From Shelters to Wall Street

Chris was a bright young man who, after putting in four years of service in the Navy, got a job as a lab assistant from a doctor he had met while serving. Eventually he was able to run his own lab, despite not having a college education.

After his son was born, Chris needed a better paying job, so he was hired as a salesman for a medical equipment business. However, Chris decided that what he really wanted to do was be a stockbroker. He was able to get a training position at a brokerage, but that job fell through. Then he was arrested for not being able to pay $1200 in parking tickets and was put in jail for 10 days. When he got home, he found his apartment was empty. He had nothing except the clothes on his back.

He was able to get another internship, but it didn’t pay. Yet he came in early and stayed late while selling medical equipment on the side. He was barely scraping by, but his hard work was starting to pay off and Bear Stearns & Company in San Francisco recruited him. He moved and was able to rent a flophouse with his small salary.

Things got even more complicated when Chris’ estranged wife dropped off their son with him.He couldn’t afford a place to live while also paying for daycare so he could continue to work. So they moved around a lot, eating in soup kitchens and sleeping where they could; his office, the airport and even public washrooms.

They were eventually able to save up for an apartment, and in 1987, Chris started his own brokerage firm and is currently worth $60 million. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because Chris Gardner is the basis for the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happyness.


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