July 07, 2011
Guys, I am coming to you immediately after spending all day in search of Chris Gardner in Chicago, Illinois. Let’s call it the “PURSUIT” of Chris Gardner.
I was chasing him down, walking up to his office in downtown Chicago. Now, you don’t know Chris Gardner, right? OK, yes you do … I promise you that you do. The movie, The Pursuit of HappYness, was adapted from his New York Times best-selling book of the same name. Will Smith played Gardner in the movie and helped document his struggle to find a better way and a better life.
After talking to Chris on a couple of phone calls, he basically said, “when can you come see me?” Well, when he extended that invite, I immediately accepted. As a matter of fact, I said two words when he said, “do you want to come see me?” The second word was, “YES!!!” I booked my tickets and I’m fired up about this meeting I’m going to have.
We checked our calendars, found a date that worked and then I started thinking about it some more. How could I maximize and add value to my visit by helping other people that have been succeeding with National Agents Alliance?
I wanted to let others share in this visit and get a benefit from it too. I thought about Alex Abuyuan, Chadwick and Melanie Ray. Their names came to mind instantly when I started to think about it. It was snap, I want them to come too!
Before I even got to Chicago, I got a lot accomplished because I got to spend highly-productive, quality time with the Rays in the airport and on the flight from Raleigh, N.C. up to Chicago, Illinois.
On top of that, I decided to take two of our media team members so that we could really document our trip and visit to see Gardner. It was an added expense, but it really triples the value of our meeting by great depth to our visit. It adds the video, audio, textual elements that you might not enjoy had I not brought along “Media” Matt Taflan and Mac “Hemingway” Heffner to help tell the story of our trip. It just enhances the whole deal for us and those that were not able to make the trip with us.
This allowed us to bring it to you in a different format. We can tell you about a trip or meeting, but it is some much better when you can see it in real time, see what was said, understand the crux of our meeting and what went down and understand the total worth of the meeting. It’s a great way for us to show you the “real deal!”
By us doing this, you get pictures, audio, video, documentation of what was said … the whole ball of wax so to speak. It all adds value and it’s not just “here is what we did.”
We get there and find this amazing building outside the Chicago Stock Exchange. WOW! It was incredible. There was security everywhere and it’s like FBI-looking dudes that are not messing around. It is an amazing building in the financial district around this fishbowl-looking building, which was beautiful, but you can see right through the glass from outside.
The first impression I had was I can’t believe this is so open. It reminds me of what we have done upstairs at National Agents Alliance headquarters where we took down all the walls and you see from one side of the building to the other; there is no closure up there. Wide open and you can see everything that is going on.
Once I walked in, I was immediately ushered straight back to Chris Gardner’s desk, which is an actual wing from an airplane that is mounted as his desk. He has three different desks away from his desk, which are for his assistants, secretaries, planners of whatever you want to call them. Each one of the three is directed toward his desk in the center of this large office, which is filled with promotional posters for “The Pursuit of Happyness” from all over the world, huge argyle lion heads, a painting of Miles Davis (one of Gardner’s heroes growing up), a fantastic picture of his mother and just tons of cool mementos from his life. These people dictate his schedule down to the second; they don’t allow him to waste any spare minute.
When you read Gardner’s books, he might come off or seem like this normal guy, who ended up at the right place at the right time, but make no mistake Gardner is the man. When you see what he has accomplished, hear the conviction in his voice and see the discipline he has when it comes to leadership principles you are just blown away by his commitment level.
He adheres to principles like: I’m going to do what I have to do and if I can get somebody else to do it at even 80 percent of what I can do it then I will let them do it. He realizes that he will not work himself as hard as his secretaries. He talked to us about a small 15-minute window he had between meetings, and one of his secretaries tried to get him to China and back! She thought she saw something that would allow him to be more productive and was not going to waste that time.
His staff understands that the better he does, as the leader of the organization, the better the company prospers and the more that they will benefit, the more they will have job security, job benefits, raises, promotions, perks like concert and sports tickets. Everything is determined by the heights that the leader rises to and the heights that the organization rises to.
It was also obvious the respect that Gardner has gained as his staff catered to his needs and making sure that if he nodded his head to the left or the right, they saw a need to ask, “how can I keep Chris Gardner working?” It was not a subservient attitude, but rather based on each of them seeing a way to help their interests by helping him get more done. They were trying to help themselves by helping him.
The other thing about Chris Gardner was that he was very personable. He asked questions and almost refused to talk before finding out about our organization, our facility and what the event was going to look like.
The next thing he said was, “why can’t we do better? If you can get 2,500 people, why not 3,000? Why not 5,000? Why not 7,000 people?”
What can we do to double this thing and go beyond that? He wanted to know two ideas we had that could help that happen? He wanted to know how to make it huge! He wanted to know how many people we needed to come in order to get the fire marshal involved at our conference. He said his goal was to make it to where that happened and they would have to tell us that even one person had to leave the event.
He was funny, engaging and he was interested in our success!
Later, when we moved out into the conference room and met with all our staff, he had funny things to say to our staff, signed books, took pictures and absolutely hammered the importance of association. He blew my mind talking about commitment, which really doesn’t surprise me considering all the things Gardner has achieved. He is certainly a do-or-die, he’s I will make it happen and I can make it happen, you don’t hear a try or a might out of Chris Gardner. He laughed a lot and had a bigger vision than just making money. There’s no doubt about it; he’s about making a difference.
But let me tell you something, he cleared the do I have money thing up after our meeting. We were sitting across from his office having lunch at a restaurant and we see Chris Gardner driving away from his office. We see this $400,000 green Bentley convertible car rolling through with the license plate “ThePursuit” and Chris Gardner was just laid back, chilling on his way to a normal appointment. We laughed and said what a fitting end to an incredible day and time with part of our team.
Hope this helps guys. There’s tons more to learn from this gentleman. Please read both of this guy’s books. Underline them! Highlight them! If you’ve got questions, bring them to me and definitely bring them to Chris Gardner, when you get to meet him personally at our “Be Your Own Rock Star” Leadership Conference in about three weeks!
Over and out!