Wednesday, July 11, 2007
My Conversation with Chris Gardner: Pursuit of Happyness
He does sound like Barry White on the telephone and his story is packed with meaningful (and frugal) advice. That's my response to a recent telephone interview with Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness. He also was an associate producer of that hit movie, which starred Will Smith.
Chris Gardner's story has been well documented. Homeless with a young child, Gardner worked as a stock broker trainee during the day. In the evenings, Gardner and his young child navigated through the maze of homelessness in America during nights and weekends. Ultimately, he scored big time on Wall Street and became the founder and CEO of Gardner Rich & Company, a successful brokerage firm.
I spoke to Gardner last week because he's working with Visa on a stored-value card for under-served banking communities. (I'll address that topic in a later post.) But in the here & now, this is what I learned about frugal living from Chris Gardner.
1. Hard work pays: As a novice broker, he really worked those phones to produce investment business. Cold calling is a cold business, but Gardner generated big-ticket sales. What's more, he paid close attention to the successful working styles of others.
2. Use second-hand furniture: After sleeping in a transit bathroom and rooming in a shelter, Chris Gardner and has young son were eventually able to rent an apartment. He furnished the modest apartment with second-hand furniture."That is where friends came through," Gardner told me.
Friends gave him: a king-size bed, a card table, linens, lamps and other old, but functional items that they weren't using.
And during his early days as a stockbroker, he went to flea markets to find cute splashes of color and other fun trinkets to decorate the home for his two-year-old son.
3. Find low-tech toys for kids: When he and his son were homeless, Chris Gardner found creative toys for his son. For example, a used juice can made a wonderful kick-it toy.
"We'd find things," Gardner said. "The juice container became a little soccer ball. And as long as I could kick it forward, he [his toddler] would run. We could make fun out of anything."
4. Free entertainment: During the long stretches of weekend hours, the father-and-son team were often on the streets for extended periods. Therefore, Gardner became a pro at hunting down free community activities that would keep his son entertained without spending money.
Going to the park was one of their favorite activities.
5. Give back: Gardner is now a very wealthy man and he shares his good fortune with many charities, including those individuals and institutions that offered him support during the lean years.
He also has his own foundation.
The Frugal Duchess Booktique
The Frugal Duchess of Beauty Store
Book Shop of Fear
The Poetry & Drama Queen
Frugal Jazz & Blues
Frugal Comic Book Connection