Let’s get this out of the way: life isn’t fair.
The economic and justice systems that support our country’s infrastructure can be an impediment to realizing the American Dream. Affordable housing and quality education can be scarce. Neighborhood violence (depending on where you live) is a part of life for too many of us.
No one gets to choose where we are from, but all of us get to choose where we’re going. There are people who came before all of us—climbing up a steeper side of the mountain and carrying bigger loads. They had limited or no opportunities, but they made it. One of the reasons for their success was that they were resourceful.
As I travel with AT&T all across America seeking what #AgilityIs, I’ve met many aspiring and successful entrepreneurs. The most common characteristics that I’ve found is that these folks are resourceful. You’ve got to be. It’s mandatory, not optional.
In 1982, I lost everything; my job, my relationship, my home, and my freedom. In fact, I was imprisoned for 10 days for failure to pay parking tickets. But as I stared down adversity, I found that I could be resourceful and resilient.
It was also at this time that I became a single parent of a 14-month-old toddler. Jaden Smith portrayed my son Christopher Jr. as a five-year-old. There is a world of difference in parenting a five-year-old versus a 14-month-old baby. Nothing will ever require you to be as resourceful as the day you become a working, homeless, single parent.
My son and I struggled with the basics of life every single day for my first year on Wall Street: food, shelter, transportation, daycare, and dignity. That meant sleeping at airports, public libraries, hotel lobbies, or outside in Union Square Park if the weather allowed. And, yes, even train station washrooms. I had no resources. I now know that experience was preparing me to become a small business owner. When you’re homeless you’ve got no resources; when you become a small business owner you’ve got limited resources. Instant upgrade!
Food pantries, soup kitchens (particularly Mo’s Kitchen at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco), a homeless hotel, and a couple of friends were all that I had or needed in order to save every penny to rent a place to call home. I couldn’t quit, because I knew that there were those who came before me who did more with less. Those folks were resourceful; so was I. And, so are you.
Success in business and life will always require growth and resourcefulness. Resourcefulness is portable, you can take it everywhere.
Here are a few tips:
- Be great at one aspect of your endeavor. It can be as simple as time management. We’ve all got the same amount on a daily basis—24 hours. That’s it, 24. A lot can happen in 24 hours (just ask Jack Bauer).
- Turn your television OFF.
- Use your technology for more than tweeting and texting. Learn a language using apps on your phone. Take a class, watch tutorials or podcasts related to your endeavor. You can never be too smart!
- Make a personal balance sheet of all of the things that you have, even if you don’t own them. Have a car? Write that down. Don’t have a car, but you’ve got a bus pass? Write that down. Got your health? Write that down. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, be aware of it. The focus here is on what you do have! Stressing over what you don’t have reminds me of a conversation I once had with my mom. I asked her the proverbial question, “Mom, is the glass half empty or half full?” And my mom said the answer is simple, “The glass is half full; the other half ain’t yours so why you worried about it.”
- Always be seeking to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Back to that car reference again, Got no car? Walk! Where? Forward! Wear out your shoes everyday taking ‘baby steps.’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that you might not see the whole staircase, but you’ve got to take the first step. Forward!
Chris Gardner is the @CEOofHappyNess and the author of The Pursuit of Happyness. Follow his journey with AT&T to find entrepreneurs across the country who know what #AgilityIs and cast a vote for one of the 10 finalists who could win $50,000 on their way to reboot the American Dream on https://BizCircle.att.com/agility-contest/