ep. 50 - Chris Gardner: Author, Businessman, Philanthropist & Inspiration for 'The Pursuit of Happyness'
Chris Gardner is the CEO of Happyness. He is an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and single parent whose work has been recognized by many esteemed organizations.
Gardner is the author of the 2006 autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness, a New York Times and Washington Post #1 bestseller that has been translated into over forty languages. Gardner is also the inspiration for the acclaimed movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” for which Will Smith, starring as Gardner, received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance. Gardner’s second bestselling book, Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published in May 2009.
Always hard working and tenacious, a series of adverse circumstances in the early 1980’s left Gardner homeless in San Francisco and the sole guardian of his toddler son. Unwilling to give up Chris Jr. or his dreams of success, Gardner climbed the financial industry ladder from the very bottom. He worked at Dean Witter Reynolds and Bear Stearns & Co before founding the brokerage firm Gardner Rich in Chicago in 1987.
Chris Gardner’s aim, through his speaking engagements and media projects, is to help others achieve their full potential. He is a passionate philanthropist committed to organizations combating violence against women, homelessness, financial illiteracy and providing access to medical care and treatment; issues of the utmost importance to Gardner.
ep. 50 - Chris Gardner: Author, Businessman, Philanthropist & Inspiration for 'The Pursuit of Happyness'
Gail Davis: Ready? Chris Gardner is the CEO of happiness, conquering grave challenges to become a successful entrepreneur. He is a best-selling author and an avid inspirational speakers addressing the keys to overcoming obstacles [00:01:00] and breaking cycles. Chris is also a passionate philanthropist. His work has been recognized by many esteemed organizations. He is the author of the 2006 autography The Pursuit of Happiness, a New Times and Washington Post number one best-selling that has been translated into more than 30 languages.
Chris is also ...
Chris Gardner: Excuse me ... 44.
Gail Davis: Ooh, 44. I love that. A man who pays attention to [crosstalk 00:01:27] details.
Chris Gardner: Six dialects of Chinese but go ahead. Just [00:01:30] all right. I'm just sayin'. [crosstalk 00:01:31] I'm just sayin' though, okay, all right, all right.
Gail Davis: 44. And he's also the inspiration for the acclaimed movie, The Pursuit of Happiness for which Will Smith starred as Chris Garnder and received Golden Globe, Screen Actor's Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance. His second best-selling book, Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published in 2009. In 2010 he was named the ambassador of Pursuit and Happiness for AARP which [00:02:00] has nearly 40 million members worldwide. Chris is a guy who likes to do things right. When I invited him to be on the podcast, he called and asked, "Will the sound quality be better if I'm in the studio?" And I answered, "Well, possibly." And he said, "Okay, then I'll be there.
So here today in studio ...
Chris Gardner: Live.
Gail Davis: To ensure highest quality conversation ...
Chris Gardner: Live from Gail Davis and Associates in Dallas, Texas.
Gail Davis: Please welcome Chris Gardner. Yay.
Chris Gardner: Boom. Are [00:02:30] we on the air for real. We having too much fun.
Kyle Davis: We're legit recording right now.
Chris Gardner: Hahaha.
Kyle Davis: Maybe we probably should in the future probably get like a Facebook Live or [crosstalk 00:02:42] something.
Chris Gardner: Oh, yeah, right, right, right.
Kyle Davis: Look if somebody has been living under a rock. And they no idea that the sky is blue and the grass is green and that you spell happiness in a very cool and unique way. Go ahead and tell them a little bit about [00:03:00] who you are.
Chris Gardner: I would not bore them with who I am but I would explain to them why I spell happiness with a Y. And that Y is there to make us all mindful that it is you and your responsibility, you an your opportunity to create the life that you want for you and your family. And that's why we spell happiness with a Y.
Gail Davis: Okay fair enough. I think many people did see the movie. And I don't want to spend all our time talking about that but I know often movies [00:03:30] portray things different than they really were. And one of the things that's always stood out to me is when you described how it was that you became homeless with a small child and the actual age of your child versus why the child was older in the movie.
Chris Gardner: You know I had a very unique experience because normally when you sell the rights to your life story to Hollywood, they give you a check and they say we'll call you when it's time for the premiere. Go away. And what they do with [00:04:00] your life at that point you have no control or influence over. I fortunately developed a very good relationship with Will Smith from the very beginning. And he said to me, "I want you be on the set every day of 17 weeks of filming because playing you is gonna be harder than playing Mohammed Ali." His point was everybody knows Ali. They know the stories. They know what happened. They know how Ali reacted. Nobody knows you.
