41 — Steve Jobs
Born in 1955, the late Steve Jobs was an iconic billionaire, inventor and entrepreneur responsible for the one of the most renowned and successful companies to have ever been created — Apple Computers. Yet, Jobs’ life was filled with failure. Before fame ever graced him and his name become synonymous with success, he suffered through an enormous number of setbacks.
In his earliest days, Jobs felt unwanted. He was put up for adoption by his mother and was raised by a blue-collar couple in Palo Alto, California. He dropped out of college and started taking the courses that were most interesting to him rather than trying to complete his degree. Afterwards, he opted to travel the world and see places like India where he would study Zen Buddhism.
In 1976, Jobs co-founded Apple Computers with his friend, Steve Wozniak. The company was highly successful. However, in 1983, Jobs hired John Scully from Pepsi to helm the company as CEO, which ended up being one of the worst decisions he had ever made. After a disagreement with Scully, and a foiled plan by Jobs to oust the new CEO, Jobs resigned from Apple and quit, taking 5 employees with him to start his new business venture, NeXT.
That disheartening period helped to embolden Jobs. While Apple was fledgling and would eventually be on the verge of bankruptcy, NeXT thrived. Ultimately, NeXT was acquired by Apple in 1997 bringing him back into the fold of a now-struggling company.
42 — Steven Spielberg
Born in 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Steven Spielberg is an American Academy Award-winning director, producer and entrepreneur responsible for some of the biggest and most successful movies and movie franchises in history such as E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jawsand Jurassic Park.
After his parents’ divorce, Spielberg moved to Los Angeles, California with his father where he applied to the University of Souther California’s film school, but was rejected for his poor grades, instead opting to attend the less-prominent California State University at Long Beach.
In 1979, Spielberg released a film that flopped, entitled 1941. He had been riding high on the success of his previous films such as Jaws. Although 1941 was not a financial failure, it was a critical failure, and resulted in the loss some of Spielberg’s notoriety at the time.
Ultimately, however, Spielberg refused to give up, even after that major failure. He could have called it quits, but he refused to do so. He pushed forward, and because of it, we’ve had some incredible blockbusters such as Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and so many more.
43 — Sylvester Stallone
Born in 1946, Sylvester Stallone is an American actor and director best known for his role as Rocky Balboa in the hit boxing film, Rocky.Stallone moved to New York City in the 1970’s to pursue his dream of being an actor. However, all he seemed to face was rejection, failure and a string of people telling him he talked funny, walked funny and couldn’t act.
He was broke at the time. It was during this period that he was forced to sell his dog for $25 just to pay for his electricity bill. He had been rejected 1,500 times by talent scouts, agents and everyone in the film industry that he could get a meeting with. He would sit for hours on end in offices just to wait to the see the person who would ultimately reject him again. He did this repeatedly, over and over.
Eventually, this wore on Stallone. He was broke and homeless. He lived and slept in the New Jersey Port Authority bus terminal for three weeks while trying to scrimp and save money together for another apartment. He was just about as desperate as anyone could be in their lives.
After writing the script for Rocky, he was offered a tremendous amount of money with one caveat — that he not star in the film. The offer was raised as high as $325,000 with the condition that he not act in the film. He refused time and again. Eventually, he accepted just $35,000 and a percentage of the film’s sales. That film grossed over $200 million in the box office!
44 — The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock group that formed in 1960 and have since gone on to sell over 1.6 billion records worldwide, with over 600 million records being sold in the United States, and are considered to be one of the most popular musical groups in history. Its members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
However, The Beatles once considered themselves failures. On New Year’s Eve in 1961, the group drove in a snowstorm to Decca Recording Studios to lay down 15 tracks based on songs that they were already performing, which was a mashup of R&B and Rock tunes.
Still, it was Dick Rowe, an A&R that was there to hear their sound, who stated that they would never succeed. Specifically, he said that “guitar groups were on their way out.” Five months later, the group received the big break they had been hoping to receive. and signed with George Martin from Parlophone and released their first in a string of hits late that year entitled, Love Me Do.
While others might have gotten discouraged during the rejections and the failures faced by the group, they didn’t falter. They didn’t throw in that proverbial towel. They knew deep down inside that they were bound to be famous and that it was just a matter of time as long as they didn’t give up.
