10 Lessons From The Pursuit Of Happyness

I caught Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness yesterday and came away highly affected. The movie shows how strong will and determination can change a person’s life. After reflecting on the movie on the ride back home, I decided to come up with 10 lessons that I had learnt from the movie.


Where The Title Comes From
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among the "unalienable rights" of man.

Movie Summary
Based on true events, The Pursuit of Happyness (the incorrect spelling is explained in the film) follows Chris Gardner (Smith) as he struggles to achieve the American dream. Chris has everything going against him. His wife (Thandie Newton) left him and he's raising his 5-year-old son alone, without any real income. Determined to provide for his son Christopher (Jaden Smith) no matter what, Chris enters an unpaid internship program at a brokerage firm in hopes of landing the one paid position available at the end of the training program.
Sleeping in bathrooms, homeless shelters, and shabby hotels when he's got the money to afford a room, Chris never gives up on the idea he can land a job and provide his son with a better life. Will Chris be able to grab the brass ring? Will his son be raised in an environment of love? If you watched the 20/20 special on the real Gardner, you know exactly how this story turns out.

10 Lessons From The Pursuit Of Happyness

1. Necessity is the mother of invention
People like to be in their comfort zone. We tend to ignore problems until they become too painful to do so. That is why inventions seem so hard to come by. It is also the reason why insurance and saving plans are so hard to sell. People just prefer to ignore them at their own peril. How do we promote invention? You can start on a personal level by asking yourself the following questions: “Why is it this way? How can I make it better? What do I need? Who do I benefit” They are basic questions that we rarely ask ourselves.

2. Don’t do a job that does not directly link reward to results
In the movie, we see Will Smith juggle a stock broking job and a medical equipment sales job together. He worked on the sales on the weekend and broking on weekdays. If the performance of your job has no strong direct link to the payout, think of ways to improve and get another second income stream. Jobs that pay you based on time as just taking away the most valuable resource of your life from you. Time is the only limited resource in the world. You cannot make time and worse still, you have no idea of how much you have left. So invest your time wisely.

3. You are who you mix with
There are studies which determined that your income is the approximate weighted average of all your friends( I can’t find the link now but I am sure it exists). Stick with the right people and you will rise with the tide. Stick with the wrong group and you will go under. Will Smith had a big break where he got into the exclusive box stand. There he got to know so many contacts that were much valuable than those that could be found on his cold calling list. The fact that he came with a CEO of a large pension fund also help gained him creditability. The internet age has made it very easy to network. Try the business networking portal LinkedIn now. You can also add me to your network.

4. 1 decision can make your life difficult or very good
Some decisions, like Will’s decision to invest in the medical scanner, can make life more difficult than necessary. His decision to jump into stock broking however made his life much better. The point is not to avoid making big decisions in fear of making your life extremely bad, but to make sure that you always have a lifeline. Dumping your savings in something you do not understand is hardly a smart decision.

5. Determination, Motivation and Ambition are the same things
They make you take action. Action is the part separating thinker, dreamers from the successful. Set goals and work for them. If you are working, you should aim for your next promotion in the next X years. If you are doing sales, apply will’s mantra: “X calls=X meetings=X interested prospects= X closing=X money” Ask yourself: what is the X that you are aiming for?

6. You need a supportive partner
I thought it really sucked to have his wife walk out on him. I am generalizing here but I think the girls I know generally have less determination than guys. They are just not that interested in achieving goals. So if you see one who will stick by you through thick and thin, make sure the glue is always strong.

7. Luck evens out in the long term
Sure. In the movie, Will seem to always have bad luck everyday. But luck is statistically proven to be non existent. Flip a coin many times and you get even results. Work on your cold calling and you will get that X numbers of meetings. As long as in the short term you survive, there is nothing to blame on luck.

8. Money != Happiness
With an income more than 20K, your happiness level does not increase with further increases in income. In this study, it is shown that everyone needs a decent standard of living. But once you attain that, happiness is less definable because it varies from everyone. Varied experiences and being in control of your life generally bring experiences. See Maslow hierarchy of needs if you need to know basic stuff have to be fulfilled first. For me, happiness means being in control of my life, having financial security and doing hard and meaningful work.

9. Happiness is relative
They say a happy man is one whom earns $100 more than his wife’s sister’s husband. Less comparison of status with other people make you content. Or you could simply downgrade your lifestyle.

10. It is hard to climb out of poverty. Social mobility is dropping
In the Documentary 30 Days, they did an experiment where a couple worked on minimum wage for 30 days. Not only did they have no savings at the end of 30 days, they were in the red. It is not surprising that people cannot climb out of poverty. No one would be willing to hire anyone without a home address. You basically drop out of the system and no work=no money= no home. It’s just a vicious cycle.


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