And you know what we sat [00:04:30] and talked. The very first time we met each other Gail, we sat and talked for a couple of hours and he started to look at me like this. He had begun to study me. And it made me uncomfortable. I had never been studied before. Right? Like I'm a piece of tissue under a microscope. He's really kind of dissecting every movement. And I have to tell you, this guy had me down to the point that in the film he has to sign my name to a contract. [00:05:00] He signs an exact replica of my signature. Now that was unnerving.
Gail Davis: Yeah I'm sure.
Chris Gardner: Right? And you mentioned the difference between the age of my son in the film and reality. In the film Jade Smith plays my son as a five year old. They did that for the dialogue. In reality my son was 14 months old. He was still in diapers.
Gail Davis: Yeah.
Chris Gardner: So that changes everything.
Gail Davis: Everything.
Chris Gardner: Right? And [00:05:30] I have to tell you this. We've had some conversations. We're just talking ... we had some conversations about a sequel. And I've already told Will, "Look man, I saw the check you got for playing me. I can be me for half of that." We don't need you all right.
Gail Davis: Awesome. That would be great. I remember distinctly ... you describing how [00:06:00] when you and your wife decided not to be together and she had your son. And to better support her you went into like a boarding house, I believe, that didn't allow children.
Chris Gardner: Well actually it was a matter of there was no place else for me to go.
Gail Davis: Okay.
Chris Gardner: And the only place that I could afford to live was a boarding house. Three meals a day and a room and they did not allow children.
Gail Davis: Right.
Chris Gardner: So when my ex came and just [00:06:30] delivered my son to me, that's how we became instantly homeless. And you know what makes that so interesting Gail, and the film itself on that point. The film itself is probably more relevant today than it was when it came out. If you think about, the film came out in December of 2006. January 2007, economists started asking is the US economy going into a recession. January 2008 [00:07:00] is officially acknowledged as the beginning of the global financial crisis. And as a result of that so many people found themselves in positions Gail they never thought would happen to them.
I went to school. I worked hard. I played by the rules. And now the world's changed.
Gail Davis: Yeah. I know you are a veteran and you do a lot of work and care deeply about veterans who are homeless. And I think that's another example.
Chris Gardner: You know what Gail, I will tell you this. [00:07:30] That just causes me a great deal of sadness because it's so easy for us to say the words thank you for your service. But the fact is 30% of the adult homeless population in our country are veterans, men and women. And I don't think a lot of us are conscious of the sacrifices made by these young men and women because it [00:08:00] doesn't impact everybody. If this were another country where everybody was required to go into the military at the age of 18, we would all probably be a little bit more attentive to what and how and what kind of decisions get made about things.
I saw something Gail in one of my travels, man, I'll never forget this. I'm flying from New York to LA. It's a long [00:08:30] flight. I just want to get off the plane. The plane lands and the pilot says to everybody, I need you all to just hold your seats for just an extra moment. There's somebody on the plane that's got something special to do and we need to just kind of relax just a minute and let him do what he's got to do. And me being a typical traveler, what is this? I just want to get off this plane, I mean, who's this special person? Turns out the special person was sitting right next to me. [00:09:00] US Army, full dress. Drank nothing but water all the way from coast to coast. And then the cargo doors open on the plane. And when you saw that coffin roll off of that plane draped in the American flag ... that's when everybody knew, oh ... oh. And somebody at the back of the plane Gail started singing God Bless America.
[00:09:30] And I got to tell you man, you step off the plane and there's man and a woman standing there, happened to be a Latino man and woman, Hispanic family, standing there. You didn't have to ask who that was. And there's a woman standing there and she's holding this little boy's hand. And the little boy, Kyle, couldn't have been anymore than seven. And he's standing there and he's saluting that flag [00:10:00] and that coffin. And I got to tell you man, that just puts a whole different perspective on who serves and why. And so for me, it's personal, it's personal. It's one of the things I'm writing about in my new book right now.
And please don't ask me to talk about that book. One of the worst things you can do I learned as a writer, don't tell anybody you're working on a new book. Don't do it.
Gail Davis: Why's that?
Chris Gardner: Because the first thing they want [00:10:30] to know is what's it about? Gail ... right? What's it about?
Gail Davis: What's it about? When's it coming out?
Chris Gardner: Right. Well I've been thinking about this for ten years, right? So I don't have like the little sound byte answers. And we're living in an age of you've got 140 characters to make your case.
Gail Davis: Yeah.
Chris Gardner: You go to court that's it. You got 140 characters or you're out. But things that this whole idea ... it's personal, it's not business.
Gail Davis: Well that's interesting. [00:11:00] It's a great segway to something that I'd like to talk about. We all know that you had this small child. And that you were homeless. And you fought all these obstacles. And then you became extremely successful in business. And then you let that ... you stepped away from that business. And now you're really out helping people and helping people be the best version of themselves. And I know you have one talk that you're very proud of. Which is kind of a new angle, spiritual genetics and the American Dream. [00:11:30] And I'd love for you to talk about that. Because I think that's very personal.
