Black History

In the Spotlight #3 – Christopher Gardner



A reason to keep afloat: Homeless to millionaire


Gardner saw the lifestyle of the “richer somebody.” From then, he no longer wanted to be “anybody” but a “somebody” too. The stranger kindly told him what he did and the result of what Gardner stared in awe at – the stranger’s car – was the benefits of a financial advisor’s hard work.  – My brother, Matthew.


Many of you will have seen the 2006 Sony Pictures film inspired by the true story of Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness. Heart wrenching wasn’t it? The scene that got my attention was the one where Chris and his son Junior, had to sleep in the toilets of a train station for the night. One thing I can seriously take away from the film is that Chris never gave up and of course you see how hard it got for him but look at what hard work does!

Gardner holds many titles – American entrepreneur, stockbroker, investor, motivational speaker and philanthropist however, as we’ve seen from the film, his life before was very different. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 9th February 1954, Gardner had a turbulent childhood exposed to poverty, alcoholism, sexual abuse, domestic violence and family illiteracy. In Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, he mentions the issues like the ones he had gone through, do not have any power in forming your future.

After leaving school, Gardner joined the Navy. When he was discharged he moved to San Francisco where he was employed as a research associate and a distributor. His son was born in 1981 which made Gardner focused on pursuing a career that would be fulfilling, stable and of course a decent salary.

Gardner had an interest in finance but he was without a degree and connections. He applied for jobs on the training programmes at brokerages where he eventually earned a place in the Dean Witter Reynolds training programme. His salary did not make him enough money to sustain himself and his son and so life still threw lemons at him as he had to face homelessness, “fighting, scratching, and crawling my way out of the gutter with a baby on my back.” He had concluded that “[he had] made up [his] mind as a young kid that when [he] had children they were going to know who their father is, and that he [his son] [wasn’t] going anywhere.”

Today, Gardner helps with homelessness and is involved in assisting families so they can still manage being employed and keeping a roof over their heads.

The struggle in this man’s life looks no different from many people’s lives today.

What was his drive?

Gardner was a broke, homeless, single parent with a determination to succeed that was close to fanatical. But he did it. Serious battles to stay afloat attacked Gardner daily but a turn of events appeared in 1987.

Gardner was an employee of Bear Stearns & Co from 1983 until 1987. He was the top earner. He founded his own private stock brokerage firm where he is CEO of Gardner Rich & Co which is based in Chicago, Illinois.

In an interview Gardner did with Carmine Gallo found here Gardner says “Passion is Everything” which is how he got where he is and it is definitely a trait that flows throughout the film.

Gardner goes on to say in the interview “in fact, you’ve got to be borderline fanatical about what you do.”

I wanted to highlight Chris Gardner this month because I wanted to look at someone other than an entertainer. Chris Gardner is a successful businessman who has determination that is enough for us to remind ourselves that if it is important to us, then we shouldn’t give up.



Sources : Here | Here | Google images otherwise

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