| Start Where You Are|
By Chris Gardner
Glenn: Good friend of mine, Chris Gardner, is on the phone. Chris Gardner is the guy, the movie "pursuit of happiness" with Will Smith was all about. Amazing new book is out, "Start Where You Are."
Chris, I want to start with where we were a second ago with Acorn. I'm talking to these people in these that are still in Acorn and saying they have been hijacked by various people, and they told me there's a couple of different kinds of people. When you look at the lowest wrung of the ladder in our society, the people who have been homeless or lived on the street a great portion of their life and been in prison, they said these people aren't used to standing up for themselves so they're easy to use and abuse. Do you find truth in that?
Chris: I can see how that could happen. I am to say I was never in that position, Glenn. Never have been. When my son and I were homeless, we were homeless but we were not hopeless and maybe some of those folks do, indeed, feel hopeless and powerless, but I felt that I had the power to change and create the life that I wanted to have. Now maybe that's something that I had that they do not have.
Glenn: Difference between homeless and hopeless?
Chris: because I knew the situation I was in was temporary.
Glenn: Was a society I feel like we're not lifting those people up and saying there is a way for you out. We basically teach people and it's starting to?? it's starting to affect all Americans, I think, we're teaching people you'll never make it, it will never happen for you. The whole system is built against you. Oh, you can't do that. You need me to help you. That's destructive, isn't it?
Chris: I could not agree with you more. When you say you need me to help you, let me define me for you as I see it. Me is friends, family and folks. Not the feds. Not the government. Friends, family and folk who saw me trying to help myself, Glenn, were there for me, but they were there for me because they saw me trying to help myself, and I think that's a major difference.
Glenn: You were living on the street, trying to pick yourself up, trying to start a new life. You're now an incredibly, wealthy, successful guy whose, I mean, Chris, it's not like we're hanging out going to movies together on Tuesday nights, but I think I will?? know you well enough to be able to say you're a happy guy.
Chris: Oh, man, I am cuckoo for cocoa puffs and you're probably the only guy out there old enough to remember who Cocoa Puffs is.
[ Laughter ]
My kids crawl into bed with me every Saturday, daddy, it's Cocoa Puffs.
Chris: Cocoa Puffs is a big thing. That's me, man, I'm cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Let me tell you, it's got absolutely nothing to do with money, movies or books. I'm happy for some real, real basic reasons that a lot of us need to give a lot more attention to. I'm healthy. As a single parent with a lot of help, I have raised two children that are becoming special young people, and I'm in a position to do work that reflects my values. That makes me happy. I got one problem, Glenn, some of the richest people in the world do not have right now. Often at night, I cannot go to sleep, man because my face hurts. From walking around smiling all day.
Glenn: You told me a story last night on TV that you talked to a guy who said I don't even know if my wife loves me because I lost everything.
Chris: And it hurt me to my heart to hear him say it. This is an exact quote. Buffy didn't sign up for this stuff. Buffy signed up for the house in Greenwich, summers in the Hampton and private flights to Aspen and now I got to tell her that she needs to take the train to the city. I'm like, dude, the first thing you might need to do is get a new wife.
Glenn: How do you even live like that?
Chris: Too many of us, Glenn, in my opinion allowed what we do to define who we are. We got our net worth confused with our self-worth, and your net worth is he going to fluctuate. Your self-worth should only increase and that comes as a result of doing things that are important to you that have absolutely nothing to do with making money. If you happen to make money back in the process, hey, that's a beautiful thing. But your net worth is he going to fluctuate. Your self-worth should not.
Glenn: You know, Chris, you live in Illinois.
Chris: Yes, sir.
Glenn: You see the corruption in Illinois. There's massive corruption on both Republican and the democratic side. They're talking about expanding, I mean, the government has expanded so much they're now talking about completely taking over the banks. They're now going after the small banks. The president is now saying I want a healthcare reform bill by July 31st. We're going to give affordable healthcare to everyone through the government. I don't understand the stock market here. I don't understand why people are now starting to say, oh, we've turned around. None of the fundamentals have changed. They're all still bad and the government is taking on even more debt. How concerned are you about the future of our country?
Chris: I'm concerned about the future of the country but maybe for different reasons, I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic because I know a lot of small business people that still get up in the morning, Glenn, they go to that shop and they turn that key and they say, I'm open for business. 70% of new jobs are created by small business people. None of the guys I know are sitting back and waiting for the federal government to bail them out because they know the Calvary ain't coming. It is not going to happen. And it's that spirit that I believe that will prevail over anything the people in Washington, D.C. may try to do. I believe in the people in this country not the politics.
Glenn: I know.
Chris: You mentioned the State of Illinois. Folk talk about Chicago, Chicago politics. I have never had a problem with any politician in Chicago. I will say this, when those boys from Springfield, Illinois, come to see you, Glenn, they bring a menu. Well, you want this, here are the prices. You want to do that, here are those prices. So I made a decision years ago, I would never do any business in the State of Illinois and we do not. Not with the state.
Glenn: Good for you. I had 7,000 square feet in Radio City that sat empty for a year because I was told I had to?? I would have to do some favors for some people that then could do some favors for me because it's a historic building. Nope. It sat empty. I'm not going to?? I'm not going to involve myself in that, and you know what, it's liberating, isn't it?
Chris: Yes, it is.
Glenn: You don't have to look over your shoulder.
Chris: The most liberating thing in the world is to be able to say to someone, you know what, I don't want your money. No, thank you. When you can say that, that is also empowering. That is also saying I am not going to do anything with anyone just for money. That is very empowering. And at this day in age, to be able to walk away from a dollar bill in this economy, man, that is a real big to?do. Everybody can't do that but the guys who do do it, Glenn, those small business people that I'm in touch with, those are the guys that are going to continue to make this country great, and there's nothing that anybody in Washington, D.C. can do about it.
Glenn: I told you at the beginning of the hour that I would show you a way to do it. I will show you what the answer is and the answer is simple. You already know what it is but people may be so beaten down around you that you may not believe it anymore. Here's the guy that actually is proof positive, you can't go much lower than sleeping with your child on the bathroom floor at a train station and then get to where he is today because he never gave up. The name of the book is "start where you are, life lessons is getting from where you are to where you want to be" and it can be done and Chris and I agree on one thing, man. It is the power of the individual. It is the power of the dream. It is the power of never ever giving up. Chris, best of luck. We'll talk again soon, my friend.
Chris: Glenn, thank you so much, my brother. Take care. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Glenn: Chris Gardner, you know, his is just an amazing, if you never seen "pursuit of happiness," don't rent that, buy that movie. Buy that movie. Get the book. Start where you are. Life lessons in getting from where you are to where you want to be.