Chris Gardner: Man, man, let me tell you something. I get working on this book ... first of all, for the first time in ten years I am not on the road 200 days a year. And I don't know what your process is for writing or trying to express yourself but for me you have to sit down, be still and be quiet so you can [00:12:00] hear your own voice. And right now my pen is just hot. And all that stuff that's been in my head for the last ten years is starting to flow.
But this whole idea of spiritual genetics ... interesting you should ask about that. I have to be very careful how I talk about it and where I talk about it because again I say it's spiritual genetics. Sometimes people [00:12:30] hear those two words and they get freaked out. Especially in corporate America, oh my God he's talking about religion. I didn't say anything about religion. I said spiritual. The Bible says that we're all born and we have spirits. So we all have spiritual parts of us. And it makes some people in corporate America uncomfortable. But the simple idea is we all understand genetics.
[00:13:00] You're gonna get your mother's eyes, your father's nose, there's nothing you can do about it. But the spirit of who you're going to become as a man or a woman I believe you can choose. It is again biblical. Scripture tells us we are all born with a spirit that allows us to embrace God, whatever you perceive God to be, okay? In order to own this term, I had to submit a definition to the folks at Webster's Dictionary. [00:13:30] My submission, "spiritual genetics ... That which makes you you that has nothing to do with anatomy, biology, chemistry or physics. The part of you that cannot be analyzed, quantified, nor measured. That of you that is not composed of blood type, DNA, or pigmentation. The part of you that is beyond the scope, reach, or understanding of science, medicine or technology." Now did I just nail that shit [00:14:00] or what?
Gail Davis: What does it mean? [crosstalk 00:14:03]
Chris Gardner: Okay. You that container up there ... that box? All right. Let's assume for a second all of us ... again, these boxes that we call bodies, these containers, these packages. We didn't get to choose these. If we all got to choose them, Kyle, we would all be walking around looking like movie stars. We'd all be walking around looking like Paul Newman, Clarke Gable, Denzel, [00:14:30] huh, Marilyn Monroe, Holly Berry, Selma Hayek.
Kyle Davis: Channing Tatum.
Chris Gardner: [crosstalk 00:14:38] All right, hey. We would all by choice, right? We don't get to choose this package but we get to choose in and are responsible for the contents. Let me rephrase that because in the book I have a chance to go more in-depth. Maybe we didn't get to choose a lot of the contents. Maybe some of this stuff was just [00:15:00] put in us and we allowed it to stay. Or we grew it. Some of it maybe we rejected. But we're all at a point now where we can choose. Right? And we're responsible for the contents of this package. I have this little exercise. I want to do, I haven't done it yet, with a live audience. But I want to do this thing where I can say, all right we're gonna get a great big table. We're gonna set this thing up like Martha Stewart's TV show [00:15:30] with all these bows and we're gonna make a box of you.
And we've all these ingredients here. We've got some humility, some passion, some curiosity. We've got some open mindedness. We've got some darkness. And over here we got this great big barrel full of bull fertilizer. Right? And we're gonna make a box of you as you [00:16:00] see it. And oh by the way, you're wife is here? Okay, well we're gonna come and let her make a box of you too. Right? Or maybe we'll make a box of your boss. What are the ingredients. How much stuff does ... right? And let's just see. And the idea is, okay, you didn't get to choose the first time but now you get to choose what's in this box. What's in this package. Which [00:16:30] of the ingredients, right? By choice. It goes back to spelling happiness with a Y. You and you're decisions.
Kyle Davis: So a conversation that my mom and I have had recently with somebody was discussing something called the envelope. You can get an envelope from somebody ... two different envelopes from two different people. One envelope can be just kind of bland with the black rim with a stamp that says final notice. And you don't even think [00:17:00] about what's in there, it's already causing you pain and causing you problems.
Chris Gardner: I've gotten some of those.
Kyle Davis: Right, I mean I just got one too it's my famous medical.
Chris Gardner: Mine come in red though. That shit is red.
Kyle Davis: I stamp it and ... red hot ...
Chris Gardner: Whew.
Kyle Davis: And it goes right in the trash can.
Chris Gardner: That's it.
Kyle Davis: 'Cause if you don't open it it doesn't exist. But then the next one ... the next envelope can come and it can be pink and smell of perfume and then you're just excited to open it if you're me. And [00:17:30] you open it up and then the content can be the same. So my question for you is this, when it comes to the spiritual genetics kind of idea, do you think that sometimes people are introspective enough to know it's what's inside the box that matters? Instead they just focus on kind of how it's presented and what they present to the world.
Chris Gardner: I think that goes back to making this box of you. How much openness will you be to a ... those two [00:18:00] packages that you just described. What's your perspective? How much openness do you have to bring? Or do you just assume? Right?
