Finding the Y in Happiness

Entrepreneur and investment guru, Chris Gardner shares his secrets to success. Chris Gardner will be live in South Africa 30 -31 August 2014, in Gauteng.

“Take baby steps – each of them counts. We usually prefer to take strides when we are faced with obstacles but you might not see the stairs if you don’t take the first step.”

These are the very steps that Gardner took when he could not provide a shelter for himself and his son close to thirty years ago. At that point he was a determined and resilient man who, even though had a job that earned him commission, could not afford to make ends meet.

Gardner began working for Dean Witter Reynolds when he gained entrance into their training program. He could not afford to rent a home for himself and his son on the minimum wage he earned and so the pair slept in a homeless shelter, park, church and when things were really bleak, in a public toilet. The odds seemed to be stacked against Gardner – he was born into a poor family and witnessed domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and illiteracy. But despite all these challenges he was determined to succeed.

I love it when people say no. That’s because they are not wasting their time or my time. Time is the ultimate asset, not money.

That determination paid off when he joined Bear Stearns & Co. Between 1983 and 1987 he became a top earner at the firm. In 1987 he founded his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich, from his home in Chicago with capital of just $10 000 (about R100 000).


Gardner’s story is so inspiring that it was turned into a movie  –  The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith as Gardner. Speaking to us from his office in Chicago, Gardner said passion was what got him through the tough times in his life.

He says doing what he loved was what kept him going rather than a desire for money.

“Having passion and doing something you love shields you from so much. Anybody can make money. One thing that differentiates you from others is your passion for what you love. If others don’t dig what you are on about then that’s okay. The only thing that matters is how much you dig what you do.

“You need to be prepared to spend a lot of time alone. The guy with the most money is not necessarily the happiest. I know many people who have a lot of money and are miserable. I don’t want the most money, I want a fulfilled life.  That’s why my favourite song is the late rapper Notorious B.I.G’s Mo Money Mo Problems because there will always be problems – the more money you have, the bigger your problems.”

When most people would have given up due to a lack of patience, Gardner kept his dream of becoming a stockbroker alive. He would seldom take no for an answer and if he received a negative response, he saw it as a challenge to do better.

“I love it when people say no. That’s because they are not wasting their time or my time. Time is the ultimate asset, not money. Time can never be retrieved. Once it passes, it’s gone forever. I’ve learnt to save time by asking the right people the right questions.”

Simple words to live by, yet Gardner has never become complacent. Despite his success, he thrives on consistently keeping informed and well-read. Creating and maintaining friendships is high on his list of priorities.

“You need to practise, do the work – you can never be too smart. Always create new relationships, Don’t wait for friends to meet you. The best time to make friends is before you meet a friend. Why would you wait until your house was burning down to meet someone who could help?”

As to why he spells happyness with a y, Gardner explains that it is because only you are responsible for your happiness. You are responsible for creating the life that you want to lead for yourself and your family.

You need to practise, do the work – you can never be too smart

Coming to SA in August, Gardner says guests to his seminar will benefit from the many nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom he happily shares.

“Money is the least significant aspect of wealth. Health and family are the most important, these are aspects of life that are bigger than making money. Everybody wants to make money. The truth is we all just want to be happy — that is the moment of clarity that many people find themselves realising.”

See Chris Gardner at the National Achievers Congress at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg on 30 and 31 August 2014.

The prices range from R399 – R8997 for the two day workshop and includes an event workbook and bonus downloads. Individual packages include other added-value additions. For more info and special ticket prices visit