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10 People Who Failed Before They Succeeded

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Success is rarely achieved on the first try. Success takes perseverance, determination, self-motivation, self-discipline, creativity, courage and the ability to never quit. Some of the most successful people in the world go through many failures before their reach their dreams. If there is one thing we can learn from these people it’s to keep at it! You really never know how close you are… So never give up on your dreams!

1. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter

Joanne Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series. Her fortune is estimated at over one billion dollars making her the first person to ever become a billionaire from writing and as of June 2011, Rowling has sold around 500 million books. It was not always smooth sailings for the famed author. Though a success story now, at the time Rowling was broke, divorced and rejected by more than ten publishers. When a publisher finally agreed to release her book she was advised to get another job due to the minimal profits forecast.

2. The Beatles – Music Legends

Famously told by Decca Records they would have “no future in show business” due to guitar groups being ‘on the way out’ the Beatles observed a rocky start to their career. Fast-forward 50 years on and the band are regarded as one of the most influential and innovative of the 20th century and still hold the record for the highest amount of Number 1 hits on the U.S. Hot 100 Chart (as of 2013).

3. Michael Jordan – Professional Basketball Player

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan. As the story goes, Jordan, regarded as one of the best basketball players ever, never made the high school sport team. While Jordan admits at the time the cut brought him to tears, in retrospect he believes it was a good thing to have happened, prompting him to work harder than ever to succeed.

Television Queen Oprah was once fired for 'not being fit for TV!'

Television Queen Oprah was once fired for ‘not being fit for TV!’

4. Oprah Winfrey

With a T.V. career spanning decades and a personal talk show running for a quarter of a century, The Oprah Winfrey Show is the second longest running talk show of all time. It’s hard to believe Winfrey was fired from her position as a news anchor after being labelled not “fit for television”!

5. Vera Wang – American Fashion Designer

The name Vera Wang is synonymous with weddings and through hard work and determination, Wang has become one of the most famous fashion icons and designers in the world. Wang’s career, however, begun decades before her success, in the form of figure skating. After failing to make the U.S. Olympic team Wang scored a job as a senior editor of Vogue. After 16 years in the position, Wang applied and was rejected for the position of editor-in-chief. At 40 years old, Wang started designing gowns in the multi-billion dollar wedding industry, leading her to global accomplishment and recognition.

6. Walt Disney – The Walt Disney Company

Disney, the pioneer of entertainment was once fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. Disney experienced a string of business losses following this until the premier of his film, Snow White. Disney unequivocally attributes his success to his failures, stating “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

7. Marilyn Monroe – Actress

Though Monroe is one of the most iconic actresses of the 1950s and 60s and ranked the 6th on the Top 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute. Monroe’s childhood involved several foster homes before winding up as a state orphan. She was fired by her first studio because they didn’t think she was pretty or talented enough to be an actress.

8. David Sanders – Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

At 65 years of age many are preparing for retirement. Sanders was just starting his franchise. Working a variety of low paid jobs during his working life, it wasn’t until Sanders created the top secret recipe that his entrepreneurial instinct took off. After a series of failures, including closed restaurants and countless business rejections, Sanders struck gold in Kentucky where he earned millions selling his recipe to an interested business man.

Steve Jobs - Founder of Apple.

9. Winston Churchill – British Conservative Prime Minister

Like Sanders (above no.19) Churchill did not reach success until a later period of his life. Experiencing disappointment at an early age, Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was then defeated in every political election until winning the role of PM at the age of 62. Despite his failures, Churchill is considered one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

10. Steve Jobs – Apple Incorporate

Jobs story is probably one of the most widely recognised technological visionaries ever. The American entrepreneur started what is now one of the world’s most valuable companies, Apple Incorporated. Two years after hiring a new CEO to run Apple, Jobs was removed from his own company. Jobs experienced countless product failures and tried to sell his company, Pixar, numerous times to break even. Interestingly enough, he attributed every failure and challenge to improving his creativity and leading to the ultimate success of Apple.

Who’s your favourite failure before success story out of our 10 inspirational figures? Have you had an experience where you have failed before reaching your goals? How did you handle it?

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There’s 2 comments (add a comment)

  • Craig Minns says:

    All of those stories have something in common, which is rejection. They didn’t fail, they were not wanted and that inspired them to look at things in a different way.

    Our consumerist world is good at creating rejects and cast-offs, both human and otherwise. The recycling industry is a response to the enormous piles of waste materials that consumerism has created. It is incredibly efficient. recycling scrap aluminium, for example, takes just 5% as much energy as mining and refining ore into metal and it employs a lot of people by comparison as well. We already have enough metal, we can reduce the amount of ore we need to mine and refine and leave lying around to break down it is no longer useful in its original form.

    We need to create a similar recycling industry for people who are piled up in nursing homes, mental health wards, in poor suburbs, in refugee camps, in aged-care facilities, on the fringes of society. We already have enough people, we can reduce the amount of children we produce and train and leave lying in piles to break down when they are no longer useful.

    We need to become human again.

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