Kyle Davis: Yeah it could be a million dollar check in there. [crosstalk 00:18:14]
Chris Gardner: Hey man let me tell you something ... whoa, whoa, whoa. Now if somebody sends me that envelope that you just described, the little pink thing with the perfume ... I'm not opening that.
Kyle Davis: You won't but I will.
Chris Gardner: Dude. Dude. [crosstalk 00:18:29] No I've seen [00:18:30] that. Nah, nah, nah. I'm not opening that.
Kyle Davis: Fair enough.
Gail Davis: Another project that I know you've talked to me about recently is the project, I think it was a film, honoring Maya Angelou.
Chris Gardner: Yeah man.
Gail Davis: Can you talk about that?
Chris Gardner: Man I have to tell you the producers of this film, the creators, the film directors and all the creative people; they are just that creative people. I appear on the guild with the last person in the world they wanted to talk [00:19:00] to. Because they showed up at my office five o'clock on Friday. Now if you're trying to raise some money, you do not show up at the bank five o'clock on Friday. Unless this was the last possible straw, okay. They knew I had a relationship with the Doctor Angelou that is special and treasured. And they had 500 hours of film, 12 hours of audio, [00:19:30] all this stuff that they were trying to make into this movie. And the guy that was supposed to show up with the money never came.
So now we gotta go talk to Chris Gardner. And I have to tell you man, they did a phenomenal job. The film premiered at Sundance and I have to tell you this funny thing. Man, now Sundance looks at 4,000 films ... [00:20:00] 2,500 features, 1,500 documentaries. They pick 100 to be part of their festival. So to be selected, that's a big deal.
Gail Davis: Yeah.
Chris Gardner: I didn't know what a big deal it was until I called Will Smith and I said, "Will, I just want to let you know man, look we just got it done. The film of Doctor Angelou is gonna premiere at Sundance." And he says to me, as only Will Smith could, "Man I've been in this business my whole life. I've never had anything [00:20:30] premiere at Sundance." And then he said two words. The second word was you.
Oh man. So the film premiered Sundance. We made a run at ... we received a few film festival awards. The film aired on PBS as part of their American masters series. And [00:21:00] man, but the big thing for me is having had that relationship with the doctor. And everything that she meant and did for me.
Gail Davis: How did ...
Chris Gardner: It was personal.
Gail Davis: How did you meet her?
Chris Gardner: I met her through Reverend Cecil Williams at McGlide Memorial Church in San Francisco. Now knowing her and loving her and reading all of her works was one thing. But to finally get to meet and develop and create this relationship with her ... and I'll never [00:21:30] forget this Gail. The first time I sat down, I had dinner with her. Kyle, I sat at that table and I said the same two words for two hours. Yes ma'am. No ma'am. ... Yes ma'am. If you have any kind of home training at all that's where it comes out.
One of the funny things ... I'm looking at your library here. One of the funny things that the film [00:22:00] people wanted from me that I just refused to give and I will not, was years ago I asked Doctor Angelou if you could only read 100 books your whole life which should they be. And she wrote me a list. If you could only read 100 books your whole life what should they be. And now the funny thing was the first 35 were all hers.
Kyle Davis: As it should be.
Chris Gardner: Right, right. She says in that voice, "Well [00:22:30] I started alphabetically so it goes from Angelou to Aristotle." Oh okay. But everybody that I've mentioned it to they all want to know, well why don't you share that. Well, she gave that to me. I've got the only one of those in the world. I mean I asked for it, she gave it to me, and no I'm not going to share it.
Kyle Davis: So one of the things you asked of us when pronounced Maya Angelou's name was to say it with love. So my question for you is what does that mean.
Chris Gardner: You know what you see [00:23:00] it with the love and respect and admiration as if you were talking about the voice of time. Any time I speak or spoke with Doctor Angelou I would always say to myself, if time itself had a voice, the wisdom and the lessons that it could share with you, this is what it would sound like. Right? And I will never forget man. Now I don't talk a lot about our relationship because again that was personal. [00:23:30] And we were doing the press for this thing and some of the guys were trying to press me to talk about our relationship. And when I put it to 'em like this was ... you remember the film the Matrix?
Kyle Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Chris Gardner: Morpheus, Fishburn's character takes Neo in to see the Oracle.
Kyle Davis: The Oracle ... yeah.
Chris Gardner: And the last last thing that Morpheus says to Neo before he goes through the door is, "what she says to you is for you." He goes in, he has the meeting, he [00:24:00] wants to come out and say what she said was, and he cuts him off. What she said to you was for you and that's how I feel.
Kyle Davis: I think when people have a relationship like that where it's so personal that you have to protect everything, it just magnifies the importance of it. And I don't think a lot of people have relationships like that. They're very flippant, superficial or what not.
