Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner

This autobiographical story of Chris Gardner chronicles his impoverished upbringing in Milwaukee, homelessness in San Francisco, and ultimate rise to riches through sheer determination and hard work.

Gardner's childhood was wracked with the violence and abuse of a step father who routinely verbally and physically abused their family. He found some solace in learning through reading books at the library. He ran with various crowds as a youth and generally stayed out of trouble.

After finishing high school, he went on to enlist in the Navy having heard exciting stories from his uncle of traveling overseas. However, the majority of his time in the Navy was spent as a medic stationed at a Marine military base in the States. Through his solid work as a medic he was introduced to a leading surgeon who opened a research clinic in San Francisco and asked Gardner to join him there.

He helped with the surgeon's research and was respected as a very knowledgeable expert in training medical interns on surgical techniques. He eventually married and after prodding from his wife sought higher pay through a medical sales job. After several years of marriage he had an affair which resulted in the birth of his son and breakup of his marriage. He continued the sales job for a short period of time until meeting a stockbroker with a nice car and decided to change careers.

The internship offered a very low stipend and he was forced to live out of motels, homeless shelters, and sometimes sleep on trains or public restrooms. His tenacity at the internship as well as commitment to study resulted in passing the securities examine required to be a stockbroker and ultimate hiring at Dean Witter.

He then went on to build a portfolio of business first in San Francisco then working on Wall Street. Currently he owns his own investment company based out of Chicago and has a net worth estimated upwards of $60 million.

I first read the book and then saw the movie and though the book offered a good story of honest hard work the movie in this case had a better feel good aspect to it. The movie covers only about a third of the book and focuses on the positive elements of Gardner's relationship with his son and pure determination in reaching his goals. The book in contrast incorporates a generous amount of profanity and detailed descriptions of his promiscuous behavior. While overall I would recommend the book as a good read, a cautionary note should be kept in mind regarding the "adult" elements of the book.

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