We always hear the success stories but we rarely hear about the struggles and failures of the world’s most successful people. Here then, are 26 famous winners who started with a whimper.
1) Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for. Then he became the British prime minister at the age of 62.
2) Thomas Edison’s teachers told about him that he was “too stupid to learn anything“. Edison also famously invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.
3) Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel”, couldn’t sell his chicken. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected him. But then one did, and today there are KFC restaurants bearing his image all over the world.
4) R.H. Macy had a history of failing businesses, including a dud Macy’s in NYC. But Macy kept up the hard work and ended up with the biggest department store in the world.
5) Steven Spielberg was rejected from his dream school, the University of Southern California, three times. He sought out an education somewhere else and dropped out to be a successful director.
6) Charlie Chaplin’s act was rejected by executives because they thought it was too obscure for people to understand. But then they took a chance on Chaplin, who went on to become America’s first bona fide movie star.
7) Marilyn Monroe’s first contract with Columbia Pictures expired because they told her she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be an actress. She went on to be a famous and successful actress.
8) Soichiro Honda was passed over for an engineering job at Toyota and left unemployed. But then he began making motorcycles, started a business and became a billionaire.
9) Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief’s position. She began designing wedding gowns at 40 and today is the premier designer in the business, with a multi-billion dollar industry.
10) Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Several more of his businesses failed before the premiere of his movie Snow White. Today, most childhoods wouldn’t be the same without his ideas.
11) Albert Einstein didn’t speak until age four and didn’t read until age seven. His teachers labeled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped.” But Einstein just had a different way of thinking. He later won the Nobel prize in physics.
12) Charles Darwin was considered an average student. He gave up on a career in medicine and was going to school to become a parson. But as Darwin studied nature, he found his calling.
13) Sir Isaac Newton was tasked with running the family farm but was a miserable failure. Newton was sent off to Cambridge University and became a physics scholar.
14) Dick Cheney flunked out of Yale twice. George W. Bush once joked: “So now we know – if you graduate from Yale, you become president. If you drop out, you get to be vice president.”
15) The first time Jerry Seinfeld went onstage, he was booed away by the jeering crowd. Eventually, he became a famous comic with one of the most-loved sitcoms ever.
16) In Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to be the most famous dancer of all time and won the hearts of American women forever.
17) After Sidney Poitier’s first audition, the casting director instructed him to just stop wasting everyone’s time and “go be a dishwasher or something.” He went on to win an Academy Award and is admired by actors everywhere.
18) Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporting job because they told her she wasn’t fit to be on screen. But Winfrey rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows. She’s also a billionaire.
19) Lucille Ball spent many years on the B-list and her agent told her to pursue a new career. Then she got her big break on “I Love Lucy“.
20) After his first film, Harrison Ford underwhelmed the producer and was told he would probably never succeed. But today Ford is the third highest-grossing actor of all time.
21) Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, to a friend. He sometimes starved in order to create the 800 paintings he’d eventually do. Today, his works are priceless.
22) Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 different publishers. He’s now the most popular children’s book author ever.
23) Henry Ford’s first auto company went out of business. He abandoned a second because of a fight and a third went downhill because of declining sales. He went on to become one of the greatest American entrepreneurs ever.
24) While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over 15 years. But the 5,127th prototype worked and now the Dyson brand is the best-selling vacuum cleaner in the United States.
25) J.K. Rowling was unemployed, divorced and raising a daughter on social security while writing the first Harry Potter novel. J.K. Rowling is now internationally renowned for her 7-book Harry Potter series and is the first person to become a billionaire from writing.
26) Stephen King was initially so frustrated with his first novel, “Carrie“, that he threw it in the trash. King’s wife found the manuscript in the trash and took it out. To date his 49 novels have sold 350 million copies.
Never ever be disheartened by failures.
Be steadfast in the pursuit of life’s goal.
Never give up enthusiasm.
Age wrinkles the skin, but giving up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill