Massive Failure-To-Success Stories You May Not Have Heard Before

Everybody encounters failure in anything. But the crucial thing is how you react to that failure. Someone learns from it and moves on with the stronger will, but someone gives up. The choice is yours.
Massive Failure-To-Success Stories You May Not Have Heard Before
Image Credit: Postlethwaite & Netterville, APAC
By | 10 min read

What is the story of the biggest failure which turned into a great success? Originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

When I first read the question, I simple google-d about the famous honchos we see around ourselves. Yeah, they are at a peak today in their respective fields, but to reach there they have walked that 1000 difficult miles for which they took their first step.

Most of these answers are taken from internet and from different sources, but I am sure it is not going to matter as long as you wish your name to be added to the list.

Thanks Quora. Thanks for A2A.

Business Gurus:

Henry Ford 

While Ford is today known for his innovative assembly line and American-made cars, he wasn’t an instant success. In fact, his early businesses failed and had left him broke five times before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.

Soichiro Honda

The billion-dollar business that is Honda began with a series of failures and fortunate turns of luck. Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation for a job after interviewing for a job as an engineer, leaving him jobless for quite some time. He started making scooters of his own at home, and spurred on by his neighbors, finally started his own business.

Akio Morita 

You may not have heard of Morita but you’ve undoubtedly heard of his company, Sony. Sony’s first product was a rice cooker that unfortunately didn’t cook rice so much as burns it, selling less than 100 units. This first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion-dollar company.

Bill Gates 

Gates didn’t seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn’t work, Gates’ later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft.

Harland David Sanders 

Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

Walt Disney 

Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.

Steve Jobs 

This Apple founder is now a household name. Jobs was given away for adoption by his biological parents and he became interested in electronics after his foster dad showed him the joys of technical tinkering in their garage. He had to drop out of college, because his education was costing his foster parents a lot. He used to return Coke bottles for money and live on free meals at the Hare Krishna temple. A hippie who used to trip on LSD, Jobs went from a technician in Atari, Inc. to becoming the CEO of Apple Inc.

Richard Branson 

Branson went from being a dyslexic kid who performed badly in school to a British business magnate with a net worth of 4.6 billion. There was a time when Richard Branson started his record business from the crypt of a church – and now he is the fourth richest citizen of the UK. This entrepreneur is an example of how one can be eccentric and yet rake in the moolah. He had his finger in many pies – record label, airways and telecom.

Scientists and Thinkers

Albert Einstein 

Most of us take Einstein’s name as synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always show such promise. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but most people would agree that he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.

Isaac Newton 

Newton was undoubtedly a genius when it came to math, but he had some failings early on. He never did particularly well in school and when put in charge of running the family farm, he failed miserably, so poorly in fact that an uncle took charge and sent him off to Cambridge where he finally blossomed into the scholar we know today.

Inventors:

Thomas Edison 

In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.

Orville and Wilbur Wright 

These brothers battled with depression and family illness before starting the bicycle shop that would lead them to experimenting with flight. After numerous attempts at creating flying machines, several years of hard work, and tons of failed prototypes, the brothers finally created a plane that could get airborne and stay there.

Public Figures:

Winston Churchill 

This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom wasn’t always as well regarded as he is today. Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. After school he faced many years of political failures, as he was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62.

Abraham Lincoln 

While today he is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of our nation, Lincoln’s life wasn’t so easy. In his youth he went to war a captain and returned a private (if you’re not familiar with military ranks, just know that private is as low as it goes.) Lincoln didn’t stop failing there, however. He started numerous failed businesses and was defeated in numerous runs he made for public office.

Oprah Winfrey 

Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”

Hollywood Fame:

Jerry Seinfield 

Just about everybody knows who Seinfeld is, but the first time the young comedian walked on stage at a comedy club, he looked out at the audience, froze and was eventually jeered and booed off of the stage. Seinfeld knew he could do it, so he went back the next night, completed his set to laughter and applause, and the rest is history.

Charlie Chaplin 

It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was a little too nonsensical to ever sell.

Marilyn Monroe 

While Monroe’s star burned out early, she did have a period of great success in her life. Despite a rough upbringing and being told by modelling agents that she should instead consider being a secretary, Monroe became a pin-up, model and actress that still strikes a chord with people today.

Writers and Artists:

Charles Schultz 

Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip has had enduring fame, yet this cartoonist had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Even after high school, Schultz didn’t have it easy, applying and being rejected for a position working with Walt Disney.

Steven Spielberg 

While today Spielberg’s name is synonymous with big budget, he was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times. He eventually attended school at another location, only to drop out to become a director before finishing. Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.

Stephen King 

The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J.K. Rowling 

Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.

Jack London 

This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

Musicians:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Mozart began composing at the age of five, writing over 600 pieces of music that today are lauded as some of the best ever created. Yet during his lifetime, Mozart didn’t have such an easy time, and was often restless, leading to his dismissal from a position as a court musician in Sandburg. He struggled to keep the support of the aristocracy and died with little to his name.

Elvis Presley 

As one of the best-selling artists of all time, Elvis has become a household name even years after his death. But back in 1954, Elvis was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving’ a truck.”

The Beatles

Few people can deny the lasting power of this super group, still popular with listeners around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. They were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more.

Ludwig Van Beethoven 

In his formative years, young Beethoven was incredibly awkward on the violin and was often so busy working on his own compositions that he neglected to practice. Despite his love of composing, his teachers felt he was hopeless at it and would never succeed with the violin or in composing. Beethoven kept plugging along, however, and composed some of the best-loved symphonies of all time–five of them while he was completely deaf.

Athletes:

Michael Jordan 

Most people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, “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.”

Muhammad Ali 

He is best known for his exceptional boxing career. He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist, participant of the “Fight of the Century” in the 1970’s, and inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is an incredible athlete, but he was once heard to say, “I never said I was the smartest, I said I was the greatest.” Ali says this because although he was a great boxer, he barely graduated high school because of his struggle with reading. Ali was diagnosed with dyslexia. He understands the pain caused by being unable to perform well in school because of reading difficulties, and wants to help others experiencing the same issues. Because of this, Ali and his wife are on a mission to improve the literacy of African Americans. They created what is known as “Go the Distance”, a series of books and magazines picked to motivate and inspire young black readers Ali and his wife are hoping to help and inspire as many children as they can. Having not only a world famous athlete at their side, but also someone who is able to sympathize with their struggles has been a great motivational tool for these students.

Contributed by Sumit JainGX head – OTA Operations at OYO (2018-present)

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