The Pursuit of Happyness Book Summary, by Chris Gardner

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1-Page Summary of The Pursuit of Happyness

Overall Summary

Chris Gardner’s memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, tells the story of his pursuit to be successful and rise above the challenges he faced as a poor black child in Milwaukee. His mother had dreams that were taken away from her when she was unable to pay for college tuition. Her first two relationships with men left her with children. But it was her third relationship that caused the most damage; he hurt Chris and took advantage of him by leaving him fatherless.

The children all grow to hate Freddie and, in the instances where Bettye Jean tries to leave him, he finds a way of reporting her to the police. Gardner grows up with a deep fear of uncertainty but is also quick, curious and daring. He’s an avid reader goaded on by his mother’s sentiment that “the most dangerous place in the world is a public library” who vows to be better than Freddie or his abandoning father.

Gardner grew up during the 1960s and 70s, a time when he was able to witness the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement and Sexual Revolution. He also gained his first experiences with romance and sex, falling in love with Sherry Dyson from Virginia.

Gardner joins the Navy with plans of seeing the world, but he ends up stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. While there, Gardner learns medical skills and publishes articles in respected medical journals. He is then invited to San Francisco where he becomes an assistant for a heart surgeon, Robert Ellis. Gardner feels fulfilled professionally while missing something personally in his life so he resumes contact with Sherry Dyson and they get married.

Gardner is too wild for marriage. He wants a more exciting life and seeks out other women to distract him from his marital problems. Gardner feels an instant bond with Christopher, as though he knew the boy in a previous lifetime.

Gardner left Sherry for Jackie, but they don’t have much in common. Outside of the bedroom, Jackie wants Gardner to make more money and encourages him to quit his medical research career. He decides to take a job as a salesman instead, which he finds enjoyable because it’s competitive. However, he doesn’t find that there are many opportunities for advancement in sales.

One day, a young man is walking through a hospital parking lot and sees a red Ferrari. He asks the driver how he became so wealthy. The driver says that he is an investment banker. This inspires the young man to pursue his dream of becoming an investment banker as well. After several interviews with various firms, he gets hired by Dean Witter & Company, where he works hard for many years before eventually becoming wealthy himself.

Meanwhile, Gardner’s relationship with Jackie is falling apart and now he must take care of Christopher by himself. They stay in shelters and cheap hotels, but eventually Gardner decides to leave Christopher at Reverend Cecil Williams’ shelter for homeless children.

As Gardner’s salary increases, he is able to find a stable home. He then moves on from his job at First Boston and finds work with Bear Stearns where he can manage his own investments.

Gardner did well in both San Francisco and New York, where he pioneered his own road. He concentrated on wealthy and famous African-American clients. Gardner then started his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Company, in Chicago to practice conscious capitalism and philanthropy.

Prologue: “Go Forward”

The author starts his book by reflecting on two events that helped him survive and succeed.

A man named John Gardner saw a red Ferrari and decided to offer the space where his own car was parked in exchange for information. The man, who was a stockbroker, introduced him to some people in the business world.

The Pursuit of Happyness Book Summary, by Chris Gardner