Chris Gardner is a self-made African American millionaire, investor, author, international speaker and stockbroker.
This is the real life character behind The Pursuit of Happyness movie, which starred Will Smith and his real life son, Jaden smith.
In a world where suicide and anger are crowning the frustrations of people, the life changing story of this black man enlightens many that nothing has the power to break you without your consent.
Born as Christopher Paul Gardner, the businessman and entrepreneur through his life experiences emphasizes the need for everyone who has hit rock bottom that being beat down by life is inevitable but what is not is staying down.
Chris Gardner did not have the basic foundation any child would love to. His was the similar story of many children in the United states and the world at large.
As contained in his memoir, Chris was born on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He never knew his biological father till he was a dad himself. Sadly, his relationship with his stepfather was appalling. He describes it as an abusive one.
On two occasions, he and his half sisters were subjected to foster care. Summing it all up, Chris grew up a broken child with no father figure to look up to. Along the line he had a short-lived interaction with an uncle in the army; a man who gave Chris a reason to be better.
As much as he hoped for a better future, Chris still dabbled into alcoholism. In his words, he was born into “Child abandonment, Child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, fear, poverty, and illiteracy”. Nevertheless he kept living, pushing through all odds to have a definition different from his awful past record.
Thanks to Uncle Henry, Chris enrolled into the army and served as a corpsman. Married at 26, the reality of pursuing a medical career at the time was far off.
Chris’ relationship with his wife, Sherry Dyson got strained and they separated. Meanwhile he was involved in an extra-marital affair with a dental student, Jackie Medina who would later become the mother of his 2 children.
In time his finances could no longer carry Jackie and their son. As everything else was falling apart in his life, Jackie left him and 4 months later brought back their son, Christopher Jarrett Gardner Jr. t him; giving him full custody.
Chris became an intern in a stock brokerage firm but things were no better for him at the initial time. For about a year, Chris and his son were homeless in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.
Chris gives the picture as “a working homeless Veteran with a toddler son”.
“I couldn’t tell you that we were homeless, I just knew that we were always having to go. So, if anything, I remember us just moving, always moving.”
For the records, Chris was gainfully employed, but could not live with his son in the adult-only apartment that he rented before his son’s return. While they moved from place to place, Chris was painstakingly saving money for a rental house in Berkeley.
He had promised himself he would be the best father there could ever be, contrary to his childhood experiences. Having been abandoned by his father, he vowed never to do so to his son.
Not even his colleagues were aware that Chris and his son slept wherever they found safe day after day. He recalls both of them sleeping in public transports, parks, motels and even the office after work hours. He would work so hard and late, partly for that reason. Chris was determined to get out of his situation.
His turning point came when he met a stockbroker in a red Ferrari, Bob Bridges. Courtesy of this meeting, Chris enrolled for a training program at E.F. Hutton. From then on his story experienced a turnaround.
With a start-up capital of $10,000, Chris Gardner established his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, in Chicago, Illinois in 1987. His path crossed with former girlfriend, Jackie and they had another child, Jacinta Gardner.
Looking back at the hurdles and the disappointments, Chris Gardner says he would never trade a moment of those times for anything in the world.
“This decision led me to a career on Wall Street. In fact 30 years in the financial services industry and wouldn’t trade a day of it for anything in the world. I’d also never go back! Ha! As Mom’s would say “Boy, you’ve got to know when to leave the party!”
Chris says his mother’s words were his core source of motivation anytime he felt like quitting on life. He particularly preaches the gospel of “spiritual genetics” which his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett introduced him to. Spiritual genetics filled him with faith and hope that it will all get better someday.
The international motivational speaker says his life long mission now is to uplift distressed people though his speeches, books, counselling and philanthropic donations.
Chris has made a conscious decision to give to the world what he never got from anyone.
Having tasted poverty and homelessness himself, the millionaire investor helped to fund a $50 million project in San Francisco that creates low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the area of the city where he was once homeless.
“A very big part of what I want to do with the rest of my life is simple; a want to help create the next ‘Chris Gardner.’ The message is equally simple; If I can do this, than you can do that.”
Chris Gardner is currently worth a stunning $60 million.