"A funny thing happened on the way to the conference this morning. . ." began Carol McDaniel as she opened the second day of the HR Florida Annual Conference.
It turns out that the scheduled keynoter for the day, Soledad Obrien, was pulled away to New Orleans to tend to Hurricane Isaac and would not be speaking to us this morning.
Always ready with a Plan B, the HR Florida team brought us Chris Gardner.
Chris Gardner's personal struggle of establishing himself as a stockbroker while managing fatherhood and homelessness was the inspiration for the 2006 film, The Pursuit of Happyness.
Chris' keynote, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happyness, was moving and inspiring. Hanging on every word, I took only a few bullet point notes as he spoke:
- About homeless: "Homelessness. Life happens."
- His commitment: "My children will know who their father is".
- Advice from his mother when he wanted to be a musician: "You can't be Miles Davis. There's only one and he already has that job."
Nonetheless, he was determined to be world class at something. His successful stock brokerage firm aside, Chris' personal story is world class and inspiring to people every day.
"When I talk about alcoholism in the household, domestic violence, child abuse, illiteracy, and all of those issues—those are universal issues; those are not just confined to ZIP codes," Chris said in a 2006 CNN interview. The message hit home with the HR pros in the room that day.
The line at his book signing was wrapped around the conference hall floor and many attendees are probably renting the movie or reading the book right now. I am not and am not sure will. The message was so powerful, the gratitude when he received HR Florida's donation to his organization so genuine, and the warmth I felt when I spoke with him so real, I don't think anything print or digital can live up to the man and his story.
Chris Gardner faced adversity and snaps to judgement and was advised to play it small - yet he did not. I have to wonder if I would have the strength or conviction to do the same if I faced the same set of circumstances. Would you?