“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 have failed by default.” — J.K. Rowling
One of the most devastating circumstances in life revolves around failure. When you pour your heart and soul into an endeavor, whatever it might be, and it fails, it results in a catastrophic upheaval in our lives. When we fail, life turns upside down. Everything we once thought we wanted, seems to disappear into thin air.
However, what most people don’t realize is that failure acts as a stepping-stone towards success. It’s through our greatest failures that we learn more about life, love, goals, happiness and all the things that make us into who we are today. Plus, some of the most famous people in the world have failed the most times.
If you’ve recently experienced the gut-wrenching effects of failure, or you’re going through it right now, understand that failure will make you stronger. It will make you wiser — more attuned to the things you want out of life, and more knowledgable on just how to go about getting there.
To put things into perspective, here’s a list of 21 of some of the most famous failures in our time that have succeeded. They’ve been through failure but were able to bounce back. When you truly know their stories, you’ll realize that achieving greatness isn’t something that comes easy whatsoever. But it does eventually come as long as you don’t give up.
#1 — Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, didn’t speak until he was four-years old. He also failed his entrance exam to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic school located in Zurich at sixteen-years old. And, even his father, up until the time of his death, considered his son to be a major failure. After eventually graduating from college, Einstein actually worked as an insurance salesman, but quit after some time because he failed at that as well.
#2 — Beyonce Knowles
With a net worth of nearly $500 million, Beyonce is one of the most successful recording artists in history. She’s sold over 17 million albums as a solo artist and another 17 million albums while a member of Destiny’s Child. When she was 9-years old, her group, Girl’s Tyme, appeared on Star Search and lost. In 1996, after signing to Columbia Records, the group had huge internal drama, forcing the departure of two members.
#3 — Bill Gates
Bill Gates has amassed a mind-boggling net worth of close to $80 billion, and is known as the infamous father of modern personal-computing software. He brought us operating systems such as Microsoft DOS and Windows, along with wildly-popular titles such as Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, at the age of seventeen-years old, his first software company called, Traf-O-Data, which analyzed raw traffic logs, failed.
#4 — Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest comedic minds of all time. However, he grew up in sheer poverty in the UK. His father abandoned his mother when he was just two-years old, and he was forced to live in a workhouse at the age of seven-years old. When he was nine-years old, his mother was permanently committed to an insane asylum. Throughout his adult life, he failed numerous times, yet he’s still one of the most famous comics ever.
#5 — Colonel Harland Sanders
Colonel Harland Sanders was the late founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants. Throughout his entire life, he failed in just about every endeavor he was involved in. However, at the age of sixty-five-years old, he set out with his famous chicken recipe and only a $105 social security check to his name, in an attempt to sell his franchise chicken model. 1,009 restaurants rejected him before one accepted his offer.
#6 — Dr. Seuss
One of the most celebrated children’s authors of all time is also one of the most famous failures. Dr. Seuss intended to earn his PhD in literature Lincoln College, Oxford, but failed and subsequently dropped out of school. After he wrote his first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, it was rejected 28 separate times. But he didn’t give up. By 1991, at the time of his death, he had sold over 600 million copies of his books in 20 different languages.
#7 — Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire’s career in the entertainment industry lasted for seventy-six years. Grace Kelly once said, when speaking about him that, “the history of dance on film begins with Astaire.” However, it didn’t quite start out so famously for Astaire. According to legend, he was rejected during an early Hollywood screen test when the producer stated, “Can’t act. Slighty bald. Dances a little.”
#8 — Henry Ford
Henry Ford is the father of the automobile, and quite possibly one of the most famous industrialists to have ever lived. He helped bring transportation to the masses in America, and subsequently throughout the world. But his start was far from noteworthy. Ford’s first company went bankrupt. His second company also went south when, after a dispute with partners, he was forced to walk away with only the rights to his name.
#9 — Howard Schultz
Howard Schultz is the American pioneer and business magnate that brought Starbucks to the international stage. However, the early years were anything but easy for this famous failure. While still an employee for Starbucks, Schultz envisioned bringing the Italian coffee shop to the masses. However, the owners were not so convinced. So, Schultz bought out the name. However, 217 of the 242 investors that he approached had turned him down.
