Self-made millionaire Chris Gardner went from living on the streets to making it big on Wall Street, a rags-to-riches story made famous in the Will Smith movie The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie's success gave Chris a platform to speak to people about how to pursue their own versions of the American Dream. Jean talks with Chris about his insights into finding success, including the importance of financial literacy, personal choice and teaching children sound money values.
Chris says that while financial literacy is a critical tool for success, it's not about figuring out how to become rich—it's about understanding your options, goals and responsibilities. "It's about becoming aware of where you are financially, what your aspirations may be and what means can you employ to accomplish your goals," he says.
Chris credits his mother for encouraging him to have dreams and for telling him that it was his responsibility to make them come true. He calls this set of "inherited" values "spiritual genetics," saying that while you can't choose your eye color or how tall you're going to be, you can choose the soul of who you're going to become as a person. "I believe you can choose, and I chose to embrace the light that I saw in my mom," he says.
While it's every parent's dream to give his child a better life than his own, Chris says this impulse can actually hinder a child's success. Parents should raise balanced children "who can appreciate the nice things but can function without," he says. "Something I've learned as a parent is that giving all of this stuff doesn't necessarily create better people. And it doesn't necessarily prepare them to be making the kind of decisions that they should be making."