10 Famous Failures who succeeded later in life

Failures occur every day, in schools, at work, at home, and even within families. It is inescapable, infuriating and causes negativity. While the mere idea of throwing your hands in the air and walking off is too appealing, we suggest you take a breath and think about to connecting with the people who have hung in there and survived.

Here are some famous failures who succeeded later in life, hope this gives you the needed motivation to boost your confidence:

1. J.K. Rowling


In a commencement speech at Harvard, J.K. Rowling the famous author of Harry Potter outlined the value and importance of failure. Why? Well, because she herself was once a failure too. A few years after her graduation, her worst nightmares came true.

In her own words, “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.” emerging from this failure stronger than before and more indomitable was the reason for her success.

2. Steve Jobs


The revolutionary Apple once started off with just two friends operating from a garage. We all know that years later Apple turned into a $2 billion company with more than 4000 employees. At one point of time, Steve Jobs was fired from the same company he had started. The rejection made him understand that his enthusiasm for his work exceeded the frustration of failure. Further ventures like Pixar and NeXT ultimately led Jobs back to the position of CEO at Apple.

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,” .

3. Bill Gates


While discussing famous failure stories, how can we miss Bill Gates? Gates was a Harvard dropout who later became a co-owner of a business called Traf-O-Data, which in fact was a true failure. Nevertheless, talent and a zeal for computer programming converted this famous failure into a founder of a renowned software company Microsoft, and Gates became world’s youngest self made billionaire at the age of 31.

Gates said: “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

We aren’t saying that dropping out of college will make you a billionaire, but perhaps that degree isn’t as valuable as the passion and drive to succeed.

4. Albert Einstein


The name ‘Einstein’ itself is synonymous to intelligence and genius. Yet it is a well-known fact that the founder of theory of relativity, Albert Einstein himself couldn’t speak smoothly till the age of 9. His defiant nature got him expelled from school.

Yet these setbacks couldn’t stop him from winning Nobel Prize in 1921. After all, Einstein believed that “success is failure in progress.” Till date, his innovations have influenced several aspects of our lives like religion, culture, art, and even TV. What we can learn from the famous failure stories like Einsteins is that – even though you haven’t achieved something grand yet, doesn’t mean you cannot be an Einstein in future.

5. Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln failed in his business venture in 1831, suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836, and was beaten in the run for president in 1856, Lincoln had tasted rejection and failure. Rather than surrendering to the circumstances he decided to give his best.

In Lincoln’s words: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Finally his efforts paid off and Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America in 1861.

6. Michael Jordan


Famous failure and basketball legend Micheal Jordan’s quote in a Nike advertisement says it all: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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.”

Many of us believe that Jordan’s basketball skills come from natural talent. However truth be told his basketball coaches had real difficulty about the fact that Jordan didn’t reach the expected height. It was years and years of hard work, practice, effort and learning from failure that made him the star we know today.

7. Steven Spielberg


One of the most prominent filmmaker of our time, Steven Spielberg is a well-known name globally. Therefore it is astounding to believe that the genius behind E.T. and Jaws scored poor grades throughout his high school years, which eventually got him rejected from the University of Southern California thrice.

While Spielberg was still in college, in 1969 he was spotted by the executives at Universal, who immediately signed him as a television-director. In fact because of this turn of events Spielberg did not complete his college degree for the next 33 years. Perseverance and accepting his failures was Spielberg’s key to success. This famous failure has till date, directed 51 films and has been won three Oscars.

Steven Spielberg Quote “Even though I get older, what I do never gets old, and that’s what I think keeps me hungry.” Bad grades in high school aside, there is no questioning the genius involved.

8. Walt Disney


Walt Disney the famous creator of Mickey Mouse dropped out of school at a very young age and tried to join the army, but he failed in doing so. One of his projects, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went into ruins caused by his inability to run a business. He was even fired from a newspaper as they felt Disney was not being creative enough!

The brilliance behind Disney studios is the reason for generations of fond memories of children. From Frozen to Snow White, Disney will keep on entertaining the world for coming generations.

Famous failure Walt Disney quotes “… we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

9. Vincent Van Gogh


During his life span Vincent Van Gogh endured failed relationships, mental illness and committed suicide at 37. He only sold 1 painting in his entire life, labeling him a failure as an artist. Yet, that did not stop his passion and enthusiasm for art. Little did he know that years after he’s gone he would be known as one of the greatest artist ever.

Famous failure Vincent Van Gogh quote, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

10. Stephen King


As a child Stephen King was paranoid, troubled and raised in poverty. Stephen was always tormented by nightmares so it comes as no surprise that he grew up to the label: “Master of Horror”.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs were his way of coping with unhappiness in his life. He felt frustrated by the multiple rejections by publishers. Later, he started utilizing his intense emotions into his writing. This turned into his new coping mechanism, and this is how Stephen King the master author achieved the success he has today.

Hope these stories and examples of famous failures act as an inspiration to you, so pull up your socks get out of that phase of gloominess and frustration and start afresh with a new zeal and enthusiasm……the world is yours to conquer, all you need is a little self believe and some words of encouragement.

You may also like to read: Words of Encouragement: 30 Uplifting Quotes to Give You a Boost and Daily Dose of Inspirational Quotes

About Kanika Gautam 116 Articles
Kanika is an ardent writer and a serial blogger in addition to being the founder of yourmotivationguru.com where she writes about growing the happiness ratio of life. She is also a technologist, bibliophile, speaker, educator and writer.

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