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From Streets to Success: The Resilient Journey of Chris Gardner

Updated: Apr 30


It Is Not Always Easy

When it comes to success, the formula is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. That means that success is not going to be handed to you on a silver platter.

It will take a lot of hard work to climb out of one’s desperate situation and make it to the top. One man who understood this formula was Chris Gardner. Homeless and with a young son, he was in a desperate situation.

Yet, he didn’t shy away from all the hard work that needed to be done to ensure that he and his son made it.

His Early Years

Mr. Gardner was born in 1954 and he was the only child of Thomas Turner and Bettye Jean Gardner. His family life lacked a real male role model as he had half-sisters from two step-fathers.

Also, there was no stability in his family life as one of his step-fathers, Freddie Triplett, would abuse his mother and half-sisters. Mr Triplett would go as far as to report the mother of his children to the police for welfare fraud.

This meant that Gardner and his sisters would be in and out of foster care for some time. Their mother tried to kill Freddie Triplett and was imprisoned for the attempt.

Chris Gardner did receive one positive male role model. His Uncle Henry filled that role until his death when Chris was only 9 years old. At the funeral, the children learned why their mother was absent from their lives when she was escorted to the funeral by prison officials.

It was not a happy or encouraging childhood for Mr. Gardner, although his mother often offered good advice to her young son. His childhood gave Mr. Gardner lessons in what to avoid.

One Good Decision And Several Bad Ones

The good decision he made was to follow in his late Uncle Henry’s footsteps. He enlisted in the Navy and spent 4 solid years attending to his duties. His assigned duty was that of a medical corpsman where he met a famous surgeon, Dr. Robert Ellis.

Dr. Ellis convinced Christ Walker to leave the military after one hitch and join him as a research assistant at the University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco.

This work agreed with Mr. Walker and he rose to the position of manager of the laboratory as well as co-authoring some research articles with Dr. Ellis. With his future in medicine already laid out for him, Mr. Gardner began a string of poor decisions.

Although he was married by this time, he decided to change his career plans as well as have an affair with a dental student. It took 9 years to divorce his first wife and during that time he lived with the dental student and she had his only son.

His research assistant’s salary was not enough to support his new family so Mr. Walker changed careers again and began to sell medical equipment. Even though he doubled his salary with this change, life was not easy for Mr. Walker.

He spent time living in shelters while scrambling to make sales. After a chance meeting with a handsomely dressed man who drove a beautiful Ferrari, Mr. Gardner made another decision.

One More Good Decision

This chance meeting turned Mr. Gardner’s life around. The well-dressed man was a stockbroker and the money the man made was all it took for Mr. Gardner to decide being a stockbroker was the career for him.

But becoming one was not so easy. Not only did he have trouble entering the training schools offered by the big stock brokerages, but he was also having trouble with his second wife.

They soon split up and Mr. Walker spent 10 days in jail over unpaid parking tickets. But this was not the low point yet as when he was released from jail, he returned to an empty apartment.

With no real income, experience, college education, and no connections, Mr. Walker struggled to make ends meet. However, while he was selling medical equipment he did make an impression on the Dean Witter company executives and was accepted into their stock brokerage training course.

Unfortunately, this training program offered no salary. While he worked long hours to become a stockbroker, he did so while being homeless and caring for his young son.

It Took Hard Work

During his training, Mr. Walker worked hard to succeed and pass his exams. He was making up to 200 phone calls a day to find clients and eventually, he passed his stock broker’s exam. This provided a small salary but not enough to pay rent for an apartment for his son and himself.

But the situation did not deter Mr. Walker. He worked hard at becoming a stock broker, he worked hard at finding food and a place to stay until he saved enough money, and he worked hard to earn more after becoming a stock broker.

He even tried to make it work with his second wife and they had a second child together. But that was not to be. While his second wife wanted to get back together, Mr. Gardener did not accept her offer.

He did leave his children in her care as he put in long hours at the office.

Now that Mr. Gardener’s career path was set, and the troubled times were over, he decided to open his own brokerage firm. He ran the firm for almost 20 years before selling it in a multi-million dollar deal.

With his future now secure, Mr. Gardener went on to found Christopher Gardener International Holdings. He also participates in many charitable fundraising activities.

Mr. Gardenr may have had a rough beginning in life, but he made one really good decision. He decided that he needed to work hard to achieve success. He did just that at every stage of his life.

He didn’t always make the best decisions in life but he did not let those bad decisions ruin his future. He found ways to overcome those setbacks and worked harder to achieve his goals.



Image Credits: Angela George, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


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