The Author Behind Award Winning Film “The Pursuit of Happyness” Starring Will Smith Delivers Powerful Motivational Message to Audience at Word Book Fair in Sharjah

Chris Gardner is an entrepreneur, international best-selling author and award-winning film producer. Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of HappYness became a New York Times #1 best seller, has been translated into over forty languages, including six dialects of Chinese and Gardner is also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film “The Pursuit of HappYness” for which Will Smith received the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance.

Gardner’s second book, “Start Where You Are” also a best seller was published in 2009. Chris is currently finishing his newest book “HappYness 2.0 The Blueprint” Furthermore, Gardner has recently won a Peabody Award for producing “And Still I Rise,” a documentary about the life of his dear friend and mentor Dr. Maya Angelou.

As part of the #Arabic Book Fair held in Sharjah to celebrate the World Book Capital, Chris Gardner, participated in a panel discussion on his career The session, which was moderated by Richard Dean, dealt with Gardner's life story from his cruel childhood, his suffering as a single father who lived with his son homeless for more than a year, and the radical transformations in his life that sparked his spirit of challenge, leading to his bestselling book and his role as an inspiring international speaker.

Possessing the build of a body builder and the voice of a baritone singer, Gardner began his speech by expressing his delight at visiting Sharjah, which he described as a 'place of peace', recalling the atmosphere of his book, which was transformed into a movie of the same name in 2006, and starred American actor Will Smith,

"For me, it was important to have a certain degree of credibility in my story," Gardner said of why he devoted the most chapters to the story of his suffering and the difficult circumstances he faced during his career. "My friend, the late American writer and poet, Maya Angelo, told me:" I feel that this book does not talk about you alone, but it talks about all of us.

“When you have the courage to talk about the difficulties you have overcome, you are contributing to changing people's lives forever, although you will never meet many of them in your life, so I was determined to be honest through this book in every way.”

Gardner also says. ‘When I wake up, I look at the sky and say “Thank You God”. Because whether the sky is blue or grey, to wake up and to be at this point in my life, where I can work and do what I love to do. That’s an absolute blessing.’

In his second book, “Start Where You Are, Gardner echoes this sentiment when he says, ‘Whenever I’m asked what happiness is to me, my first answer is that it’s the ability to look at where I am in the moment, wherever I am, to remember where I came from and how far I’ve travelled, as a father, a friend, a contributing citizen of the world, and to be able to say, “What a beautiful life this is”, I’m so grateful to be here. More than anything, happiness is being able to appreciate everything

When asked about why he spells Happyness with a Y. Gardner said, as struggling single parent, he saw the word ‘happiness’ misspelt as ‘happyness’ in his son’s day-care centre. “I saw that ‘y’ at a time… when I needed to smile. It lightened the load and has ever since. The ‘y’ is also there to represent you and yours when it comes to defining and pursuing what it is in your terms, and what success, growth, fulfilment and enlightenment mean to you for this life — the only life you’ve got,’

In his first book, The Pursuit of Happyness, Gardner had shared lessons of self-empowerment, and how to beat the odds, his second book, Start Where You Are (2009), motivates others to claim ownership of their dreams and achieve their full potential.

Gardner says his greatest achievement in life was being able to put a roof over his son’s head, a sentiment portrayed in the film. He tells readers to begin wherever they are in life and capitalise on what they have in hand while building towards bigger goals and ambitions.

During the conversation, gave numerous nuggets of advice, while referencing book, which talks of having a Plan A with positivity, courage, tenacity, discipline and common sense. ‘This is what worked for me, a commitment to plan A, says Gardner, who talks about what a plan should contain.

Gardner emphasised the importance of having plan that must be clear, concise, compelling, consistent and committed or what he calls the C-5 complex. ‘You’ve got to have Plan A and not a Plan B. I will point to three people who exemplify this idea — Michael Jordan won six NBA championship rings because he was committed to Plan A, not Plan B.

Oprah Winfrey, the queen of media, has been committed to Plan A, and Barack Obama won two terms as the president of the US because he was committed to Plan A, not Plan B. If it worked for those people, and worked for me, it could work for you.

Gardner mentioned how the global financial crisis of 2008 changed the way the youth look at the world today. ‘You know my film The Pursuit of Happyness was released in December 2006. In January 2007, the US economy was going through a recession and spring 2008 was officially acknowledged as the beginning of the global financial crisis.

Gardner, solemnly states that “All the young people who went to college in 2008, saying “Yes We Can”, graduated in 2012, saying, “Wait a minute, what really happened? I did everything I was told to do. I went to school, I graduated and I got good grades. Now I have $100,000 as student loans debt and think I have no opportunity, and I have to move back with my parents hoping that they didn’t lose their house in the subprime fiasco”.

“Now when I talk to their younger brothers and sisters, they have seen how things did not work out for their older siblings. The world has forced them to look at things very differently and they are more focused on not having but being and becoming. This is a whole different mindset we are dealing with, but Gardner emphasises that the greatest gift is the permission to dream.

I tell people that you can be anything you want. Money is important but never confuse your net worth with your self-worth.’ His parting thoughts are simple. ‘You got to do what you are truly passionate about. It can’t just be about I want to make money. Everyone wants to make money. It has to be the thing that gets you up in the morning, and the sun cannot come up sooner for you to want to do that thing you love.”

Delroy Constantine-Simms