasn’t fully aware of, but over the last 10 years I have moved towards the things I am passionate about and I’m starting to see the fruits of the work I’ve put in. I wonder if there was anything planted in my subconscious whilst watching this inspiring story unfold on screen?

Thoughts for the week:

1. Do you have a plan which is clear, concise, compelling, consistent and committed?
2. If not perhaps you can look at those five words and see which ones you need to work on
3. In today’s fast moving world, we need to be able to change and adapt, so it’s good to prepare for that mentally
4. You may not be where you want to be and if that is the case then you need to have a plan to get there
5. Anything worthwhile takes work and effort, so are you willing to pay the price?

Well that’s it for this week have a really good weekend and stay positive.

Warm regards


Off the Wall – How to Develop World Class Mental Resilience available here (Special free delivery offer currently available)

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