Chris Gardner Quotes

I was late once and it cost me $50,000. I figure it was cheaper to wear two watches.

She was probably her happiest when she was teaching my sisters and me. She was our professor, our Socrates.

Until I went to the U.S. military, the worst violence I ever saw in my life was in my home.

I had the attitude, but I didn’t have the talent. Besides, there was only one Miles Davis and he already had that job.

I asked the guy two questions. One was, ‘What do you do?’ The second was, ‘How do you do that?’

A slow walk to Wall Street is how others describe my life.

The truth is, I was homeless before Chris came, I just didn’t know. I was just functionally homeless – living with friends, staying a night over here, a couple of days over there. Now, with Chris, I had to face it.

I was homeless, but I wasn't hopeless. I knew a better day was coming.

If you look around the country, no city has fostered more Black entrepreneurs than Chicago.

It’s not just my story. It’s the story of a lot of people who grew up and took a lot of crap – and decided, ‘I'm going the other way.’

One of the things young people always ask me about is what is the secret to success. The secret is there is no secret. It’s the basics. Blocking and tackling.

Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy.

The money thing will come. I know so many people who have so much more money than I. They are miserable. It is so important to be happy.

The cavalry ain’t coming. You’ve got to do this yourself.

Stay in school. It's what will give you options. You don't want to try to do this thing the way that I did.

It was at a point in time, where honestly, I didn't know whether I was going to quit, crack or cry. Some kind of way this child, this baby, picks up on it, and he stands up in the bathtub, and he says, 'Papa, you know what? You're a good papa.' That was all I needed to go on.

When I look back at the journey from homelessness to prosperity, I hold one thing dearer than all else – my commitment to my son. Doing a movie with the top movie star portraying me, doing a book with an editor who's last book won the Pulitzer Prize – all that stuff is great, but the most important thing that I will have ever done in my life was break the cycle of men who were not there for their children.

As busy as I am wherever I am, I try to get out and walk the streets, to remember how far I’ve come and appreciate every baby step of the way.

I went to some very successful business people when I was trying to open the doors of my company, and none of them would give me the time of day. I made a promise to myself and to God. I said, ‘God, if you ever let me get to a certain level, I am not going to be like that.’

The coolest thing in the world is walking up the street in Chicago, New York or San Francisco and having someone say ‘Hey, you might not remember me, but thank you for helping me get in the business’. That was 12 or 14 years ago. These kids have graduated from college and gone to law school or gotten their MBAs and are running departments in some of the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street.

When my high school teacher Mrs. Mertz found out I was reading beyond my grade level, she brought me magazine articles and took me to see Handel’s Messiah. Once she found out I had a light on in my head, she turned the wattage up. Everybody who’s doing anything positive in life had a teacher who turned the wattage up and wouldn’t let them turn it down.

I can’t think of a better way to honor my mom and lift her up than helping educators. The biggest part of her soul was to teach.

You know how mountains get moved? Everyone who can move a couple, move a couple. Those who can move rocks, move rocks. Those who can move boulders, move boulders. That’s how mountains get moved. If every one of us did everything we could, I believe we would be in a different world.

You have to be committed, and you have to find something that you are passionate about. And forget about money. I’ve learned that money is the least significant aspect of wealth.

Do something that you love. Whatever you’re going to do is going to be tough enough. Find something that gets you so excited that the sun can’t come up early enough in the morning because you want to go do your thing.

I didn’t grow up in a household where dinner conversation was ‘How did the market do today?

You have to be bold because there will be folks who will say ‘You can’t’ or ‘You shouldn’t’ or ‘Why?’ There is a certain boldness to saying ‘Well, I really don’t want to be a high-powered corporate lawyer. I’m really passionate about painting.

The first things kids want to know is how much money I make. For them, that’s a validating question because it means: ‘Why should I listen to you?’ My answer is always the same. If I were in the NBA, I might not be making as much as Shaq, but I wouldn’t be on the bench, either. I tell them forget about money; money is the least significant aspect of wealth. It’s more important to do something that makes you happy.

No matter how much money is involved or no matter how easy it is for you to do, if you’re not happy, you are nothing more than a slave to your talent and money. Do something that makes you happy and makes you feel good about yourself. Do something that makes you feel your work is significant and meaningful. If you just want to make money, that’s a whole different trip. I can’t help you with that.

Hunker down, strap in, and hold on. Hold on baby!

Another day filming, we’re going to film in Golden Gate Park. We’re filming in a place where I used to take my son to teach him to fly a kite. We had nothing else to do, no other form of entertainment, no money. I told no one that…I now know the definition of surreal.

Living with a baby tied on my back, trying to work, he recalls. It can be done, but you have to make it happen. And no matter what, you have to cling to it like it’s life itself, if that’s what you really want to do.

There's a choice: you eat or you stay in a hotel. We chose to eat. And we stayed in a subway station. We rode the trains. We slept in bathrooms.

I was Chris Gardner, father of a son who deserved better than what my daddy could do for me, son of Betty Jean Gardner who said that if I wanted to win I could win.

Yeah, you can beat me down, you can beat me and you can beat my mom, you can put us out of here with a gun, but I can read, and I'm going places.

My first ambition in life was to be Miles Davis. I didn’t want to be a trumpet player, an artist or a jazz musician – I literally wanted to be Miles. My mom said to me, ‘Baby, you can’t be Miles. There ain’t but one, and he got that job.’ But I made a commitment at an early age that I wanted to be world class at something.

I wanted to be world class at it or world class at something. At 18, Miles Davis was in New York playing with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. At the same age, I was playing with some cats named Pookie and Ray Ray. It wasn’t going to happen. But I made a commitment to be world class at something.

We all understand genetics. You get your eyes from your dad, your mom’s nose, there’s nothing you can do about that. But your spiritual genetics you can choose, pick, embrace and commit to. That’s what I did.

Though my mom had too many of her own dreams denied, deferred and destroyed, she instilled in me that I could have dreams. And not just have dreams but had a responsibility to make them reality. My mom taught me from a very early age that I could do anything I wanted to do.

Until she said it, it wasn’t a possibility. I always knew I wanted to be world class at something. I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t run and catch a ball, and I couldn’t dance. But I was pretty good at reading and writing. So that was my ticket.

We bag elephants. That's our motto. We go after the big deals because it takes just as much effort to land a $500 account as it does to land a $5 million one.

I just wanted to make a million dollars. But I couldn't sing and I couldn't play ball, so I said to my mother, ‘How am I going to make a million dollars?’ And she said to me, ‘Son, if you believe you can do it, you will.’

This one guy, he would tell me every Jew joke, every nigger joke, every spick joke in the world, and then he would turn around and say, ‘Well, buy me 50,000 shares of whaver you called me about.’

That's when I learned in this business, it's not a black thing, it's not a white thing, it's a green thing. If you can make me money, I don't care what color you are. So that's how I deal with that to this day.

As opposed to sitting and talking, I said to him, ‘Let me take you and show you places where my son and I had to sleep.’

We were homeless, we were not hopeless. There’s a world of difference. A lot of folks don’t realize it, but it’s estimated that 12 percent of all of the homeless people in this country have jobs and go to work every day.

Baby steps count, as long as you are going forward. You add them all up, and one day you look back and you’ll be surprised at where you might get to.

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