18 People Who Failed Before Achieving Epic Success

Most, if not all of us, want to be successful in our chosen career or endeavor in life. Unfortunately, that is not easily done. Before achieving any level of success, we have to pass through several needles. Often, it is only after we find our faces down deep in the mud before we start seeing some glistening rays of success. Only if we truly believe in ourselves, or if someone truly believes in us, and if we persevere in our ideas, will we make it to the Promise Land.

1. Walt Disney

When Walt Disney was 22, he was fired from a newspaper job because his editor felt he was “not creative enough and lacked imagination.” One of his early business ventures went bankrupt. It was also rumored that Disney was turned down more than 300 times before he finally got the financing for the Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney success story
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” -Walt Disney

 

Walt Disney success story
“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.” -Walt Disney

 

2. Oprah Winfrey

When Oprah Winfrey was just starting out, she was hired as a primetime news co-anchor. But the show failed and she was blamed. She was demoted to merely writing and reporting. Even there she was also considered a failure because she “cared too much” about the people she was reporting about.

Oprah Winfrey success story
“Don’t worry about being successful but work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.” -Oprah Winfrey

 

Oprah Winfrey success story
“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” -Oprah Winfrey

 

3. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg was three times rejected from the University of Southern California because of his poor grades in high school. The first film he directed “The Sugarland Express” failed at the box office. The filming of “Jaws” was plagued with problems from day one. Even after the film was finished, Spielberg suffered from panic attacks that went on for months.

Steven Spielberg success story
“You have many years ahead of you to create the dreams that we can’t even imagine dreaming.” -Steven Spielberg

 

4. Soichiro Honda

When he was 22 he started a small workshop where he would develop piston rings to sell to Toyota company. After several months of extreme hard work, he took his sample to Toyota but was only ridiculed by the engineers. But he never gave up. Though frequently broke, he spent the next months improving his piston. He even commented that “not even hunger could disturb his concentration when at work.” Finally, after two years of struggling to improve the design of his piston, he won a contract with Toyota.

Soichiro Honda success story
“Success represents the 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called failure.” -Soichiro Honda

 

5. Colonel Sanders

The story of Colonel Sanders of KFC is a very unique one. He quit school at 16. He had already lost four jobs even before the age of 18. At age 65 he was retired and suicidal. He traveled by car to different restaurants selling his fried chicken to the restaurant owners. It was well-known that Colonel Sanders met with 1009 rejections before finally getting his first “YES.”

Colonel Sanders success story
“You have got to like what you are doing, you have got to be doing something worthwhile so you can like it.” -Colonel Sanders

 

6. Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton did so poorly academically that his mother had to pull him out from school. He was then tasked to run the family farm. He also failed. Miserably. Only when he was allowed to enroll in Cambridge University did he start shining.

Sir Isaac Newton success story
“Live your life as an exclamation rather than an explanation.” -Sir Isaac Newton

 

7. Vera Wang

In 1968 Vera Wang tried to make it to the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. She failed. Later, she worked as an editor at Vogue, and was passed over for the position of editor-in-chief. Only at the age of 40 did she start designing wedding gowns. Today her business is worth over $1 billion.

Vera Wang success story
“When you have a passion for something then you tend not only to be better at it, but you work harder at it too.” -Vera Wang

 

8. Thomas Edison

According to his teachers, Thomas Edison was “too stupid to learn anything.” Later, he was fired from his first two jobs because he was “unproductive.” As an inventor, Edison made about 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before finally being able to file a patent for his light bulb.

Thomas Edison success story
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” -Thomas Edison

 

Thomas Edison success story
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” -Thomas Edison

 

Thomas Edison success story
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” -Thomas Edison

 

9. Sidney Poitier

At his first audition, the casting director told Poitier that he should “stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something.” But this great actor and performer never gave up. He went on to become the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” in 1964.

Sidney Poitier success story
“To simply wake up every morning a better person than when I went to bed.” -Sidney Poitier

 

Sidney Poitier success story
“A good deed here, a good deed there, a good thought here, a good comment there, all added up to my career in one way or another.” -Sidney Poitier

 

10. Albert Einstein

Teachers thought Albert Einstein might be mentally handicapped because he didn’t speak fluently until the age of nine. In fact, it wasn’t until he was four-years-old did he learn to speak. Later, his rebellious and anti-social nature caused him to be expelled from school. Today, the name Einstein is synonymous with “Genius.”

Albert Einstein success story
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

Albert Einstein success story
“Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

 

11. Fred Astaire

On his first audition, Fred Astaire’s evaluation reads as “Can dance a little. Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly Balding.” Never discouraged, he eventually danced his way to fame and became one of the most famous dancers of all time.

Fred Astaire success story
“This search for what you want is like tracking something that doesn’t want to be tracked. It takes time to get a dance right, to create something memorable.” -Fred Astaire

 

Fred Astaire success story
“Do it big, do it right and do it with style.” -Fred Astaire

 

12. J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling was divorced and raising a daughter and she was unemployed. She was also living on welfare when she was writing the first Harry Potter novel. She eventually became the first writer to achieve “billionaire” status.

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

 

J.K. Rowling success story
“Sometimes we fall down because there’s something down there we are supposed to find.” -J.K. Rowling

 

13. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin had always been considered an average student. In fact, he gave up a career in medicine to become a member of the clergy. But his study of nature led him to his true calling.

Charles Darwin success story
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” -Charles Darwin

 

Charles Darwin success story
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” -Charles Darwin

 

14. Harrison Ford

After appearing in a minor movie role, Harrison Ford was told be the studio executive that he would never succeed in the movie industry. But he later went on to become one of the top-grossing actors of all time.

Harrison Ford success story
“All I would tell people is to hold onto what was individual about themselves, not to allow their ambition for success to cause them to try to imitate the success of others. You’ve got to find it on your own terms.” -Harrison Ford

 

15. Dr. Seuss

Before becoming the most popular children’s book author that he is today, Theodor Suess Geisel’s first book was rejected by more than 25 different publishers. Now popularly known as Dr. Seuss, he eventually sold hundreds of millions of copies of his children’s books and some have been made into movies.

Dr. Seuss success story
“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss

 

Dr. Seuss success story
“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” -Dr. Seuss

 

16. Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball first appeared in Broadway, but was fired shortly after. She appeared in the Shubert Brothers production only to fail again. For years she persevered in small acting roles, sometimes even uncredited ones, until she gained some small success. Finally, after several failures, she achieved Hollywood fame.

Lucille Ball success story
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” -Lucille Ball

 

17. Winston Churchill

During World War I, Winston Churchill was dismissed from government because of his decision to attack Turkey that led to thousands of casualties. His wife even recalled that as a result of the tragedy, she thought Winston would die of grief. Eventually, he rose from his grief and, having learned so much from his experience, Winston Churchill went on to become an outstanding leader of the British people as their Prime Minister during World War II.

Winston Churchill success story
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” -Winston Churchill

 

18. Henry Ford

Henry Ford failed in his previous attempts at starting an automobile company. But instead of accepting defeat and moving on, he analyzed and learned from his experiences. Eventually he found another financier and was able to build another company that proved to be highly successful.

Henry Ford success story
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” -Henry Ford

 

Henry Ford success story
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” -Henry Ford

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