Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. As you can see, even the great ones fail. Today, we will take a look at some of the most famous failures and how they came back stronger.
That should get your motivation up and inspire you to continue trying what you are doing. The truth is that when you fail, you can either learn from your mistakes and be better, or quit. We recommend doing the former.
Here is another famous quote, by Rakifi in Lion King, “Yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it”. So, what is your choice?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest famous failures.
We started the article with a quote by Jordan, but let’s see when and how he failed even before making it to the NBA. Did you know that he was cut from his high school team? Why? Because his coach thought MJ was not tall enough.
The story is famous now, how he went to the playground in the backyard and hang onto the pullup bars to try and grow taller. His persistence was just out of this world. His mother even suggested he put salt in his shoes and say a prayer every night. Jordan desperately wanted to grow tall after his coach snubbed him.
What happened later is legendary. Michael Jordan would go on to win six NBA championships and today he is remembered as the greatest player of all time.
Nowadays, we know Steven Spielberg as one of the biggest movie directors of all time. He is a movie genius. But that was not always the case.
Spielberg was actually rejected from film school three times. When he eventually finished, he would go on to direct some of the best movies of all time.
Just look at his resume, ET, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, War Horse, and more.
Albert Einstein is rightfully considered one of the most important people in physics. His theory of relativity is the backbone of many more theories and everything we do and study.
But he was not always considered a genius. Today, we think of him as a genius. But back in the day, he was labeled “mentally slow”. That label was put on his permanent school record.
We call Bill Gates one of the most successful people in history. At least when it comes to business. He amassed a net worth of more than $130 billion.
Bill Gates brought operating systems such as Microsoft DOS and Windows. Nowadays, most personal computers in the world run on the Microsoft Windows operating system.
We also use applications from the Microsoft Office package, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and many more.
But Gates’ first software company failed. Called Traf-O-Data, it analyzed raw traffic logs.
The famous comedian grew up in sheer poverty in the UK. His father abandoned his mother when Charlie was only two years old. As a result, Chaplin was forced to live in a workhouse at the age of seven. His mother was committed to an insane asylum when he was only nine years old.
Chaplin failed numerous times in his adult life before becoming one of the biggest comedians in history. He was solely responsible for the success of pantomime. That is why we call him the King of Comedy.
Colonel Harland Sanders
The late founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants became successful quite late in life. Fun fact: when he opened his first restaurant, Colonel Sanders was 65 years of age and had only a $105 social security check to his name.
A grand total of 1,009 restaurants rejected his bid to sell his franchise chicken model. And that is when one of them accepted and Colonel Harland Sanders became the business owner he is today.
Nowadays, we know Henry Ford as an American industrialist, business magnate, and founder of the Ford Motor Company. He was also the chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production.
But if he quit, nothing of this would be possible. His first two automobile companies failed miserably. Ford Motor was his success story.
Imagine calling Oprah Winfrey “unfit for television news”. Yes, that was something a producer told her when she landed a television gig in Baltimore.
She is one of the biggest television sensations today. But she had a rough childhood. It started with teen pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. Eventually, she landed a television gig in Baltimore, but the producer told her she was unfit for television news.
But it was the same producer that offered her a role on a TV show called People are Talking. The show ended up becoming a success and led to Oprah becoming a host of her own show. Nowadays, she remains the most successful person in TV history in the United States.
Jerry Seinfeld went on to make one of the greatest sitcoms in television history. Many of the Seinfeld records stand to this day.
Here is a fun fact: The now famous person was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance. But he continued following his dream of becoming a comedian.
Vera Wang started her career as a full-time job employee at someone else’s company. She worked her way up at Vogue for 15 years. But she was repeatedly getting rejected for the Editor in Chief position. That is when she realized her career at Vogue couldn’t go any further.
This led to her becoming a fashion designer and building a name for herself.
Can you imagine someone telling the King of Rock N’ Roll to go back to truck driving? Yes, that was what happened. Presley was fired from the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eventually, Elvis became the biggest name in music. Almost 50 years after his death, he is still one of the most popular musicians.
We talked before about the story of Henry Ford. But here is another American business magnate. Schultz brought Starbucks to the international stage.
He started his career as an employee for Starbucks. Howard envisioned bringing the Italian coffee shop to the masses. Yet, the owners were not convinced and they rejected his idea. He then bought the name. Even then, he was still not on solid ground. 217 of the 242 investors he approached turned down his idea.
Here is another comedian that was booed off the stage. Jim Carey grew up in an extremely poor environment. He didn’t have fame handed to him. When he was only 15 years old, he had to work as a janitor to help his family pay the bills.
During his first performance at Yuk Yuk’s, a comedy club in Toronto, he was booed off the stage. People probably didn’t get his jokes.
J K Rowling
Many consider J K Rowling the most successful author in history. But fame didn’t come easy to her. She struggled as an adult. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare. While trying to support her daughter, she was writing.
Rowling spent seven years writing the story of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When she finally finished it, all 12 major publishing houses rejected the book.
Here is something most people do not remember. Steve Jobs was actually fired from the very company he founded. That dismissal made him realize that his passion for work exceeded the disappointment of failure.
After getting dismissed from Apple, Jobs founded another company, Pixar, made it famous and then got back to Apple as CEO.
In 2005, Jobs said, “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”.
Vincent Van Gogh
Here is a fun fact for you. Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life. That would make him a failed artist, right? And when you talk about famous failures, Vincent is on top of it.
Despite selling only one picture, Van Gogh continued painting. That didn’t stop his enthusiasm and passion for art.
Van Gogh died in poverty, believing he was an artistic failure. Years later he would become a key figure in the world of post-impressionism, and one of the greatest that ever lived.
There is a famous quote by Stephen King. It reads, “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”. And it is a great one. As a paranoid, troubled child, who was raised in poverty and tormented by nightmares, King had to find a coping mechanism.
He was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Those were his early coping mechanisms for the frustration of being rejected by publishers. He even contemplated violence toward his children.
But these emotions made him focus on writing, which is how he grew to success. He is now a successful person.
Jeff Bezos believes in creating a culture that embraces failure. He doesn’t believe in creating the same product as everyone else. Being innovative has led to some failures.
Before building Amazon, he had a company called zShops. It led to the idea of Amazon, which as many have seen in pictures, started in his garage. As for the countless failed products, do you remember Fire Phone?
The moral of these famous failures is that you cannot always be successful. You have to fail before you can win.