Chris Gardner: What Helps Us Overcome Hardship?

I asked Chris Gardner what motivated him to persevere through the hardship he faced and what others can learn from that. Chris spoke about CHOICE and ACTION.  

Julia Valentine: I was at your lecture earlier and it was so moving, thank you so much for that. As I was listening to you, the question I had was - some people go through extreme hardship, people like yourself, and they rise above it. Yet some people, when faced with it completely give up, and they turn to alcohol, or drugs, or anything else like that. Do you think that there is something innate that moves one person to rise above it or the other person to succumb to it, or do you think it’s the belief system and anyone can do it if they actually are able to hold onto their dream?

Chris Gardner: I can only speak about me, about my experience, I’m not a social scientist or in a position to talk about other people. For me, it all came down to something I talked about earlier today, and that was the whole idea about spiritual unity, and making the choice on what I was going to do, and what was going to be important to me in my life. The most important thing in the world to me was to be a father. I had to give my son something I did not have. I made that choice, it’s not a matter of just making a choice, it’s a matter of you make a choice and you act on it, it requires action. I saw the light in my mom, and I embraced it. Two separate actions... As I spoke earlier, you can either embrace the lightness, you have a spirit that can embrace the light, or it can be beaten down and submit to the darkness. Some of us have to do that in order to see the light.

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Julia: Should one stand back and let them learn on their own?


Chris: Sometimes you just have to let folks go through the cycle. Honestly, I have had to let my son knock his head against a wall a few times. I don’t know about anybody else in here, you can have these conversations with your children. You say, "Look, we went over this already, we have had this lesson, we have had this discussion. I’m trying to help you not make some of the mistakes I made." Sometimes, as a parent, the hardest thing in the world is to get out of their way and let them knock their head against a wall. The key is the fine line between knocking their head against a wall and making a mistake that they will have to pay for the rest of their life. I’ve been a single parent for twenty three years, with a boy and a girl. If the good Lord came to me right now and said, "Chris, you have to be a parent all over again," I’d say, "Fine, but please give me a girl!" Little boys are knuckleheads! Girls have plans. Little boys, they’re still trying to figure it out.


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From the press conference at the AARP 50+ Expo in Orlando.

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