10 Famous Failures and Rejections to Inspire You

Oprah Winfrey famous failures

You’ve probably heard the quote “If at first you don’t succeed, try again” or “failures often lead to success”. The lesson, of course, is that very few people achieve anything great without first overcoming some obstacles.

Whatever challenge you may be facing in your career or social life, take your inspiration from some of these world famous failures.

Oprah Winfrey – American Media Proprietor

Oprah Winfrey was fired from one of her first television anchor jobs as she was declared “unfit for TV.” Oprah Winfrey has risen from poverty and a deeply troubled youth to evolve as one of the most powerful and influential woman the world has seen on television. According to Forbes Magazine, she is the world’s highly paid entertainer in 2012. She is also an incredible philanthropist – getting involved in other people’s stories to help them.

Walt Disney – Founder of Disney Co.

Walt Disney made it big in the world of animation but also faced lot of challenges in life. He was fired by the Kansas City Star newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He started a small cartoon studio with his brother Roy in Hollywood and the studio later went bankrupt following debts and was eventually closed down. That is not the end; Disney also struggled to release some of his now-classic films and he was told Mickey Mouse would fail because the mouse would “terrify women.”

In a timely twist of fate, The Disney Company went on to purchase ABC in 1996. At the time, ABC was owner of the Kansas City Star, meaning the newspaper that once fired Disney had become part of the empire he created. And all thanks to his creativity (and a lot of perseverance).

Today, The Walt Disney Company is one of the world’s most valuable brand with over $170 billion market value.

Michael Jordan – Basketball Player

Michael is still one of the greatest basketball player of all time. He was rejected for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year and he was deemed too short to play at that level. The good thing is that failure or rejection only inspired him to work harder and prove his worth.

This is what Michael once said about failure:

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Thomas Edison – Inventor

When he was a young boy, Thomas Edison’s parents pulled him out of school after teachers called him “stupid” and “unteachable.” Edison spent his teenage years working and being fired from various jobs, culminating in his termination from a telegraph company at age 21. He failed more than 10000 times before creating the light bulb!. That is in fact a true mark of perseverance. He refused to give up and continued his work with dogged determination. The fruits of his labour include 1093 patents including the bulb ,phonograph, typewriting machines ,telephones and many more.

Edison had only 3 months of schooling during his entire life, but he did not lack education neither did he die poor.

Colonel Harland Sanders – KFC

He dropout at 6th grade. When he was 65, a new interstate highway diverted traffic away from his restaurant leaving Sanders with only his secret fried chicken recipe and a Social Security cheque. So he decided not to fry chickens but sells his secret recipe and franchise the idea. According to the reports, he was rejected over 1,000 times. Then he found a partner with whom he build the KFC franchise powerhouse and today the brand operates in more than 115 countries.

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter

Speaking at Harvard’s graduation, J.K. Rowling spoke about failures:

You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling told the new graduates. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

When Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in 1995, it was rejected by dozen of publishers. Even Bloomsbury that finally purchased the manuscript, told her to get a day job. At a time she was writing the book, she was also going through a divorce and surviving on government welfare. Today, she is a billionaire.

Jack Canfield – Success Author

Jack Canfield was rejected 144 times before he found a publisher for his book, Chicken Soup for the Soul. When Jack told the publisher he wanted to sell 1.5 million books in the first 18 months, the publisher laughed and said he’d be lucky to sell 20,000.

Today, more than 123 million books are sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise (and over 500 million copies in print worldwide). Truly, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success.

Nelson Mandela – Freedom Fighter

Mandela was actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, joining the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, Mandela directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. Mandela was prisoned for 27 years but he continued the struggle till the black majority received the right to vote. Whiles in prison, he wrote an autobiography book Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela later became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, serving until 1999. A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Simon Cowell – X-Factor

Simon Cowell is a pop icon and a very wealthy man. Simon also struggled and failed before his success. Dropout of school at age 15 and bounced around jobs. He eventually landed a job in the mail room of EMI Music Publishing and later went on to form his own publishing company, E&S Music. Unfortunately, Cowell ended up with a lot of debt, and was forced to move back in with his parents. But he never gave up on his dream of working in the music industry, and eventually landed a job with a small company called Fanfare Records.

Cowell later launched the “American Idol” and “X-Factor” franchises that made him famous. This kind of dedication no doubt helped him overcome his early roadblocks.

Brian Acton – Whatsapp

He is the founder of Whatsapp but was rejected by the top social media firms.  Twitter turned him down and then Facebook. He still maintained a positive attitude but unfortunately for Facebook. Look at the tweets below:

facebook reject Brian Aston - failure

​Instead of interviewing with large corporations, he used this as an opportunity to try his entrepreneurial luck.  Much sweat and tears later, whatsApp became one of the most popular SMS platform in the world. Guess what?  Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 Billion. Imagine if he had received a job offer at Facebook.  Instead of being a multi-billionaire with the world open to him, he would have been a coder at Facebook. He would be an ordinary man making somewhere between 100k-300k a year.

What did you learned about these failures ?

All of these failures were followed by perseverance and enormous successes and I hope you also find them helpful. If you know of any other failure or rejection story that inspires you, share it with us.

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2 Comments on "10 Famous Failures and Rejections to Inspire You"

  1. “Great astounding piece! This was absolutely brilliant, genius, outstanding. It was remarkably enlightening and perfectly worded!”

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