#10 — Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey is a comedic legend, and also a firm believer in the power of the Law of Attraction. But Carrey, who grew up extremely poor as a child, didn’t have his fame handed to him. At the age of fifteen-years old, Carrey actually worked as a janitor to help his family pay the bills. And, during his first performance at Yuk Yuk’s, a comedy club in Toronto, he was booed off stage.
#11 — J.K. Rowling
One of the most successful authors in history is J.K. Rowling. However, unlike what some might believe, Rowling’s fame didn’t come easy. While she didn’t grow up poor as a child, as an adult, she struggled. She was a single mother living on welfare, trying to support her daughter. It took her seven years to write the story of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and when she finished, all twelves major publishing houses rejected the book.
#12 — Katy Perry
Katy Perry is a wildly-successful singer and songwriter who had a long journey filled with consecutive failures before she reached stardom. In fact, her first album sold only two-hundred copies before the record label went out of business. She was subsequently dropped from two other labels. It took her nearly ten years of failure and hard work before she released the critically-acclaimed hit song, I Kissed a Girl, in 2008.
#13 — Keanu Reeves
What most people don’t know about Keanu Reeves is that he suffered through tremendous hardships growing up. At the age of three-years old, his father abandoned his family. His mother married and divorced four separate times, moving him from Australia to Canada, and he eventually ended up in Los Angeles. In 1998, he fathered a child with his then-wife, who died as a stillborn at 8 months. 18 months after their relationship ended, his ex-wife was killed in a car accident.
#14 — Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful individuals of our time, grew up in sheer poverty. Born to a single-mother living on welfare, her upbringing was wrought with pain and anguish. She was physically, mentally and sexually abused during her childhood. She ran away at thirteen-years old, and got pregnant at fourteen-years old. But she later lost the baby shortly after birth. She was also fired from her first job for being unfit for television.
#15 — Robert T. Kiyosaki
Robert T. Kyosaki is best known for penning the Rich Dad Poor Dad book. But that didn’t happen until he was fifty-years old. Prior to that, Kiyosaki endured massive amounts of failure. At the age of thirty-years old, his first company went bankrupt. His next company, three years later, also went bankrupt. However, Kiyosaki never gave up. He kept trying and trying until he succeeded.
#16 — Soichiro Honda
Soichiro Honda, the late founder of the Honda Motor Company, dealt with an enormous amount of failure. In 1937, at the time of the Great Depression, Honda founded a company in an attempt to create piston rings for Toyota. He failed, having to pawn his wife’s wedding ring just to stay afloat. His first factory was bombed during WWII. The second factory was destroyed a short time after by an earthquake. But he didn’t give up.
#17 — Stephen King
Possibly one of the most famous and well-known horror authors of all time, Stephen King’s work has been lauded and celebrated for decades and he has sold over 350 million copies of his books, not to mention the royalties for movies and television series based on his books. However, he threw his first book, Carrie, into the trash, only later to be retrieved by his wife. It was rejected by 30 publishers until it was finally accepted by DoubleDay.
#18 — Sylvester Stallone
Stallone’s young-adult life was incredibly tough. At one point, he was homeless for three weeks, living in the New Jersey Port Authority bus station. He was also so broke that while writing the script for Rocky, his electricity was turned off and he was forced to sell his dog for $25 just to turn the lights back on. He was also rejected by talent scouts over 1,500 times.
#19 — The Beatles
The Beatles are quite possibly one of the most famed bands to have ever walked the earth. They’ve sold over 1.6 billion albums and counting. However, on New Year’s Eve, in 1961, when they drove in a snowstorm to audition at Decca Recording Studios, Dick Rowe, an A&R said that “guitar groups were on their way out.” Five months later, the band got a huge break with George Martine of Parlophone, and the rest is history.
#20 — Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison is by far one of the most famous inventors in history. He holds 1,093 patents to his name. However, when attempting to invent a commercially-viable electric lightbulb, he failed over 10,000 times. When asked by a reporter how it felt to fail so many times, he merely stated, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
#21 — Walt Disney
Walt Disney is the creative genius who brought us the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Snow White. He created the Walt Disney Company after his own namesake. Yet, he faced many failures. His first company, Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt. It wasn’t until 5 years later and plenty of heartache, after he created Mickey Mouse, did he begin to experience a small amount of success and fame.