Chris Gardner: Well it was a blessing for me and I think her voice, again, is a voice that needs to be heard more [00:24:30] now than ever. I also think it's very interesting that during last Olympics, I believe it was Apple Computers that used one of her poems, The Human Family, in one of their commercials. So that her work and words are now reaching a whole other generation all over the globe. And for this film to be a small part of that, man, that's a big deal.
Kyle Davis: When I was riding the subways in New York City, they used to do this thing called Subway Poetry and it was sponsored by the MTA. And they had, it was ... [00:25:00] I remember it vividly because it was the One Train so it's going all the way down from Fidi, all the way Downtown, all the way up to Upper Harlem into the Bronx. And every single train had three or four different Maya Angelou poems.
Chris Gardner: Oh wow.
Kyle Davis: And it was just like you know, most people just sit there, they have their headphones in, sunglasses on. They're listening to a GDA Podcast. But for that moment of time, that period of time, you could read and not only was it free but it available and it [00:25:30] was promoted and it really ... beautiful thing, if you will. But I do have a question though. My question for you is this, when you think about this transition in life going from being a veteran to finding yourself in a boarding house to being homeless to who you are today, wearing a phenomenal blue sports coat, two watches, [00:26:00] hanging with the queen of time herself, Mr. Berry-o ... what's it like when you reflect on that to see your life and where it is today?
Chris Gardner: You know what let me answer that question this way. I had a very very unique experience recently. I ran into somebody that I admired as a young guy. Mr. October, Reggie Jackson at the gym. Right? Nobody's here be he and I. [00:26:30] And just all of a sudden ... now I don't get star-struck. After you ... you get to a point where you're not star-struck. But just to do ... I had ask Reggie, I gotta ask you one question. "What does it feel like to hit a home run in Yankee Stadium?" Now keep in mind, this the guy, three swings, three home runs, three first pitches, Yankee Stadium, World Series. Never been done before, never been done [00:27:00] since.
He said the most remarkable thing to me which was, "That felt pretty good, but you know what feels even better? What feels even better is the respect and admiration that you get from people today who appreciate the way you carried yourself off the field just as much as what you did on the field." And I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Because I gotta tell you man, I get that. Gail I get it every place I go all around the planet. And at this point [00:27:30] I've spoken in 80 countries. Right? The equivalent for me what I get, Kyle, is people saying to me, because of you I didn't quit.
Kyle Davis: As we tumble with the mic over here. Is that where the reward ... When people come to you and say because of you I didn't quit. Is that that little drop that goes into the fuel tank and maybe it's not a little drop, it's 10 gallons [00:28:00] more than you need ... but is the thing that ...
Chris Gardner: That's enough.
Kyle Davis: Every day.
Chris Gardner: That's enough. Because of you I didn't quit. When you meet a young single father that says to you my wife died and she left me with twin girls. And every morning I get up and I wonder how am I gonna do this today, I think about you and I don't quit. Right? When you get that ... then you get the other side of it is [00:28:30] ... now this only happens in Los Angeles. You're at a nice restaurant and the waiter is giving you a little bit extra love and attention then the waiter finds a way or the waitress finds a way to say to you, well I just want you to know that because of you I did quit.
I left that law firm and I always wanted to be an actor and now I'm like, don't blame me for that. Gail, don't put that on [00:29:00] me. Let me tell you one more thing, and it's so crazy now that we're on this, it's so funny. I kind of got in a little bit of trouble some time ago. I do this event, man, and the next day the CEO of the company calls me. This is a major Fortune 500 company, calls me. "Chris, I just want you to know my National Sales Manager just came in my office and quit. Says something about he wants to go be happy." Whoa. [00:29:30] Gail, whoa. But I got him to see, wait a minute, hold up. You need to look at this differently. You need to look at what you were paying that guy. All the resources that you were putting behind him to help you grow your business and his heart was not in it. I just saved you a lot of money.
Kyle Davis: A lot of time.
Chris Gardner: A lot of time.
Kyle Davis: A lot of energy.
Chris Gardner: You know what happened? He hired me on retainer basis. [00:30:00] Now I coach his entire executive team.
Kyle Davis: Boom.
Gail Davis: I want to get back to something that Kyle briefly mentioned and that is the fact that you wear two watches. What's the story behind that Mr. Gardner?
Chris Gardner: You know what? Two stories, first of all, I was late once and it cost me a huge opportunity. And this was 30 years ago and I promised [00:30:30] myself I'll never be late again. My very, very first day in business for myself, October 19, 1987. For those of you who don't remember, or weren't even born yet, that was the day the Dow Jones crashed 508 points. That was the single biggest drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. So it was not the best time to be trying to raise money for a start-up financial services company. And the one guy that I had that was [00:31:00] a potential serious investor ... The one guy I showed up for the meeting Gail I was 20 minutes late. And he says to me, "Son, if I cannot expect you to be on time, I cannot expect you to do time and things for my money. No thank you."
