Friday, April 10, 2009

Freedom Friday 04.10.09

Welcome to Freedom Friday!

Today's principal is : I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

“Everyone has a natural right to choose that vocation in life which he thinks most likely to give him comfortable subsistence.” -Thomas Jefferson

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." -United States Declaration of Independence

The key to understanding how our government and society were designed to work is to recognize that while "all Men are created equal" we were never guaranteed equal results. Ideally, our government provides the framework for us to operate in and then gets out of the way, leaving us to our Lives, Liberties and pursuits of Happiness. What I decide to pursue may differ significantly from what you decide to pursue. The things that make me happy are not necessarily the things that make you happy. I may be ultimately more successful in my pursuits than you are or vice versa. And that's okay.

What matters is that you and I have equal opportunity.

What we make of that opportunity is up to us.

Meet Chris Gardner, the man whose rags-to-riches story inspired the movie Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. Chris did not have any positive male role models as a child, since his father was absent and his stepfather was a violent man who physically abused him and his mother regularly. Despite her unhappy marriage, Gardner's mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, was a source of inspiration and strength. She encouraged Gardner to believe in himself and sowed the seeds of self-reliance in him. Gardner quotes her as saying, "You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain't coming."

Bettye was imprisoned and Chris and his siblings sent to live in foster care when his stepfather reported her for working while receiving welfare. They re-entered foster care when she later tried to burn down the family home with the stepfather inside. From those experiences, Chris determined that alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse, illiteracy, fear, and powerlessness were all things he wanted to avoid in the future.

Long story short, Chris kept trying to work his way out of poverty and powerlessness and kept getting knocked down. Gardner eventually worked to become a top trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. He arrived at the office early and stayed late each day, persistently making calls to prospective clients with his goal being 200 calls/day. His perseverance paid off when, in 1982, Gardner passed his licensing exam on the first try and became a full employee of the firm. He still barely made enough to support himself and then after a failed relationship, he found himself with sole custody of his infant son. The rooming house he lived in didn't allow children and so Chris and his son secretly struggled with homelessness while he saved money for a rental house.

This is just a glimpse into the trials and tragedies of Chris' life. But the good news is that Chris never gave up. He persevered and in the end his hard work was rewarded when he founded his own brokerage firm.

Today, Chris is wealthy beyond his wildest dreams and he uses his influence and wealth to fund many charitable organizations some of which provided assistance to Chris and his son many years before. Now I'm not suggesting that hard work and perseverence will always result in wealth; nor am I suggesting that wealth for wealth's sake should be our goal. I simply offer Chris' humble rags-to-riches story as an example of how we can overcome our circumstances through perseverance and we can use our stories of struggle and success to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

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