Chris Gardner's story is familiar to many people from the book and movie The Pursuit of Happyness—he went from living on the streets with his young son to a position at a San Francisco brokerage to eventually starting and leading a multimillion dollar brokerage. Jean talks with Chris about the perseverance that led him to the top and his advice for those just starting out.
Chris says that his success has been about making choices, and one of his first choices was to embrace the spirit he saw in his mother. "Even though she had too many of her own dreams denied, deferred and destroyed, she instilled in me that I could have dreams," he says. "More importantly, I had the power and the responsibility to make them come true."
From a very young age, Chris says he knew he wanted to be world-class at something, and the first time he walked into a Wall Street trading room, he knew it was the right place. "My mom once told me if I wanted to, one day I could make a million dollars—I just had to find the right place," he says.
Two key elements Chris stresses to young people are the importance of education and knowledge of personal finances. "You have to get smart about every tool in the [financial] toolbox," he says. Basic ideas, such as living within your means and spending less than you make, are also crucial to maintaining financial independence.
Ultimately, Chris says, it's about finding a way to enjoy the journey of life. "Be happy. Forget about money," he says. "Do you have to have money in our society? Absolutely. It's a tool—learn how to use it. But money is not going to make you happy."
Published on July 16, 2007