From Homeless to Millionaire: One Man’s Incredible Journey
It’s Not About Where You Start
When it comes to life, it’s important to remember that it’s not where you start that matters, but how you finish. The American Dream is available to anyone who wants to put in the hard work, and has the drive and initiative to do better. In fact, you can go from rags to riches if you believe in yourself.
This man’s story proves that you can change your life if you’re willing to put in the hard work and sacrifice everything for a better future.
Hello, Christopher Gardner
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 9, 1954 to parents Thomas Turner and Bettye Jean Gardner, Chris was the only boy out of four children. He had one sister from his mother’s first marriage, and two half-sisters from her second marriage.
A Rocky Beginning
Despite having two fathers in his life, Chris didn’t have much in the way of male role models growing up. His real father lived in Louisiana and his stepfather was physically abusive to his mom and sisters. Chris and his siblings lived in fear on a daily basis, his stepfather going as far as to have his mother imprisoned on false claims of welfare fraud. This would result in Chris and his sisters winding up in foster care.
Tragedy After Tragedy
Chris and his sisters returned to their mother, but it would not last. When he was only eight years old she attempted to kill his stepfather by burning down the house. Chris and his sisters were placed back in foster care. Thankfully, Chris had his three uncles who be began to grow close to. Sadly, his Uncle Henry drowned in the Mississippi River.
A Good Mother
Even though Chris had a pretty horrific childhood, he still considered his mother a strong pillar in his life. She gave him strength and inspiration to be self-reliant and confident. This gave Chris the determination to try to avoid the alcoholism, domestic abuse and illiteracy that plagued his family.
The Trauma Continues
Even though Chris was determined to have a good life, he was subjected to more trauma as a young teen when a man he trusted sexually abused him. This experience damaged Chris for years. His stepfather also continued to torture him and even went as far as to threaten him with a shotgun. Chris wanted nothing more to escape his personal hell.
A Chance to Escape
Reaching the age to finally escape his stepfather and the constant abuse, Chris enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he was stationed in North Carolina for four years. While serving, he met Dr. Robert Ellis, a cardiac surgeon who would have a huge impact on his life.
Take a Chance on Me
Seeing the potential in Chris, Dr. Ellis offered him a position to help assist him with the innovative clinical research he was conducting at the University of California Medical Center. For two years, Chris would learn how to manage the lab an perform surgical techniques. Despite being underfunded, Chris was paid $13,000 per year and become an expert in open heart surgery.
A Change in Direction
It would only be a few years later when Chris experienced a major change in his life. After engaging in a long-distance relationship with a wealthy education expert from Virginia named Sherry, he decided to get married. A few months into the marriage, Chris realized that by the time he finished medical school, the landscape would be much different. He decided to abandon his dream of becoming a doctor. This put a strain on his marriage and the two began to grow distant.
The Marriage Falls Apart
The strain on Chris and Sherry’s marriage continued to grow and only got worse when they attempted to have a child. Sherry eventually became pregnant, but suffered from a miscarriage, which sent the relationship into a downward spiral. Unhappy in his current situation, Chris began to look outside of his marriage for love and affection.
An Affair to Remember
Chris would eventually begin an affair with a young dental student named Jackie Medina. She would end up pregnant after several months and Chris decided to leave Sherry and be the father he never had to his child. Chris Jarrett Gardner Junior was born on January 28, 1991. Realizing his current salary wouldn’t be enough to support Jackie or Chris Jr., Chris chose to quit his job as a research assistant to pursue other opportunities.
Drug Problems Surface
Chris took a job as a medical salesman, which doubled his salary, but he soon developed a bad cocaine habit thanks to Jackie’s encouragement. The two of them would stay locked in their apartment on a cocaine binge for days, which eventually led Chris down a very dark path.
From Bad to Worse
As Chris’s cocaine habit spiraled out of control, he turned to PCP which ended up destroying his mind. Soon Chris began to believe he could fly and would have full conversations with himself. Due to the extreme amount of stress he was under, Chris began to use marijuana, which then led to selling drugs himself. Soon, Chris couldn’t pay rent or his drug suppliers.
The Man with the Red Ferrari
Things continued to get worse, and Chris and his family were evicted from their home. Desperate and with no hope left, Chris approached a well-dressed man with a red Ferrari and asked him “What do you do?” and “How do you do it?”
Let’s just say the answer changed his life.
A New Chance at Life
Bob Bridges was a very successful stockbroker from San Francisco and upon hearing Chris’s plight decided to teach him all he knew. Chris made the decision from that day onward to never be broke again. He needed to be able to support his son. For months, Chris dedicated his time and life to learning from Bob, but unfortunately while he was away Jackie decided to move east with Christ Jr. Once again, Chris was plunged into a deep, dark hole of despair.
Thankfully, Bob continued to mentor Chris and obtained him an interview with Dean Witter, one of the largest financial firms in the nation. Despite being under dressed and honest about his struggles, Chris managed to land a spot in the company’s training program. Chris was thrilled, even though it didn’t pay much, but things became more complicated when Jackie reappeared and left Chris Jr.
Would life ever give poor Chris a break?
On the Streets
Chris was granted sole custody of his, but the happiness was short lived. Despite having secured an amazing job, the building he lived in didn’t allow children. Sadly, Chris and his son were forced to live on the streets. Refusing to let his new job know about his living situation, Chris tried to hide it and ensure his son had a place to sleep every night.
A Stroke of Luck
Thankfully, his luck turned around while standing in line at a shelter. Reverend Cecil Williams of the Glide Memorial Church chose to make an exception and allow Chris and his son into a shelter usually reserved for mothers and their children only. Moved by his kindness, Chris promised to pay him back one day and continued to work hard, often staying late and coming in early.
Eventually, Chris managed to secure a full-time position with Dean Witter. His days of struggling with poverty would soon be over. Chris even had enough money saved to allow his son to go to “Happyness” daycare. Despite being cheap, illegal and unregulated, it helped Chris achieve the financial status he’s worked hard for today.
The American Dream Fulfilled
Life really changed for Chris in 1987 when he started his own firm. Since then he has become a multi-millionaire and even wrote a memoir “The Pursuit of Happyness” which was eventually made into a movie starring Will and Jaden Smith. Chris may have started as a poor child, abused and neglected, but is now a successful author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, proving that anyone can achieve…the American Dream.