The Pursuit of Happiness

Morgan McKinley November 15, 2013 4 mins read

When you first see the title, The Pursuit of Happiness, you are probably confident that there is a happy ending. You may also be suspicious that the plot might be transparent and predictable. What I took away from the film, however, was completely different.

The film is based on the true TV program story of Chris Gardner, in 2003. It describes how Chris persisted through a myriad of setbacks and challenges—failure at his job, being left by his wife, finding himself homeless—to finally chase down success. This is not just the story of a self-made man; it is an inspiration to today’s generation of comfortable but ambitious youth.

Chris’s success wasn’t just a result of his vision and hard work, more important was his ability to see clearly the essence of any given situation, consider decisions carefully and be diligent in pursuing his goals. No matter how arduous the route ahead, Chris faced it fearlessly. I can summarize the factors behind his success as follows:

Have clear life goals

A life without goals is like a kite with a broken string—there is no anchor or focus. Chris’s original dream was to achieve his life goals by engaging in the sales of the so-called “Time Machine” (a bone-density scanner). Eventually, however, he discovered this was a mistake: This type of outdated sales method wasn’t only useless in helping him improve his current situation; it was also pushing him step by step towards the abyss of failure. Chris then had the luck to bump into a broker, Jay Twistle, and learn a little about his trade. Appraising his overall situation, Chris then set a new career goal—becoming a stock broker. As he saw it, successful stock brokers had two prominent strengths: math and connections. In terms of math, Chris could solve a Rubik’s Cube in an incredibly short amount of time. In terms of human relation, though he didn’t have any, Chris was confident he could use his excellent interpersonal skills to build it.

Seize opportunities

As Gorky said: Those able to use opportunities can have anything under the Sun. Opportunities are sent from heaven, but those waited on are not equal to those created. Half of a person’s success comes from opportunities. Each missed opportunity leads to a lifetime of regret. Seizing opportunities to display your abilities gives you a starting point for realizing your goals. Chris had an excellent grasp of this point, and he capitalized on it to get in Twistle’s good graces. In life, we can be diligent and wait for opportunities, but the most spectacular opportunities usually come in a flash. Author Liang Xiaosheng once gave a glimpse into the secrets of lucky and successful people: “Some people hop on the opportunity train and ride it to success. Some don’t, and regret it for a lifetime. Some never realize their potential, quietly burying their talent in the backyard.” When opportunity knocks on the door, don’t hesitate; otherwise, opportunity will find someone else.

Connections, connections, connections

As a broker, connections are extremely important. If you want to be an excellent broker, you have to manage relations with superiors, colleagues and—most importantly—clients. Unlike students, brokers work in the real world where personal connections are as important as sales performance. Without useful relationships and platforms, good sales performance is impossible: Imagine you have great sales but can’t nail down a good relationship with your boss—clearly, success will remain elusive. From the moment he started his internship, Chris made an effort to solidify his personal relationships. He frequently went out of his way to greet and impress Martin Frohm, an executive at the firm, going so far as to lend him money. Another time, though he was late for meeting with a client, Chris agreed to help Frohm park his car. In the midst of his challenging studies, Chris would never forget to help his colleagues deal with small things. He also knew how to use multiple approaches to establish relationships with different types of client, e.g. visiting their homes, making thank-you phone calls. It was precisely because of Chris’s combination of excellent sales performance and solid interpersonal skills that he gained Frohm’s approval. For this reason, Chris was able to beat the other talented interns competing for the one paid position at the firm.

As Frank said: In any extreme situation, people always have a kind of last freedom—the freedom to choose their attitude. Any person, if they have the dreams, the will and the determination, can create a life which belongs to them, and can change their place in the world. If we never stop striving, I believe we will definitely find success. I like to repeat Chris’s words: “Don't ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something—if you got a dream, you gotta protect it. If people can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you, you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”

All bad times come to an end. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

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