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10 famous failures that went on to succeed

Marc Crosby 10th Sep 2015 No Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In life we all fail at something.

Sometimes we may even be tempted to brand ourselves as a ‘failure’.

But just because we fail, it doesn’t mean we can’t go on to succeed.

In fact, here are 10 famous failures that went on to a great deal of success…


1. Bill Gates

Bill Gates

To start of our list of 10 famous failures, it’s a technology tycoon.

Bill Gates was the youngest self-made billionaire.

He is also a Harvard dropout!

Yes, for a moment, things weren’t looking so good for Bill Gates.

But, full of passion, skill and drive, he went on to create Microsoft and made his fortune.


2. Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

You’ve probably heard of Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb?

Well, believe it or not, when Edison was at school his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything!

Plus it took him over 9,000 experiments until he managed to make a successful working light bulb which, frankly, should give hope to us all. Keep trying!


3. Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Have you ever watched a Disney movie and thought to yourself, this film lacks creativity?

No, neither have I, but once upon a time Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough!

Disney began his business working from his own garage and one of his first companies went bankrupt.

But, not one to give up in the face of defeat, Walt Disney kept going and eventually founded The Walt Disney Company. They’re quite big. You might have heard of them.

Not only do Disney produce their own iconic movies (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen etc.), they also own Marvel Studios (which brings you the Avengers movies) and Lucasfilm which gives Disney the rights to Indiana Jones and, even more profitable, Star Wars.

It’s fair to say they have something of a monopoly when it comes to blockbuster movies!

Did you know you can make money from the Disney vault?


4. Stephen King

Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most well known living authors, but he had to fight to get there.

His first book, Carrie, was rejected by 30 different publishers and King had to battle through his own personal demons of alcoholism and drug addiction to keep going.

But King struggled through to become a bestselling author, publishing 54 novels, and selling over 350 million books worldwide….and counting.


5. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Beginning as just two men working in a garage, Steve Jobs and his partner grew Apple to a $2 billion company.

Now you may be thinking, that doesn’t sound much like failure. And you’re right.

But, at the age of 30, Jobs was fired from Apple after a power dispute with the board of directors. Yep, depressingly he was kicked out of the company he co-founded!

Thankfully Jobs didn’t give up, and went on to work at Pixar and Lucasfilm until eventually he had earned enough to get back control of Apple and become the CEO.

You can make money collecting vintage computers, and old Apple models are worth a lot! 


6. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

When you think of Albert Einstein you probably think of a genius with an incredibly sharp mind.

But if you’d have met a younger Einstein, you might have thought a little differently.

His grades were terrible (in fact he was expelled from his school), he didn’t speak until he was four and couldn’t read until he was seven.

For some time his parents actually thought he was mentally retarded!

Yet his slow development did not hold him back from winning the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics and becoming one of the most famous and important scientists of all time.


7. Marilyn Monroe

Young Marilyn Monroe

Number 7 on our list of 10 famous failures is someone who knew how to own the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.

We all think of Marilyn Monroe as the glamorous movie star and pop icon, but not everyone thought so at the time.

In fact she was dropped from 20th Century Fox just one year into her contract by a producer who told her that she couldn’t act and was not good looking – harsh words!

But she kept on going and became the icon that we all know and think back to. A lesson to us all to stick at it!

Marilyn Monroe


8. Issac Newton

Issac Newton

Much like Einstein, Newton’s grades when he was at school were a lot less stunning than you’d think.

He might not have performed quite as badly as Einstein but he was decidedly average.

This all changed because of a bully who used to pick on Newton, a bully who happened to get the highest grades in the class.

One day this bully and Newton went toe-to-toe in a physical fight and Newton got the upper hand. Not content with this, Newton decided he would also out perform the bully academically and went on to get the highest grades in his class.

We all know him now as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time and the man who helped us all understand gravity. It’s fair to say he didn’t stay average for long!


9. JK Rowling

JK Rowling

At one point in her life, JK Rowling felt like she had failed at everything. Her marriage had failed, she was jobless, a single parent and utterly poor.

This would also change thanks to a certain boy wizard…

It was during a delayed train journey from Manchester to London that JK Rowling dreamed up an idea for a book about wizards, witches and magical schools. In 1995 Rowling had finished her first manuscript, on a typewriter, for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.’

But her struggle wasn’t over. Rowling was then rejected by twelve publishing houses because they thought the book was far too long for a children’s story.

It was only luck that one publisher gave the first chapter to his eight year old daughter to have a look over and she loved it, which convinced him to give it a chance.

Harry Potter Books

Even when it was published, however, Rowling was advised to not give up the day job.

It’s fair to say they may have slightly underestimated how big the Harry Potter books would be.

In 1998 an American publisher bid $105,000 dollars to get the US publishing rights and Rowling went on to write six sequels, which broke literary sales records.

The movies have grossed around $7.7 billion and the Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth $15 billion.

Rowling is the first author in the world to become a billionaire, although she has since lost that status thanks to her charitable giving!

Her latest film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” which came out in 2016 has already made $800 million.


10. Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln might have been the president of the United States who lead the country through civil war and in doing so maintained the union and abolished slavery, but Lincoln was no stranger to failure…in fact, at one point he was even bankrupt!

Yes, he failed in business, he had a nervous breakdown and failed to be elected as president in 1856. But Lincoln never gave up!

in 1860 Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth president of America and proves, once and for all, that failure doesn’t mean you won’t succeed as long as you keep on trying! God bless you Lincoln.


Were you surprised by anyone on the list? Have we missed anyone you know about? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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