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Born as Christopher Paul Gardner in 1954 in Wisconsin, US. The African-American billionaire, investor, author and motivational speaker showcased that through faith and hard work we can overcome any hurdle.

Once homeless with his son, Chris Gardner’s life story inspired the world. It also turned into a hit Hollywood movie “The pursuit of Happyness” (don’t worry! The misspelling is intentional).

I was homeless but I wasn’t hopeless. I knew a better day was coming. 

~~Chris Gardner

Childhood

Chris Gardner had a very troubled childhood. Never knowing his biological father, he grew up with his mother and an abusive stepfather. His mother, in the pit of despair, tried to kill his stepfather. That incident exposed Chris to foster home on a few occasions. Nevertheless, Mr Gardner persisted and pushed through all the unfortunate events of his childhood.

Thanks to his uncle, he got to serve as corpsman in the army. He was hoping to pursue a medical career after getting married to Sherry Dyson in 1977 and his discharge from the army. Their relationship, however, started straining after he dropped his dream of majoring in medicine.

He was in an extramarital affair with Jackie Medina while working as a low-paid intern in a brokerage firm. Due to his difficult financial situation, Jackie left him and later brought him their son. She then gave him full custody of Christopher Jarrett Gardner Jr. 

Single parenting

Since Mr. Gardner could not live with his son in his adult-only appartement. He couldn’t raise the deposit to rent a suitable appartement. The pair spent about a year homeless, sleeping wherever they could: parks, toilet at a railway station, church shelters or even under his desk at the office after work-hours.

Even if his father abandoned him, Chris Gardner promised to be the best father he could be. He thus worked very hard and thrived in his job, always a firm believer that they will move on to greater things in life.

He made a full employee at his firm and was able to rent for himself and his son. His career quickly ascended after this; Mr Gardner was able to open his own investment company, Gardner Rich in 1987. He also had an another child with his former partner, Jackie Medina. This was all made possible due to his sheer determination and love for his children, showcasing that any adversity can be overcome. 

Looking back at all the obstacles and hurdles in his way, Chris Gardner says he wouldn’t change anything about his past experiences. He also adds that “According to that school of thought I should have become another alcoholic, wife-beating, child-abusing, illiterate loser”. However, Mr Gardner chose to believe in his mother’s words of encouragement and in the positive figures in his life . He states that “I chose light, from my mother, and from others with whom I don’t share a single drop of blood, and I embraced it”.

Mission

His mission is to inspire others and guide them in their search of happiness. That is why he chose to write his best-selling autobiography “The pursuit of Happyness”. The movie had been translated to over 40 languages. It included 6 dialects and turned into a successful Hollywood movie of the same name released in 2006.

The film starred Will Smith who won the nomination for Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Mr Gardner. Another important shift in Chris Gardner’s life happened after his wife’s death in 2012. He decided to yet again change his profession and become an international motivational speaker.

After 30 years in the financial services industry, Chris Gardner knew he wanted to become “the CEO of Happyness”, following his true passion. 

The inspiration behind the story

In a world where many are fighting poverty, homelessness and abuse, Chris Gardner story remains a glimpse of hope and a proof that nothing has the power to break you if you believe in yourself. He also plays an active role in fighting these phenomenons by sponsoring many homeless charities and organisations.

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by Fatima Zahra Cherrouk

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