And I said to myself right there I'll never be late again, ever. I got this thing about time, I'm obsessed with it. But number two, you mentioned this watch, hmm, okay. [00:31:30] Some might look at that and say wow that's expensive. This one, man this one's priceless. This was Holly's watch. And it was the last Christmas present I ever gave her. Our last Christmas together before she passed. And, man, I'm still at that point Gail, I have to wear something that she, you know ... I have to drink [00:32:00] something that she liked to drink. I have to eat something she liked to eat.
And it's hard to believe but she would have passed coming up, it's gonna be five years July 1st. And I think I'm finally kind of getting to the point that I'm gonna be okay. That's a big part of the new book is how men deal with loss. [00:32:30] I mean a lot of work has been done and maybe more than I am aware of, but a lot of work has been done on the grieving process but I don't know if it's ever really just focused on men and how it impacts men. So this part of my book I'm referring to Eat, Pray, Love for Men. And the grieving process ...
Gail Davis: And know it's been a tough process ...
Chris Gardner: Five years baby. And I [00:33:00] still have a hard time. I do.
Gail Davis: Well I think that's important for listeners to hear because you look at someone like you and you just think man you have everything.
Chris Gardner: Oh man.
Gail Davis: Inspire everyone. And I think it's just always great when we realize we're all human ...
Chris Gardner: Hey man.
Gail Davis: More alike than we think.
Chris Gardner: And you know what, that's a big part of this book. How we are more alike than we are unalike, okay? There's four kinds of people in this world. [00:33:30] I had the honor of being Holly's primary care giver for the last four years of her life. Now there are folks who are currently primary care givers, who have been primary care givers, who will one day need a primary care giver or one day become a primary care giver. And at that point, Kyle, all this other stuff that we thought was so important, right ... that made us so separate and apart from everybody else. [00:34:00] All that other stuff, man, doesn't mean anything. 'Cause ain't nobody gonna take care somebody that you love like you.
People say you can get help. Yeah, you can get help. But for that other person, whoever it is, that's a job. But for me, a primary caregiver, hey man, that was it.
Gail Davis: Well since you've just been through this and often times people are really at a loss of words to try [00:34:30] to comfort someone. It's so cliché to say things get better with time. But what have you learned through this grieving process?
Chris Gardner: You know what I've learned, I got something from a dear, dear friend when my mom passed 24 years ago. And he asked me, he says to me, "The things that were most important to you in your life were they things that you saw or things that you felt?" My response was they were things that I felt. [00:35:00] He went on to say, well if the things that you valued most in life were things that you felt, then your relationship with your mom is not over it's only changed. Right?
Gail Davis: Oh that's good, you can still feel it.
Chris Gardner: Oh man. And I got to tell you man ... little things, I don't want to talk a whole lot about it because somebody is at this point, we probably have lost them. Right? But the funny thing about this watch, Holly for some kind of [00:35:30] ... the brain cancer it took all the vision in this eye and half the vision in this eye. So all she could see was half of everything. And she looked at this watch and she says oh it's got atomic time. And I'm like, what? Baby, let me look at that. Girl that's just automatic. ... It don't have atomic time. Right? But now that's [00:36:00] where I'm at, I feel like that's where I'm at in my life right now. It's atomic time.
Gail Davis: Yes.
Chris Gardner: Time to be engaged in passionate pursuits to the nth degree. Period.
Gail Davis: Period.
Chris Gardner: Let me tell you a couple of things that I'm working on.
Gail Davis: Okay.
Chris Gardner: Okay. First of all, I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. A big part of it is I want to help create the next Chris Gardners. What does that mean? Simple. If somebody comes to me and says I want become a billionaire, I've got to say I can't help [00:36:30] you with that. I've never done that. If you come to me and say I want to become the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company, I've got to say I can't help you with that, I've never done that. But if you come to me and say I want to do something that I love, I'm committed to becoming world-class at it and I want to work for myself. To that person I can say, I've done that.
Gail Davis: So how are you going to do this?
Chris Gardner: Oh man. Let me tell you. [crosstalk 00:36:58]
Gail Davis: Where do I sign up? I mean what's [00:37:00] going on? I got you here, don't make me press you.
Chris Gardner: Let me tell you, look, you know one of the ways we're doing it? And Gail this is maybe going to impact our relationship, hopefully in a positive way but I've got to tell you something. I'm going back to high school. ... I am going back to high school. Man, I did this thing earlier this year and it was just Fitzburg, Massachusetts. Wista ... do you know Wista?
Kyle Davis: I'm just familiar [00:37:30] with the accent.
