Personal Growth

Life lessons from ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

Here are 15 life lessons that I could gather from 'The Pursuit of Happyness'. These lessons are mostly about living a good life.
Gaurav Achpalea

What is Epiphany by Gaurav? 

Epiphany by Gaurav is a series where I share my moments of epiphany with you. It’s all about moments when in a flash you feel like you’ve got a deeper understanding of a certain aspect of life. 

Such moments may come through different everyday life sources. It could be from a speech I heard, from what I read, a true event I learnt about, a movie, a story I came across about a person or even a group of people! 

At its core, the goal is to cover and share inspiring stories. Stories that inspire us to be ourselves.

I could not help but notice how many of us are being transformed into people who do not follow their inner voice. The voice that wants to make a difference and help you leave your mark.

Arguably one of the best Will Smith (as Chris Gardener) movies ever released, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ has managed to touch the hearts of many all around the globe.

So what is it that makes ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ so relatable to the masses? Why is it that even today this movie has a cult-like following? 

I believe these answers can be found by taking a good look at the subtly infused life lessons delivered in the simplest of ways. 

Personally, I have learned something new about living a good life almost every time I watch ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’.

So here is my little list of 15 life lessons that I could gather from ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’:

  1. Perfection is overrated: Sometimes the best moments in life are made up of underlying imperfections in life. So many of us have a strong desire to live a perfect life. But have you ever paused and thought about all that you would miss if you had a picture-perfect life. I think this is the central theme of the movie. I mean just look at the imperfect title – ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’.  It spells happiness as ‘happyness’!

  2. Know your strengths: One of the best scenes in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ is when Will Smith solves the Rubix cube during the car journey to prove he is a smart man. Later on, he gets himself a spot in the internship program at Dean Witter thanks to his sense of humour and persistence. There is also a scene where he tells his wife he will try for a stock broker’s job. His wife then ridicules him. But he still goes for it.

  3. Look at the bigger picture: Even though he was broke, Chris Gardener accepted the unpaid internship at Dean Witter. His wife tells him that a “salesman to intern is backwards”, but he still accepted the offer. There could be no other reason but him being able to have a clearer view of the bigger picture.

  4. Dream big but stay practical: If at all there was any chance of Chris Gardener surviving the six-month unpaid internship, he knew it would be by selling off his bone density scanners. If he would have just stayed practical and not embraced his dream, it would not have been his wisest decision. Similarly, if he would have chosen to live in his dreamland and stop selling his bone density scanners, it would have been a huge mistake. The right balance between the two is what got him through.

  5. Never lose hope: No matter what he faces, Chris Gardener just does not lose hope. He gets his car toed for not paying parking tickets, his bone density scanner gets stolen, his wife leaves him, he has to pay a parking ticket for his senior’s car, the government extracts tax money that leaves him broke, his last machine that he finds back malfunctions, so on and so forth. Come what may, losing hope just doesn’t seem to be a thing in his DNA!

  6. Efficiency matters: Managing his internship with Dean Witter whilst selling bone density scanners and taking care of his son. Juggling multiple hats to get through every single day. Now if that doesn’t shout out for his efficiency as an individual nothing else does.

  7. Break some rules: People are supposed to work their way up on the calling sheet they have been provided. But if Chris Gardener played by the rule book, he would have never made it past that internship. He was quick to figure out that he had to jump the queue to make it work and the rest is history.

  8. Stay committed: Despite losing his way and having nowhere to go that one night when he checked in with his son in the toilet of a railway station, Chris Gardener stayed committed. He went to work at Dean Witter the next morning, then fixed the broken bone density scanner and sold it. If he would have given up on his commitments that day, his life would have probably not turned around the way it eventually did.

  9. Persistence is key: When you are stuck in a dark place, it is not easy to get out of there. The only way out of there is by persistently pushing your way out of there. Chris Gardener believed his persistent efforts at Dean Witter would pave the way out of that dark place he was in. Guess what, he was right. Hence, persistence is key!

  10. Create opportunities: A lot of times you do not find an opportunity coming your way. In such times, the only wise thing to do is create your own opportunity. Be it enrolling for the internship program at Dean Witter, or be it walking up to the house of the pension fund CEO… Chris Gardener made sure that put every single effort required to create opportunities for himself.

  11. To err is human: No matter how hard you try, it is not human to make zero mistakes. Chris Gardener took his mistakes in his stride and ensured to keep moving ahead as gracefully as possible. Be it investing in the bone density scanners or be it trusting the hippie girl with his bone density scanners, there were surely a few mistakes he made along the way.

  12. What goes around, comes around: To get some twenty-odd dollars so he could buy some materials to fix the broken bone density scanner, Chris Gardener sells off some blood from his body. Of course, this is only after he loans his boss five dollars even though he has hardly any remaining for himself. How do these deeds come back to help him eventually? He is able to fix the bone density scanner and sell it off so he could make it till the internship ends. He also gets his five dollars back from his boss along with a job offer to work as a broker at Dean Witter.

  13. Make the best of what you have: Even though it may seem that you don’t have much, there’s a good chance that you have enough. Enough to make a fresh start, enough to get you moving ahead. Chris Gardener did ensure he did not waste even a single resource available at his disposal, be it whatever little money he had or the limited time every day. He even sold his blood to fix his last broken bone density scanner, what else can be a better example of making the best of what you have?

  14. Dream, believe, achieve: Here is where I shall remind you about one of the greatest scenes in the movie. The scene where Chris Gardener takes his son to play basketball and says: “Hey, don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. Alright? You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”

  15. Be who you are: There is no shame in being yourself. Especially the part of you that helps you earn a living, never hide that. Remember, in the movie Chris Gardener walks into Dean Witter multiple times with his bone density scanner. He also visits the pension fund CEO’s house carrying the scanner. He does not shy away from walking in after the 10-minute break without a shoe. Worst up, he walks into the internship dressed as a ‘garbage man’ (in Jay Twistle’s words) with pain splashes all over him. These are all signs to help you build up the courage and show up exactly as how you are.

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