From childhood we are taught, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’. This simple mantra is engrained into us, though when we face failure; it is not so easy to live by. It is important to remember however, that every success story has an embarrassing failure that came before it. Even the most victorious of entrepreneurs, from Bill Gates to Steven King, faced embarrassing failures in the past, yet they managed to overcome these disappointments and are all now hugely successful in their own rights.
Here are the top ten most well known success stories of people who overcame failure.
1. #1 Bill Gates
We all recognise Bill Gates’ name as the co-founder of the world’s largest software business, Microsoft, and therefore one of the richest men in the world. However, his business trials weren’t always so successful. Along with his business partner, Paul Allen, Gates created a computer programme called, "Traf-o-Data," that monitored traffic in the Seattle area. The company made the two friends a profit of $20,000, but sadly its operations ceased when Gates decided to leave the college he was studying at and enrolled at Harvard.
2. #2 Henry Ford
Henry Ford is known around the world as being the founder of the Ford Motor Company. As with many stories, he suffered numerous failures along the way. • Henry designed and made his first prototype carriage which he called, ‘the Quadricycle’. However, when he pitched it to Thomas Edison himself, he rejected the carriage on the grounds that it was too small and unsuitable for large scale production. • He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899 and designed a prototype, but it needed to be reworked. Eventually it was taking too long to finish and was costing the company too much money, so after a year and a half the board of directors decided to dissolve the company. • Finally, with the backing of a like-minded entrepreneur, he designed what is now known as his Model A. Henry Ford had finally made it, after several setbacks, he was now a successful entrepreneur.
3. #3 Walt Disney
Who would believe that the all inspiring man that is Walt Disney, suffered many failures during his life? Not only that, but most of these were his creations that are now adored by both children and adults alike. Check out some of them: • Walt Disney was famously fired by a newspaper company for having no imagination. • At the age of 22, Walt became bankrupt after the failure of a cartoon series and his company was dissolved. It has been said that he survived on dog food at this time. • The hugely popular Disney character, Mickey Mouse that we all know and love was originally turned down by MGM studios, as apparently a big mouse on TV would scare women. • He lost over a million dollars in the making of Pinocchio, as he wanted to change the character of Pinocchio and include the character of Jiminy Cricket. • Once he found success, Walt rightly stated, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
4. #4 Steven King
Known for his love of horror and gore, Steven King has become the king of the horror genre and even had many of his novels turned into films that have been box office hits. King’s first novel, “Carrie” was rejected a grand number of 30 times by publishers which caused him so much frustration that he threw it in the bin. Luckily for us, his wife took it out and urged him to give it one last go. Now the novel is one of the biggest selling of its genre.
5. #5 Steve Jobs
Co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs was a great visionary and very successful man. However, he also faced many let downs during his career: • After the failure of Apples’ ‘Lisa’ computer, Jobs was removed as head of the company’s Mackintosh division. This was obviously a huge blow to mogul’s reputation as he had originally helped build the company. From this he famously went on to create the mega animation company, Pixar. • Jobs famously stated in 2005, "I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."
6. 6 Oprah Winfrey
The Queen of TV and of her own media empire, Oprah Winfrey has surprisingly faced her own share of failures that she has thankfully overcome. Fired from her first television job as she was apparently, unfit for TV. Oprah has since gone on to say that she faced sexism and harassment from that particular company.
7. #7 Thomas Edison
The admired inventor Thomas Edison, famous for his inventions of the light bulb and the motion picture camera, was also known for his failures. In fact, he had famously been quoted, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” • Was told by his teachers that he would never be a success as he was “too stupid to learn anything.” • 1,093 patents for new inventions; most of which did not come to light (pardon the pun).
8. #8 Howard Schultz
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz only knows too much about failure. But his downward spiral lead to our delight: • His original idea of taking the idea of Italian coffee houses to America was rejected by his partners. However, he fully believed in his idea of an espresso style coffee house and so in 1985 left Starbucks and set up business on his own. • Starbucks was already a big success when Schultz took a backseat from the company. It was then that it hit problems, and once recession hit its sales went down dramatically. It faced new coffee houses that were becoming tough competition and social media that was jabbing it from all sides. His company began to decline. • In 2008 Schultz resumed his role as president and chief executive, paving the way for what is now a hugely successful international business, not simply down to its coffee, but due to the expanding number of products offered to its customers.
9. #9 Steven Spielberg
Imagine if our favourite film director, Steven Spielberg, hadn’t made it to the big time. Many of our much loved films may never have been produced and many of our favourite actors/actresses may have never been elevated into the limelight. This problem could have easily happened if it weren’t for Spielberg’s persistence. • He was rejected from film school three times as he had such poor grades from school. • He then started school somewhere else, only to drop out. • 35 years later he finally managed to finish his degree, which he jokes, "I eventually had to buy my way in."
10. #10 Simon Cowell
Whether we love him or hate him, Simon Cowell is a massively successful man in the world of entertainment. But what if he hadn’t used his failures to drive him to success? What would the many thousands of us do with our Saturday evenings if we had no X Factor to watch? • His first music company, Fanfare Records, went bust in 1989 which him having to declare bankruptcy. • Recently his theatre musical, ‘I can’t sing’ has been slammed by critics and the plug has been pulled after just six weeks. • X Factor US failed after 3 seasons. So use these stories to help you see that your failures are simply bumps in the road that leads to success. Failure can and does happen to everyone, even the greats of this world.
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