Chris Gardner: Wista, Massachusetts is the second largest community in the northeastern corner of the United States. Second only to Boston. Rural, poor, working, white people. I got a chance to speak to Monty Tech High School. 1,500 students, nobody moved for an hour, okay? And what I share with them, Kyle, was [00:38:00] the three most important decisions I ever made in my life and the greatest gift that I ever got in my life. Two of those decisions I made, I made at their age or younger. And when I shared those things with them and that greatest gift that I ever got in my life which was permission to dream which I got from my mom. That was the greatest gift I ever got in my life. Which I am going to say in my new book is the backbone of the new American [00:38:30] Dream is permission to dream.
But now back to this crowd. The only reason I mentioned the demographics of it is because I gave the same exact speech, Kyle, two weeks later at a totally different audience, Gail. 1,000 people, urban, black, and from 30 different countries. I gave the same exact speech. And the response was exactly the same. And you share we these young people, [00:39:00] look I'm gonna give you some things to think about. I'm gonna give you some tools to use. But I want you to be mindful of the people that you are competing with ultimately, they're not in your line of sight. They're not in the city, they're not in the state, they're probably not even in this country. You want to be young, have fun. Go be young, have fun. But know this, the people that you're ultimately competing with they are someplace grinding. They're studying. They're rehearsing. They're practicing. They're researching. [00:39:30] They're networking. While you're out having fun and that's going to make the difference between who signs the front of the check and who signs the back of the check.
And I got to tell you something, these young people that I'm talking now. These 14 or 15 year olds, they are getting it. They are hungry. And they have seen, whoa, whoa, whoa ... maybe my big brother or sister they got a different view of the world, the millennials. But this new generation I guess you call them Generation Z? I [00:40:00] think these people are a little bit hungrier, a little bit sharper, okay. And back to high school. We're in discussions now with a couple of major corporations that are going to allow me to give this talk in every high school in America. And what I'm saying is, if you're a corporation that says this demographic is important to you ... well let's go talk to 'em.
Kyle Davis: When you're looking at these high school kids. 14, [00:40:30] 15, 18 years old ... and you see the entrepreneurial spirit inside them, the hustle, the ability to just grind it out. And it hasn't been tampered with. It hasn't been ... they haven't been told no. They haven't done anything like that. What is it that maybe that, as a millennial, what's holding us back? What's holding someone who's 50 back? [00:41:00] Is it just because they've been told you can't do something and they believed it, or?
Chris Gardner: They're holding themselves back. You want to look at ... now that's a whole different demographic, you talking these folks 50 plus. First of all, number one, I don't know the number but the number is staggering of people in our country who are 50 years old and older who are let go from corporate America, right? Downsized, outsourced, laid off, or fired at the height [00:41:30] of their career and development who are deftly afraid Kyle they'll never work again. And the truth of the matter is they probably won't.
Kyle Davis: My thought process is this ... and I don't mean it to be mean or denigrate these individuals, but it seems to me that they've scared themselves into being frozen. To not being willing to learn and grow and to do something else. Chris Gardner: You know what, now let me say this. [00:42:00] Now this is where I also go in the book. I talk about some specific examples. 50, okay you're afraid. Well you know what? There's a guy, you probably don't know his name, you're probably too young. You know the name Ray Kroc?
Kyle Davis: Ray Kroc, I do.
Chris Gardner: You've probably been to his restaurant it's called McDonald's.
Kyle Davis: Yes I know. [crosstalk 00:42:24]
Chris Gardner: He started that little restaurant company in his fifties. John Pimpleton [00:42:30] created Coca-Cola, he was 55. Harlan Sanders, everybody knows the Colonel, what you don't know is he didn't sell his first piece of chicken 'til he was 62. Michael Angelo is quoted as saying, "I still like I'm still learning." He said that at 87 years of age. So this is where I ask people, what's your problem?
If this was a sales meeting I might say it differently.
Kyle Davis: I know what [00:43:00] you're saying.
Chris Gardner: All right. Okay.
Kyle Davis: I mention that not because I think age is a thing or ageism is real or anything else like that. The people that inspire me the most where I went to school and where I graduated from ... and to give a little context, the program I was in was for non-traditional students. So students who took four or more years off from school. A lot of my classmates were military veterans. I mean guys who ... 14 years in, seven deployments this place, that place. Some of the people who inspired me the most were [00:43:30] the ... I had a janitor who graduated from my school. He wasn't even from this country, he's from I believe Croatia. He was in his sixties. He grinded for 12 years to get a degree. And now he's at graduate school. He's never stopped learning. Those to me are the people that ... don't kid yourself you can still grow. Old dog can learn new tricks. Don't stop.
Gail Davis: Well this ties greatly to one of my favorite things you shared with me Chris. And that is Chris Gardner 2.0. [00:44:00] So people are listening they're not looking but let's just say that you're in pretty good shape Chris so ...
Chris Gardner: Man let me tell you something.
