The Most Successful Failures
(People Who were Told They would Never Succeed!)

This page is dedicated to all the people who are faced with great obstacles everyday.
Remember, you will never fail as long as you take action!
Follow your passion, follow your dream!

Never Give Up!

Abraham Lincoln
He entered the Blackhawk War as a captain. By the end of the war, he had been demoted to the rank of private.
Failed in Business at age 21. 
Defeated in a Legislative race at age 22. 
Failed again in business at age 24.
Overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26. 
Had a nervous breakdown at age 27. 
Lost a congressional race at age 34. 
Lost a congressional race at age 36. 
Lost a senatorial race at age 45. 
Failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47. 
Lost a senatorial race at age 49. 
Was elected President of the United States at age 52.
Elizabeth Murray
A teenager that went from living on the streets in New York City to Harvard University. Currently working for the New York Times.

Buddy Holly
In 1956 he was fired by Paul Cohen from the Decca Recording Co. and called Holly "the biggest no-talent I ever worked with."

John Milton
Was blind at the age of 44. Sixteen years later he wrote Paradise Lost.

Ludwig van Beethoven
By age 46 was completely deaf after progressive hearing loss. Nevertheless, he wrote his greatest music including five symphonies, during his later years.
Chester Carlson
In the 1940s  his idea was rejected by 20 corporations. After seven long years of rejections!- a tiny company called the Haloid Company purchased the rights to his electrostatic paper-copying process. Haloid became Xerox Corporation.
Billy Joel
He was denied his high school diploma due to excessive absenteeism, ran away from home, and was arrested on suspicion of burglary. The charges were dropped, but a terrifying night in jail did little to build a happy outlook on life.
He attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish. When that didn't solve the problem, he committed himself to the mental ward at Meadowbrook Hospital for three weeks observation and quickly discovered that he was quite sane. The hospital visit steeled his resolve to make it in rock and roll.  He had many more failures until he finally succeeded.
Wilma Rudolph
At the age of 4, she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever leaving her left leg paralyzed. Her mother was told she would never walk again. She removed her metal brace by age 9 and by age 13 she had developed a rhythmic walk. The same time she decided to become a runner. She entered every race and came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running until one day she actually won a race. From then on she won every race and went on to win three Olympic gold medals.
Clint Eastwood
In 1959 Universal Pictures executive told him that he had a chip on his tooth, his Adam's apple sticks out too far and he talks too slow.
Thomas Edison
When he first attended school his teachers complained he was "too slow" and hard to handle. He tried over 2,000 experiments before he got the light bulb to work.
Lucille Ball
In 1927 was told by the head instructor of John Murray Anderson Drama School, "Try any other profession. Any other."
Arnold Schwarznegger
Was told if he wants to succeed as an actor he better learn to speak without an accent and change his name.
Elvis Presely
Was told " You ain't goin' nowhere .... son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.
Woody Allen
Failed Motion Picture Production and English at New York University.
Burt Reynolds
In 1959 was told by a Universal Pictures executive that he had no talent.
Colonel Sanders
Was rejected 1,009 times before someone would back his business. He started Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Albert Einstein
Didn't start speaking til he was four years old. There was even some concern on the part of his parents when he was a small child that he might be somewhat backward. During his school years he showed no special aptitude because of his dislike for rigid methods of instruction, and he was cited by school officials as being disruptive.

He failed the entrance exam to a university a number of times-
-and made his great discoveries while working by day in a low level clerical job.  Many today say that he was dyslexic.

Jim Carrey
When he was a teenager, he and his family were janitors at Titan Wheels, and they lived in a tent on their aunt's lawn. The first time he got onstage to do his act at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club he bombed. He bombed big time. Two years later Jim returned to Yuk Yuk’s and was great.

Al Pacino
He was rejected for the part of Michael in "TheGodfather" a number of times before he won the role.

General Douglas MacArthur
He was turned down admission to West Point two times. He was finally accepted on his third attempt.
Beatrice Wood (artist)  She experienced numerous failure, poverty and bad marriages before her success as an artist later in life-- she is the inspiration for
Katherine in the novel "Jules et Jim" and for the older Rose in the film  "Titanic" (details are outlined in her autobiography "I Shock Myself")
Michael Jordan
He was
was cut from his high school basketball team.
Sylvester Stallone He was rejected over 50 times for Rocky. The directors and producers wanted Ryan O'Neal to star in Rocky.
Gone With the Wind The movie was rejected by the studios 20 times before a studio finally agreed. Dirty Dancing The movie was rejected initially, the producers were told to burn the negative and collect the insurance....a $5mill dollar budget gave them over $70 mil in the first 8 months of release.
Oprah Winfrey
Spent the spent her first six years living in rural poverty with her Grandmother.
At age six, Winfrey moved to an inner city ghetto in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her mother, who was less supportive and encouraging than her grandmother.

The Wright Brothers- Coming Soon

Montel Williams
Coming Soon!!!

sources:Chicken Soup for The Soul Series; Awaken The Giant Within-by Tony Robbins and Autobiographies; and Wikipedia

Check Out "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch." on CNBC
(M-F, Sunday, 10 p.m. ET)

Never Give Up!

Do you know someone that has overcome great obstacles? Send me an email at with the person's name, the obstacles they faced and overcame and how they succeeded. Let's see how large we can make this page!