“People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you can’t do it.” I was born to Bettye Jean Gardner and Thomas Turner on February 9, 1954, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have a stepsister, Ophelia, from my mother’s earlier marriage, and two half-siblings, Kimberly and Sharon, from my mother’s third husband, Freddie Triplett. We had [...]


Letter to you from…


“People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you can’t do it.”
I was born to Bettye Jean Gardner and Thomas Turner on February 9, 1954, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have a stepsister, Ophelia, from my mother’s earlier marriage, and two half-siblings, Kimberly and Sharon, from my mother’s third husband, Freddie Triplett.

We had a harsh childhood, with instances of separation from our mother, when she was falsely accused of crimes by her husband Triplett. However, it was mother who was the inspiration behind my story, motivating me to be independent and confident, in spite of all troubles.
During the late 1960s, I was influenced by political figures like Eldridge Cleaver, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
On finishing school, I took my Uncle Henry’s advice and joined the United States Navy, serving at North Carolina’s ‘Camp Lejeune’, for a term of four years.

It was here that I met Robert Ellis, a renowned heart surgeon, who suggested that I join the research team at San Francisco’s ‘University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital’. In 1974, the I quit the Navy, and took up the position of a clinical research assistant in the hospital.

Within a span of two years, I proved that I was ready for taking up a bigger position, and in 1976, I became the in-charge for a laboratory, along with writing medical articles with Ellis. This job however did not pay well enough, and with a family to look after, I was forced to start working as a salesman for medical equipment.

“Every finish line is the beginning of a new race”
I tried selling cancer diagnosing equipment. In 1976 it was new, and expensive technology.
I was married to a nurse and I had a son to look after and the decision to sell medical equipment seemed wise at that point in my life to which my wife supported. We were quite happy for few months, we moved to a new house and we thought we were financially stable.

Then the dreams came crashing down when the market for cancer diagnostic equipment became scarce. Nobody wanted to buy them because they were so expensive. And I was at a loss. I spent all my life’s savings on investing in the business of selling this equipment, now I was broke. A rent to pay, a son to look after and a wife who seemed to give up every single day.

“The future was uncertain, absolutely, and there were many hurdles, twists, and turns to come, but as long as I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, the voices of fear and shame, the messages from those who wanted me to believe that I wasn’t good enough, would be stilled.”
On one occasion, I saw a well-dressed man driving a Ferrari, and was curious to know what career he pursued. Because I had never seen such a happy person. Everyone who came out of that building seemed happy. And for me, I hadn’t encountered that feeling for a long time.

I came to know that the man was Bob Bridges. I spoke to him and asked him what he did. He said that he was a stockbroker and I was inspired to do the same job just, so I can be happy like him.

“If you don’t take the necessary steps to make them happen, dreams are just mirages that mess with your head”
I asked Bob Bridges to give me an opportunity to be a stock broker. What I didn’t know was that it came with a price.
I had to take the course and pass the exam to qualify for the job. Only the best gets the job.

I told my wife that I wanted to be a stockbroker and that I had to study to get the job. She disapproved immediately. She told me I was dreaming too big and that I was not capable. She worried about herself and not having the money to live. I don’t blame her.
The next thing I know she was packing her bags and taking my son along with her.

This part of my life is called being broke and lost.
My wife left me. But I fought to keep my son. I always held one thing dearer than all else: my commitment to my son.
Luck was never on my side.

Bridges trained me, and I took the course. I was always good with numbers but I never followed up on my goals to actually achieve something. This time I wanted to stick it through. Something told me I had to do this and that its now or never.

I was hired by the firm ‘Dean Witter Reynolds’ as a trainee, with no salary till I got a confirmed job. The only means I survived by, was the meagre amount of money I earned from the sale of medical equipment.

I had no money to pay for my sons’ day care that I had to take him everywhere to sell the equipment.
During this time, we were kicked out of our apartment. Then we were homeless and by the little money I had, we lived in a motel.
We were kicked out of the motel after few days because I couldn’t pay the rent. Again.

I couldn’t bear the pain. I had to complete the course I was studying, take care of my son and earn.
We didn’t have anywhere to go, we were homeless, and we ended up living in the subway toilets on and off.
It was tough raising an 8-year-old with everything that I was going through. But I loved him too much and I was committed to him.
Nothing went my way.

But I knew this was my calling. I knew that my struggle is not an excuse, it’s my ammunition.
When I had to take the exam for the job as a stockbroker, I was ready. My son was a motivation for me too. I studied early in the morning because there was no light in the night. Sometimes standing up the whole night just enough to get the street light.
I tried to believe in myself.

I was the first to finish the exam.
Struggled every day to be the best broker in the competitive environment. Nobody knew I was homeless. Nobody knew that I never slept, that I never ate, that I struggled every day.
The firm only hired the best. The best scorer in the exam and the best intern on the brokering job.
I cried the days I had to live in the toilets.

The struggle I went through, little did I know was ultimately going to be paid off.
“You know how mountains get moved? Everyone who can move a couple, move a couple. Those who can move rocks, move rocks. Those who can move boulders, move boulders. That’s how mountains get moved. If every one of us did everything we could, I believe we would be in a different world.”
Then something happened.

I was called in to the office with the directors. The first time I came in to the interview I had no proper clothes. I was copped for a parking ticket which I couldn’t pay off. I was in jail the night before my first interview and I didn’t have an option but to rush for the interview.
They hired me then for the internship for I don’t know what. But Bob Bridges told me I did well. He couldn’t believe how I scored the internship, but I did.

This time I didn’t know why I was called in.
This was 1982. I was taken in and told that I did well.
I was absorbed as a full-time employee after clearing my ‘Series 7’ test.
This part of my life was called happiness.

I couldn’t believe that everything I ever encountered led me to that moment. That simple moment where I knew nothing mattered, and I felt happy.
The state of happiness was unknown to me until then.

I walked out of the building, happy. For the first time in a very long time, I was truly happy.
When nothing went my way, I never gave up. I always pursued happiness.

It was happiness knowing that I believed in myself. I struggled and toiled and did the hard work to finally come to that moment of insane calm and pleasantness. I didn’t know where I was going towards, but I just walked. I just walked and felt what I was feeling.
No matter how much money is involved or no matter how easy it is for you to do, if you’re not happy, you are nothing more than a slave to your talent and money. I knew this.

The rest of my life was not as hard as what I went through.
In 1987, the I decided to start my own business venture, and founded the ‘Gardner Rich & Co’, in Chicago, Illinois. Being a small start-up company, I worked out of my tiny apartment at the ‘Presidential Towers’, with a paltry investment of $10,000.

The business was a success, with a majority of the stakes being held by myself. In 2006, I sold the ‘Gardner Rich’ stakes for several million dollars, and went on to establish the large firm, ‘Christopher Gardner International Holdings’, with its branches in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.
I am now planning to start a business with South African investors, with the aim of creating significant employment opportunities.
So always know, if you have a dream, it’s your responsibility to protect it. And never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.
And remember hope endures you.

I was homeless, but I wasn’t hopeless. I knew a better day was coming.

Good Luck,
Chris Garner.

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