The Lessons Of ‘GRIT’ and The ‘Pursuit Of Happyness’ Movie

“Salesman to Intern, Backwards?” Lynda(Chris’s wife) says in a sarcastic tone to Chris Gardner(Will Smith).

Note: The below content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

In the movie, Chris Gardner is working as a Medical Device salesman but struggling financially in his life. He is on a constant lookout for a solution to his struggles.

Chris ponders over taking a chance of switching his career. He sees an opening for unpaid six months internship in a stock-broker firm which would admit only 20 interns, leading to only one intern being hired for the paid position. He decides to apply for the job. Later he joins.

Chris Gardener knew that solving life’s harder problems would need longer time than what most people would imagine.


During the internship interview, one of the panellists to Chris, “Jay(Another panellist) says that you are determined”

On hearing this, Jay with a smile “Chris has been waiting outside our office…in front of the building…with some 40-pound gizmo for over a month”.

Chris Gardener has been trying every day to meet Jay, explain his position, weaknesses so that he could earn a chance to become a stockbroker intern. Jay himself was surprised by Chris’s resilience and energy. He is a gritty guy

Later, Chris in the internship interview: Can I say something? I’m the type of person……if you ask me a question, and I don’t know the answer……I’m gonna tell you that I don’t know. But I bet you what. I know how to find the answer, and I will find the answer. Is that fair enough?

The interview panel too did not show any unconscious bias towards talent or his attire or his previous knowledge. They caved into Chris Gardner’s determination.

Chris chose an internship in a new field -Stockbroking, a very unfamiliar path for him, where challenges exceeded his current skills and knowledge. And then, no salary for the next six months — an additional burden to his already debt-ridden life. It was an abrupt transition in life. Yet, he had an attitude of not giving up and was ready to put in an effort to learn the skills and the knowledge.

Importantly, he knew what he wanted in life and had a clear direction.

Over the course of the internship, Chris faces challenging situations — His wife leaves him, he could not pay the house rent, he and his son have to spend nights in shelters for homeless people and endures many other hardships. He desperately needed money but he resists the temptation to quit the internship. It was most physically, emotionally demanding part of life for Chris Gardner.

Like Chris Gardner, many of us would have started something new with full of excitement, good intentions, and then…when we encounter…first obstacle…second obstacle….third obstacle… Most of us would have quit, unlike Chris.

As Chris Gardener is unfamiliar with the field, he has to learn many things from scratch. He might not be the best intern at the beginning but he got better and better with a ferocious determination. He was resilient, determined and worked hard.

Instead of talent, Chris Gardner shows how deliberate effort would take anyone higher up in life — Remember, it is not mindless effort — A very focused effort on small essential skills, activities which would appear mundane to anyone. Chris kept incrementally improving those ordinary skills. The first few days were tough, but Chris kept improving.

Chris was further disadvantaged by his limited working hours as he has to take care of his son and stand in the queue to get a night shelter. He has to do things in six hours what others have to do in nine hours. He has to continuously overextend himself and pay twice as much attention than anybody else. He took that as an opportunity rather than a challenge, found ways to optimize client contacts per day and also ways to maximize the profits. He improved his communication with clients, improved his politeness, he improved his calling efficiency by not hanging up the phone receiver. He improved his observational skills, listening skills so that he could gather additional information about the clients, which further helped him in his client relationships. Rather than pushing his products or services, he made sure that clients have to like him first as a person.

During the internship, Chris Gardner wakes up early every day, drops his son at daycare, goes early to office, works deliberately, does not take any breaks, goes back to pick up his son in the evening, travels a long distance, stands in the queue to get a place to stay for the night, reads books in dim light till late night and then he was again ready to repeat the cycle the next day without any second thoughts. Chris Gardener worked every day with the same energy and developed real expertise. He stayed loyal to his ambition. Grit is more of stamina than an intensity of short bursts.

Chris Gardener was committed to his internship work — a consistent, enduring commitment over the entire period — He kept on improving his skills every day. Slowly, his interests on the subject grew as he had spent considerable time on reading, gaining knowledge and deliberate practising. He began to enjoy his work and this further motivated him to practice harder. He focussed on the tasks rather than on future rewards as any thought of future rewards would divert the limited attention from his present tasks. SLowly, he found his work meaningful, purposeful to his goals and life.

The real Chris Gardener showed us that all successful people are ordinary people like us. Their problems were also similar to what every one of us has. The difference is that Chris is grittier — he had ambition, goal and then he chose a direction(Stock-broker). Being one among 20 interns in an unfamiliar field and managing his personal financial turmoils at the same time is a tremendously impossible goal, but Chris showed us that it could be done. He is a living example that every ordinary person could do impossible things.

Note: The above content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.


21 KEYS to SUCCESS in BUSINESS -A Guide for Every ASPIRING ENTREPRENEUR by Shah Mohammed M.

References: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance By Angela Duckworth.

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at or

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