Gail Davis: Tell them about Chris Gardner 2.0. I think this [crosstalk 00:44:09]
Chris Gardner: You know what, one of the chapters in the new book is all about becoming world-class. And this chapter again is titled, It's Not Business It's Personal. You know how you're devices are always telling you you can update now to the 2.0 version, right? [00:44:30] And I've been saying to myself, wow man what would the 2.0 version of me look like. I want to see me at my best mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially. What would that look like? What would that feel like? And I got to tell you, man, the hardest part of it is physical. Oh my God, Gail I look good but I have to keep telling Miss Yolanda don't touch me. Everything on me hurts. [00:45:00] Oh Gail. I'm working with some professional strength and conditioning coaches that train professional athletes. Kyle I don't know about you but when I would go to the gym in the past my body knows my routine. You're gonna do a little of this, you're gonna do a little of that, right? I'm not going to go into a gym on my own and say I'm going to do nothing but abdominal work for 30 minutes.
Gail Davis: Yeah, no.
Chris Gardner: I'm not going to do that. Gail, right? But I'm working with these guys [00:45:30] and I've also I found someone to prepare, help me prepare my food properly. And I'm eating properly. I'm down like 14 pounds. But the big thing that got me, Kyle, was man I thought I was doing okay. I thought I was doing good. I'd been working out and eating good. And then I went and got something done called a body composition analysis.
Kyle Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Chris Gardner: You know the little thing ...
Kyle Davis: You do the water float or you did you ...
Chris Gardner: No, [00:46:00] bod pod.
Kyle Davis: Ah, got it.
Chris Gardner: Right? And they tell you, Gail, how much of this is lean muscle and how much of this is fat. When they show you that number, Kyle. Oh my God. You don't remember this but I know you remember, years, years, years ago Oprah lost all that weight. She came out pulling that wagon with 55 pounds of fat on it. And I just kept seeing, Chris, you pulling this wagon. All that fat. So [00:46:30] I've changed my lifestyle tremendously. I mean the food thing. And I am just sick of eating zucchini spaghetti squash and cauliflower rice. The other day girl I had enchiladas wrapped in zucchini.
Kyle Davis: That's not an enchilada.
Chris Gardner: That's what I said, Kyle. What is this?
Kyle Davis: Well you know I'm a big proponent of the ketogenic diet but that's something we can talk about after the show.
Chris Gardner: Oh man. [00:47:00] But look this whole idea that all of us can seek to become world-class at whatever we do with our lives and ... Did we define world-class?
Kyle Davis: No.
Chris Gardner: World-class, it's simple. A conversation is being held and the question comes up, who's the best in the business?
Kyle Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Chris Gardner: Somebody's got to say your name. Same conversation, same question. Who's the best in the business? If nobody says your name then you got work to do. Same conversation, [00:47:30] same question. Who's the best in the business? If nobody says your name and you don't care, get out of the business you'll never be any good at it. But the validation, Kyle. The same conversation, when that question comes up. Who's the best in the business? The ultimate validation is when somebody that does not like you says your name.
Kyle Davis: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Gotta love the haters.
Chris Gardner: That's when you know. Whoa, whoa, whoa. When the people who would not take your calls are now hoping [00:48:00] you return their calls.
Kyle Davis: Yup, yup. I love it.
Chris Gardner: When the folks who would not hire you yesterday cannot afford you today. You know how I knew? I knew when I got invited to be on your show.
Kyle Davis: That is the perfect answer. And with that, look .. Chris Gardner: And with that.
Kyle Davis: We're gonna wrap this up. So if you want Chris Gardner because you believe that early is on time, on time is late. [00:48:30] Late is unacceptable. If you want to meet Chris Gardner, have Chris Gardner come out and tell you what the three decisions and the greatest gift that is that he ever got.
Chris Gardner: Now you know I purposely didn't do that. You're good. You are good. Man, I'm digging this.
Kyle Davis: I'm like, you just give 'em a little something and then you pay him for the rest. And if you want to know what being world-class is then you can get Chris Gardner. And the way you can do that is by contacting GDA Speakers 214-420-1999. [00:49:00] Gdaspeaker.com. And then for the transcript of today's podcast along with the cool pictures that we've taken and a whole bunch of other fun stuff, you can go to gdapodcast.com.
Chris Gardner: Well let me ask you one question, both you guys.
Kyle Davis: I've got an answer for you.
Chris Gardner: Before we go.
Kyle Davis: Okay.
Chris Gardner: We leave here we're going straight to Hollywood.
Kyle Davis: We're gonna go to Hollywood, cool.
Chris Gardner: And you put the Apprentice, Shark Tank, and the CEO of Happyness in a blender, what would come out? ... Stay tuned [00:49:30] we'll be right back.
Kyle Davis: Leave 'em wanting more.