45 — Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison is an American inventor and entrepreneur born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio, one of seven siblings in a very large family. Edison was home schooled by his mother and developed hearing problems early on in life. He was trained to use the telegraph after a train almost struck the son of a station agent who was so grateful that he taught Edison how to use the system, eventually leading to a job working for Western Union.
In 1877, at the age of 30-years old, Edison invented the phonograph, an invention that was so magical that it made the public dub him with the name “The Wizard of Menlo Park.” In 1878, just a year later, Edison began working on a commercially-viable incandescent lightbulb that would be both long-lasting and highly efficient by not drawing too much energy to operate.
Thomas Edison went through thousands of iterations to make this dream a reality. In fact, he failed over 10,000 times trying to invent a commercially-viable electric bulb. At one point, when asked by a reporter whether he felt like a failure after so many failed attempts. He said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Edison had a huge impact on society, holding 1,093 patents to his name at the time of his death. His work in a number of fields created the basis for much of the technologies that we enjoy today and take for granted. However, like anyone else, he suffered through failure numerous time, but where others quit, he persisted.
46 — Vincent Van Gogh
Born in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most influential painters in modern history, and is accredited with painting some of the most notable works of art in all time. Throughout his life, Van Gogh created 2,100 various pieces of art, which included 860 oil paintings, most of which were painted within the last 2 years of his life.
However, during Van Gogh’s brief 37 years of existence, prior to committing suicide in 1890, he had only sold a total of one painting. Yes, just one painting. For the most part, Van Gogh considered himself a failure and didn’t feel that life was worth living. That also could be because much of his life was lived steeped in poverty and battling mental illnesses.
While Van Gogh suffered through psychosis and delusional states, his bold impressionist work and dramatic brushstrokes have resonated with the art community. While he only sold one piece of art prior to his death, he had only begun the bulk of his oil paintings just two years prior to committing suicide.
Still, it’s clear that Van Gogh was a true genius, with an unending imagination and talent to transform the pictures in his mind into wild landscapes and portraits filled with illustrative brushstrokes and bold impressionistic vibrancy.
47 — Walt Disney
Walt Disney, born in 1901, is the beloved founder of the Walt Disney Company, quite possibly one of the most famed companies in the world throughout history. However, Disney’s road towards success wasn’t easy; it was paved with a number of failures and setbacks that included bankruptcy.
1919, Disney had taken a job with the Kansas City Star, the local newspaper, when he was fired by the editor for lacking imagination and having no good ideas. Later Disney started a company called Laugh-O-Gram, producing cartoon animations. His biggest client at the time was Newman’s theaters, one of the largest theater chains. His cartoons were shown at the start of the films at Newman’s theaters and were dubbed the “Newman’s Laugh-O-Grams.”
However, his success with Laugh-O-Gram was short-lived. The money earned didn’t provide enough income to keep the company afloat, and in 1923 it declared bankruptcy. Subsequently, Disney moved to Hollywood in 1923 when he was just 22-years old, where his brother Roy was living at the time.
With the help of Roy, they formed the Disney Brothers Studio, which later became called the Walt Disney Company. The company was formed to produce animated films. However, it wasn’t until 1928, five years later, when Disney created Mickey Mouse, when things really started to take off, but not before experiencing a number of gut-twisting failures and setbacks.
48 — Winston Churchill
Born in 1874, Winston Churchill is famously known as being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 26th, 1951 through April 6th, 1955, and is often credited with several very popular quotes about failure such as “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” and, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
In 1893, Churchill applied to attend the Royal Military College in Sandhurst. He failed that exam 2 times, and on the third try, he succeeded, but only after changing from the infantry division to the cavalry division, which had a lower threshold for entrance. However, he excelled during his tenure there.
During his political career, he lost a total of 5 elections, including his very first one, which included three elections in a row during the years of 1922 through 1924. Throughout his life, he battled clinical depression. He also had a severe lateral lisp, and had trouble speaking and making speeches at times, having dentures manufactured to help repair the impediments his speech caused.
However, Churchill was also one of the most successful and renowned politicians to have ever lived.