Determination and The Pursuit of Happyness

Last night I watched the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith and his son Jaden. The movie is based on a real life story of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) who went from down and out to multi-millionaire. What struck me most about the story was Chris’ unflappable determination, perseverence, and upbeat attitude in what was at best dire circumstances. This guy didn’t just take lemons and make lemonade but then turned around and sold that lemonade to anyone who’d listen.

I have to admit that the story was somewhat painful to watch. Seeing this guy go from one The Pursuit of Happynessbad moment to another as he ends up homeless while pursuing an unpaid internship at Dean Whitter brokerage firm was hard to watch. Several times I turned to Kim and said this is just painful to watch. Yet, for many people this is their daily reality. Then, just when you thought things might be looking up, life took another whack at this guy and his thoroughly bright son. Yet through it all Chris stays committed to his son and his belief in himself and a better life.

Since art truly imitates life I am always looking for some aha moment. I found that moment near the end of the film when these ultra self-important brokers give Chris the job and ask him “was it as easy as you made it look?” There couldn’t be more irony in that statement considering during his internship Chris stayed in homeless shelters, public bathrooms, slept on trains, and any number of things to stay alive and keep his son safe. It just drives home the point that the lenses through which we see life may not be even close to the way things really are. The person behind the persona or image can often be very different. When I am reminded of this, it makes it much easier to reserve some compassion for everyone, even the difficult people in our lives.

The lessons I took away from this movie were:

  • Never stop believing in yourself and your dreams
  • Even when things seem hopeless, success is still possible
  • Don’t confuse tough choices with having no choice
  • Money doesn’t buy happiness but without enough money to cover the basics real happiness is elusive

The word happiness is misspelled (with a “y” like in the movie title) on a wall near the daycare where Chris’ son spends his days and this annoys Chris. The more I thought about this misspelling the more I uncovered some meaning in it. I believe the “y” in happyness has to do with knowing WHY you are making the choices you make. For instance, throughout the whole movie Chris makes choices with the “why” being a better life for himself and his son. It has been said that people can endure any “how” to get what they want if they understand the “why” behind what they are doing. If you have a life plan and a solid “why” rooted in who you really are and the impact you want your life to have, it most certainly will help you keep going during any tough times.

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