Famous Failures – Inspiration for Success

Famous Failures – Inspiration for Success

Excerpt from the book SEEBEDO- See it! Be it! Do it!.

Failure is not the opposite of success; it is part of success.  You only fail if you do not try.  If you try and fail, you will be in the company of some of the most successful people in history.

Winston Churchill lost every election for public office until he finally won and became Prime Minister of the UK.  Churchill, one of the most respected leaders of the 20th Century, had this advice:

Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

Abraham Lincoln failed at business, politics, and in the military until he was elected President.  Henry Ford’s early businesses left him broke five times before he founded Ford.  R.H. Macy started seven failed businesses before starting Macy’s.  Soichiro Honda was turned down for a job at Toyota and was unemployed before he started making scooters at home.  Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, failed in his first business and failed with his first Sony product, a rice cooker that burned rice.  Harland Sanders’ chicken recipe was rejected by more than 1,000 restaurants before it was sold and he became the face of KFC.  Walt Disney was fired for lacking imagination.  Albert Einstein was thought to be handicapped and slow as a child.  Socrates was called an immoral corruptor of youth.  Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything and he made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

Oprah Winfrey was fired because she was “unfit for TV”.  Harry Truman went bankrupt in his own business.  Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage in his first performance.  MGM noted that Fred Astaire couldn’t act or sing, and that he could dance a little.   Sidney Poitier was told at his first audition, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”.   Charlie Chaplin’s act was originally rejected by Hollywood as impossible to sell.  Lucille Ball was regarded as a failed actress and B movie star.  Harrison Ford was told he didn’t have what it takes to be a star.  Marilyn Monroe was advised by modeling agencies to consider a career as a secretary.

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his life.  Theodor  Seuss Giesel’s first book, To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by 27 publishers.  Steven Spielberg was rejected by the USC School of Theater, Film and Television three times and did not complete his BA until he went back to school in 2002.  Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, received 30 rejections before he was published.  J.K. Rowling was on welfare and battling depression and is now one of the richest women in the world because of Harry Potter.  Jack London received 600 rejection slips for his first story and Louisa May Alcott’s family wanted her to work as a servant.

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 drivin’ a truck.”   Beethoven’s teachers thought he would amount to nothing.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.  Babe Ruth held the world record for strikeouts.  Tom Landry holds the record for career wins as a football coach but had one of the worst first seasons on record.

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong”

— Benjamin Franklin

Important things to remember when you do fail at something:

  • Never give up; giving up in the face of failure will definitely insure failure in reaching your long-term goal.
  • Never take no for an answer.
  • Do not be afraid to fail on your way, but never accept failure when trying to reach your goal.
  • Review why  you failed.  Do not make the same mistake twice.

The key to success is working toward your goal, not losing sight of it and not giving into defeat or failures along the way.  If you truly believe in yourself and in your goal, you will most likely fail along the way, if you are not failing a little bit; you are not stretching yourself enough.  Embrace your failures as important steps on your way to success.


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