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7 Famous People Who Failed a Lot Before They Succeeded

By Alicia Beharry
Published on June 4, 2021

Being successful can seem like the most important thing to many individuals. Success usually symbolizes the idea of progress, gain, and speed. As a result of this thinking, most people are scared of failure. To someone that is extremely driven, failure is a sign that somewhere along their journey a consequential error was made, that inhibited them from reaching their goals. 

Those who are always aiming higher and elevating their goals often have role models who are already at the top. Using these role models as examples to learn what they did right and how they did it is a good idea. This method can help lead you to success, however, it could also fail incredibly.

While we may be able to tip the scales in our favor with the help of some clear practices, there is still no definite way to predict if our personal or business ventures will have a positive outcome. Failure should be a part of the calculated risks that we take. Learning from failure can actually be a great key to success.

Hopefully, this article will show you that failing doesn’t have to be considered negative. Let’s take a look at 7 people who made huge changes from failure to success!

1) J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling may be very wealthy today, but before she published her series of Harry Potter novels, she was severely depressed, recently divorced, nearly penniless, all while attending school, writing her novel and trying to raise a child on her own. With a great book idea and of course hard work and dedication, J.K. Rowling went from working at a small cafe, depending on welfare to survive to now being one of the richest women in the world in a short span of five years. 

2) Ludwig van Beethoven 

In Beethoven’s developing years he was extremely awkward on the violin. He was also so busy working on his compositions that he often neglected to practice. Despite his deep love for music composition, most of his teachers felt he was hopeless and would never be successful in composing or with the violin. In fact, his music teacher actually told his parents he was “too stupid” to ever be a music composer. 

3) Michael Jordan 

It is very hard to believe the man acclaimed as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Micheal Jordan did not let this setback discourage him from playing the game. As he once said in a popular ad, “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.”

4) Stephen King

King’s first book, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections. After what felt like being rejected continuously, he became discouraged and threw it in the trash. Luckily, his wife was able to salvage it and encouraged him to be more confident and resubmit it. With Stephen King now having hundreds of books published and turned into movies, he also holds the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time. 

5) Oprah Winfrey

Oprah is adored by millions of fans worldwide and now worth billions thanks to her popular talk show and media empire. Winfrey was actually fired from her first TV job as one of the news anchors for Baltimore’s WJZ-TV because she got too emotionally invested in her stories. She was told she was “unfit for television news”. As a consolation, she was offered a role on a daytime TV show, People Are Talking. The show became a hit, and Winfrey stayed for eight years. Winfrey eventually became the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons. She’s currently worth an estimated $3 billion, according to Forbes.

6) Steve Jobs

When  Steve Jobs was in his 30s, the company he created fired him. “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.” Jobs then spent the summer of 1985 in a “midlife crisis” trying to decide what he wanted to do, from entering politics to becoming an astronaut. During his time away from Apple, Jobs co-founded computer company NeXT, which was later acquired by Apple, and launched Pixar Animation Studios. When he returned to Apple nearly a decade later, he brought the world the innovation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

7) Walt Disney

In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from one of his first animation jobs at the Kansas City Star newspaper because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. That wasn’t the last of his failures. Disney then acquired Laugh-O-Gram, an animation studio that quickly went bankrupt. Finally, he decided to set his sights on a more profitable area: Hollywood.

Walt and his brother moved to California and began the Disney Brothers’ Studio, eventually creating Mickey Mouse and Disneyland and winning 22 Academy Awards.


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