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“If you want something, go get it”: self-made millionaire coming to Tallahassee to share his story

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:51 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Chris Gardner, whose life story inspired the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, is coming to Tallahassee to share his story at the Power Forward Speaker Series.

Gardner’s journey from rags to riches was captured in his autobiographical novel, which was then adapted into the hit Hollywood film. Will Smith portrayed the inspirational man who rose from homelessness to making millions.

Gardner told WCTV that while it was on the big screens nearly 15 years ago, its message is timeless.

“That film, The Pursuit of Happyness, is probably more relevant today than it was when it first came out,” Gardner said. “And I’m saying that because of the pandemic. So many people have found themselves in positions that they never thought that they would be in.”

“The pandemic has forced all of us to to make what I call a hard pivot, and a hard pivot defined as something you would have never chosen, but you’ve still got to make it work,” explained Gardner. “Going forward, we’re all going to have to take a lot of baby steps, and celebrate small victories every day.”

Gardner, who calls himself the “CEO of Happyness”, now travels the globe as a motivational speaker, encouraging people to follow their dreams.

“If you want something, go get it. Period,” he said in a recent interview with WCTV.

Gardner’s realization of his dream was given the Hollywood treatment in 2006. Gardner was homeless, sleeping in shelters and train stations with his young son by his side, all while working to land a job as a stockbroker.

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something,” Will Smith said to his son in a scene that unfolds on the basketball court.

“That scene, that almost didn’t happen, has become iconic,” Gardner said. “It wasn’t originally written that way.”

Gardner says he was part of a heated discussion about the scene on set. Ultimately, Gardner said, “We tore up the original script.”

“Since that day, until this day right now, I hear from people all over the world who say to me, ‘I tell my little boy, I tell my little girl every day, ‘Don’t ever let somebody else tell you that you can’t do it.’”

In the movie, and in real life, Gardner not only became a successful stock broker, but went on to found his own firm and make millions. Gardner is always relentlessly pursuing what he calls, “Plan A.”

“Let me tell you something - Plan B sucks!” Gardner said with a laugh. “If Plan B was any good, it would be Plan A. Plan B distracts from Plan A.”

Gardner’s autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” has been translated into dozens of languages.

“I’ve had people all over the world stop me on the street and say, ‘You know you spelled happiness wrong,’” Gardner said.

But in reality, Gardner says the “y” in “Happyness” is actually at the heart of his message, and his life story.

“That ‘y’ is there to make us all mindful that it is you and your responsibility, and you and your opportunity to create the kind of life you want for you and your family. It starts with you,” Gardner explained.

Gardner will be speaking at FSU’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall next Tuesday, November 2nd, as part of the Power Forward Speaker Series, sponsored by First Commerce Credit Union.

There are still tickets available, ranging from $10 for students to $40 for a floor seat.

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