20 Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

famous people who failed before they became successful

Sometimes it may help our motivation, or even our ego to know some of the most famous people out there have failed too. Even the ones who are worth millions of pounds and loved by billions of fans.

The main point about this article is that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, no matter is thrown at you and don’t let fear of failure stop you from being happy.

The funny thing is, most of the famous people who failed before their careers took off, say they wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t have gone through everything they did. It allowed them to take charge of their lives, take criticism on the chin and achieve their wildest dreams. Now doesn’t that sound worth it?

In the society we live in today, we surpass people’s experiences and only celebrate their success. It’s great we can support people this way, but we overlook the path that got them there and the valuable things they have learnt along the way. Many of us live in a state of fear, fear of judgement and fear of failing and I think it is important to understand that not every journey is going to be a linear one.

This can leave us thinking that successful people are way more superior than us and we can never be on their level. In-fact, most famous people failed first, and were in the same boat as us at one point. 

Rejection can be heart breaking. But before you give up on all of your dreams, let’s take a look at others who have failed, struggled, received criticism, were turned away or even told they were “stupid”, all before they became the success they are today.

J.K. Rowling 

Rowling, one of the richest women in the world used to be a broke, depressed, divorced single mother. She wrote a novel while studying and well, the rest is history. J.K. Rowling says:

“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 fail by default.”

Michael Jordan 

Jordan is renowned for his six Championships and five MVPS as known as the greatest basketball player of all time. But before this – his coach made a huge mistake and cut him from his high school basketball team. 

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” 

Oprah Winfrey 

Billionaire TV host and motivator, Winfrey was initially fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore. Winfrey says:

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” 

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Walt Disney 

Disney was told he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. I think I’m just going to leave that there. 

Disney says:

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young…. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.” 

Stephen Spielberg 

Speilberg, one of the many famous people deemed a failure at the beginning of his career because he was rejected several times to study Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Now: His movies (27 of them) have brought in more than $9 billion dollars. Stephen created the first summer blockbuster movie “Jaws” in 1975 and has won many awards. Who’s laughing now? 

Sir Isaac Newton

Apparently, Newton’s mother pulled him out of school when he was only a young boys so he could run the family farm, which he did not do very well. He did, however, go back to school and became one of the great scientists of all time. Take that for a famous person who failed. Newton literally revolutionised science with his law of gravitation.

Vera Wang

Vera Wang was an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the position of editor-in-chief. Not before she also failed to make the US Olympic figure-skating team in 1968. Just look at her now.

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison… inventor of world changing devices such as the phonograph, practical electrical and a movie camera… was told in school that he was “too stupid to learn anything”. He was also fired from his first 2 jobs. 

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Sidney Poitier

Poitier, when auditioning for the American Negro Theatre was told by the director to “stop wasting his time” and to “get a job as a dishwasher” because he flubbed his lines and spoke in a heavy Jamaican accent. He then went onto becoming a hugely successful star in Hollywood and helped break the colour barrier in the industry. 

Albert Einstein

Einstein wasn’t the perfect student. In school he had difficulty communicating and learning in the same way as other students. He then went on to winning the Nobel prize in Physics. Einstein achieved some great things in his life; the discovery of the photoelectric effect and his theory of relativity. 

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Fred Astaire

Hollywood and Broadway star, Astaire, was first told by the executive of his first screen test that he “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.” 

Charles Darwin

Darwin was an average student, nothing special. He also changed his career path and decided to give up on medicine and become a parson instead. After studying nature, Darwin went onto the travel the world and write books, changing the world of science through his discovery of evolution. 

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Harrison Ford 

Ford was told by the executive of his first small movie role that he would never succeed in the movie business. Ford’s career has lasted over 6 decades, including blockbuster films like “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars”

Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss 

Legendary children’s book author, Seuss, who has sold over 600 million copies of his books, was first rejected by 27 different publishers. If that’s not determination, I don’t know what is! 

Winston Churchill 

Churchill, Prime Minister in 1940, was originally estranged from his political party over disagreements during 1929-1939. His exile ended in 1939 when we was appointed to the British Admiralty.

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Henry Ford 

No one believed in Ford, especially after a couple of failed automobile businesses ruined his rep’. Ford could use his failed businesses to learn from his mistakes and soon found a partner who believed in him. Ford changed the automotive industry with his assembly line mode of production. 

Sir James Dyson

Dyson Hoovers, the best selling vacuum brand in the United States and xxx in the United Kingdom, actually went through 5,126 failed prototypes over 15 years. Spending all of his savings. Luckily for Dyson, after persisting, the 5,127 prototype worked and he is now worth an estimated $4.9 billion. 

Stephen King 

Author of best seller, Carrie, which has sold over 350 million copies, got so fed up he threw it away. If it wasn’t for his wife believing in him and pulling it out of the bin, who know’s if he would have written anymore and launched his career. 

Lady Gaga 

Lady Gaga is currently worth $59 million, winner of 6 Grammy awards and achieved a Songer writers Hall of Fame award. But did you know, at first, she was dropped after just 3 months by her first record label. She was devastated, but persisted. Just look at her now. 

Jay Z 

Jay Z, Artist, Entrepreneur and Investor, worth a whopping $550 million, couldn’t get any record label to sign him. That didn’t stop him though, Jay Z and his friends sold their first record out of the boot of their car. 

Famous People Who Failed Before They Became Successful

Making mistakes, being judged, being criticised, being knocked down, missing an opportunity are all a part of life. We shouldn’t have to label people as “failures” just because they achieve at first try. We should actually be calling them “passionate” “driven” and “unstoppable”.

But it just goes to show, if you keep persisting at your dreams, you can get there. You just have to keep pushing.

If you don’t know what you want to do, maybe just like Newton and Vera Wang, there are more possibilities and opportunities out there for you to fulfil your potential. 

Moral(s) of the story:

  • Don’t give up
  • Don’t let the opinion of others stop you from what YOU want to do
  • If you can’t do something, or you feel “disadvantaged”, don’t let that stop you from aiming high and working towards those goals 

Have you been judged, criticised or even made a mistake and then come out the other side stronger?

Does it motivate you to chase your dreams, and not let anyone stop you knowing that it can be done?

20 famous people who failed before they became successful
  • Tabytha
    February 16, 2019

    I love this post. It’s good to be reminded of the importance of hope, persistence and a belief in yourself. Thanks. X

    • ellieferguson
      March 12, 2019

      Thank you so much for your comment and taking the time to read the post 🙂

  • Patty
    February 17, 2019

    Great Post! Failure is part of the road to success!

    • ellieferguson
      March 12, 2019

      Completely agree! So many valuable lessons!

  • Lena Dee
    February 19, 2019

    Ahhh omg! Such a dose of fresh air! Honestly, we have all of this pressure to succeed in life and if we don’t get it right the first time we feel like failures. It’s so sad 🙁 I actually look up to some of these persons even more because of how frank they were about their struggle and how encouraging they are. Great post!

    xx Lena | https://lenadeexo.com

    • ellieferguson
      Lena Dee
      March 12, 2019

      Thank you so much for reading! I completely agree, we have so much pressure to succeed in life and are taught that failing is BAD! 🙁 But we can learn so much from it…. People (like the above) prove it everyday that it is possible. We just need to have more confidence and believe in ourselves! <3

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