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Famous Failures Who Will Inspire You To Succeed

Damien Thomas



famous failures who will inspire you to succeed

When we think of successful people, we sometimes think that they were either incredibly lucky, or that they were at the right place at the right time, or perhaps they had an easier life than we did! While good luck, timing and a good support system can all help with achieving success, these are not always the most important factors to achieving great success.

Actually, one of the most important ingredients to achieving success is failure! Yes, some of the most successful people in history have failed big on their way to achieving massive success.

I firmly believe that in many cases, it is our fear of failure that can be the major roadblock in stopping us from achieving so much more in our lives. The fear of failing is often the reason why many people do not make the serious effort to set goals in the first place and make a genuine effort to achieve them.

While I do not believe that successful people go out of their way to fail, they just see failure as a stepping stone and as a learning process on their way to success.

We often prefer the feeling of comfort, familiarity and security over the possibility of not getting the results that we desire in our first attempt. We often brainwash ourselves with reasons why we will not achieve our goals before we even start.

We create a comfort blanket around us to protect ourselves from what society has made us think what failure means. I believe that once we see that failure is not final or fatal, but simply a part of the learning process along the way to success.

I believe that we should almost look forward to failure and be inspired and pushed by it. Albert Einstein famously said, “failure really is just success in progress.” I am going to share with you 9 incredible stories of famous people who failed big and who used failure to inspire themselves to keep going until they achieved massive success.

1. Abraham Lincoln

  • 1832: Ran for state legislature – Lost.
  • 1832: Lost his job – Wanted to go to law school but could not get in.
  • 1833: Borrowed money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He then spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
  • 1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – Defeated.
  • 1840: Sought to become elected – Defeated.
  • 1843: Ran for Congress – Lost.
  • 1846: Ran for Congress again – He won.
  • 1848: Ran for re-election to Congress – Lost.
  • 1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – Rejected.
  • 1854: Ran for Senate of the United States – Lost.
  • 1856: Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – Got less than 100 votes.
  • 1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again – He lost again.
  • 1860: Elected as president of the United States.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”. – Abraham Lincoln

2. Jack Ma

  • Failed a key primary school test two times.
  • Failed the middle school test three times.
  • Failed the college entrance exam two times.
  • Scored less than 1% on the math portion of his college entrance exam.
  • After graduating from college, Jack Ma applied to 30 different jobs and was rejected by all of them.
  • Out of 24 KFC applicants, 23 were hired Jack Ma was not.
  • Was rejected from Harvard University 10 times.
  • As of 2019 Jack Ma is the CEO of Alibaba and has a personal fortune of $39 Billion

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine”. – Jack Ma

3. Colonel Saunders

At the age of 65, after running a restaurant for several years, Sanders found himself penniless. He retired and received his first social security check which was for $105. Not content to retire gracefully, Saunders had the idea to partner with someone to help promote his secret chicken recipe. Saunders traveled door to door to houses and restaurants all over his local area.

He was met with little enthusiasm. It is said that he was turned down 1009 times before his chicken was accepted just once! The rest as they say is history. By 1964, Colonel Sanders had over 600 franchises selling his trademark chicken.

“I’ve only had two rules. Do all you can and do it the best you can”. – Colonel Saunders

4. J.K Rowling

One of the most successful authors in history is J.K. Rowling. Rowling’s fame did not come easy. Her one-year-old marriage had failed, she had a young daughter, jobless and struggling to live on welfare and was “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” Passionate about writing, she began writing about wizards, spells and Hogwarts school.

It took J.K Rowling seven years to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When she finished, twelves major publishing houses rejected the book before it was accepted by Bloomsbury publishing. A decade later, the Harry Potter book series became the best-selling book series of all-time, selling over 500 million copies worldwide! J.K Rowling became the world’s first billionaire author. One of her biggest achievements was that she re-introduced the magic of reading to children all over the world.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K Rowling

5. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey grew up in sheer poverty in rural Mississippi. Born to a single-mother living on welfare, she was physically, mentally and sexually abused during her childhood. She ran away at 13 old, got pregnant at 14. Oprah lost the baby shortly after birth. She was fired from her first job on television.

Oprah later went on to host her own talk show: The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history. She was also nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the movie The Color Purple. Oprah Winfrey has become one of the richest and most influential American women.

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey

6. Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is one of the most famous inventors in history. He held over 1,000 patents in his name. However, while attempting to invent a commercially-viable electric lightbulb, he failed over 10,000 times before succeeding.

Thomas Edison will always be remembered as someone who never let failure stop him from achieving his goals. Thomas Edison’s inventions also included the telegraph, the universal stock ticker, the phonograph, alkaline storage batteries and the Kinetograph (a camera for motion pictures).

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” –Thomas Edison

7. Albert Einstein

As a young boy Albert Einstein was unable to speak until he was almost 4 years old and not fluently until he was about 9. He was expelled from school for his rebellious behavior and was later rejected from the Zurich Polytechnic school. Today, Albert Einstein’ name is synonymous with the the title of ‘genius.’ He developed the Theory of Relativity and his work won him the Noble prize. To this day he is considered as one of the worlds greatest pioneers of physics.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

8. Walt Disney

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” At age 22, Walt Disney experienced bankruptcy after the failure of a cartoon series in Kansas City. Walt tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927, and was told that the idea would never work.

The film Pinocchio lost a million dollars in it’s first release. These set backs did not stop Walt Disney to go on to introduce the most famous mouse to the world and win more Oscar awards (22) than anyone else in history.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

9. Michael Jordon

At the age of 15 while a sophomore in high school, Jordan was passed up for the varsity basketball team. He cried after he saw that list without his name on it. But instead of giving up, Michael Jordon’s mother convinced him to push forward and not give up.

Every time when he thought about stopping his training, he would picture that list without his name on it. At the age of 21 Michael Jordon entered the NBA as a professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, where he would go on to win six championship titles and become one of the greatest players the game as ever seen.

”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 Jordon

I hope that these amazing success stories will inspire you to never give up on your goals, and to expect some failures along the way to achieving your dreams. Change your mindset to see failure as a part of your journey and not roadblocks. Welcome it, be pushed by it and let failure inspire you to carry on to achieve everything that you want in life. Remember this, when you fail, you are in good company.