Chris Gardner’s life story, turned into a book and movie The Pursuit of Happyness, strikes a chord because it’s really the story of everybody who makes good.
Gardner offers maxims for success, including these:
Without a plan, a dream is just a dream. To help crystallize your plan, Gardner recommends a daily supplement he calls the five C’s: Be clear, concise, compelling, committed and consistent.
You have a choice. A homeless dad who made it as a broker, Gardner says he once was introduced to a crowd as something of a fluke. He makes it clear that success comes not by luck, accident or talent, but by the sum of your choices.
Stop “digging your potatoes.” When you’re jumping rope double Dutch—two ropes swinging in opposite directions—there’s a hesitation in which would-be jumpers roll up on the balls of their feet and sink back on their heels. They may need a push; you should not.
Start with what you’ve got in your hand. In the Bible, God convinced Moses that he was fit to lead the Israelites out of Egypt using only his shepherd’s staff.
Baby steps count. For this lesson, Gardner looks to his Uncle Joe, who walked from Mississippi to Wisconsin because his feet were his only means of moving toward a better life.
Cultivate knowledge. Here, Gardner draws on his mother’s clever lure: “The public library is the most dangerous place in the world because you can go in there and learn how to do anything.” He still visits a bookstore or newsstand every day.
Truth rocks. Motown producer Berry Gordy so insisted on authentic lyrics that he defied convention by releasing “Money (That’s What I Want),” which topped the charts in 1960. But he had to relearn his own lesson after discouraging Marvin Gaye from releasing a protest album a decade later. The resulting songs, including “What’s Going On,” helped define a generation.
Keep fighting. Once, when Gardner’s business was in trouble, he spied Muhammad Ali in an airport and breathlessly asked the heavyweight champion if he’d ever been scared. Ali answered, “I’m scared now. I’ve got a disease and there is no cure. But I’m still fighting.” Recharged, Gardner continued to New York and “lit that city up.”
— Adapted from Start Where You Are, Chris Gardner, Amistad.
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