10 famous failures, 10 dreams fulfilled

I’ve written about how failure is actually your greatest ally in life.

But of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.

When you reach the point of “failing” and actually feel like you have to give up, it’s not going to feel good at all. In fact, you may even feel depressed, or suicidal.

It takes a lot of courage and strength to pick yourself up and continue fighting for your dreams.

I’ve come up with a list of 10 famous failures, people who have screwed up major at some point in their lives and despite the odds, found the strength to fight on.

Now, the question is: For a dream to be fulfilled, is it mandatory for you to actually “fail” and then go through a pain period? Must you absolutely feel like shit just so you can humble yourself and learn a bunch of lessons that would then prepare you for success?

Me thinks… yes.

That being said, don’t get too discouraged when you experience the pain of failure. If you feel the pain, you’re probably headed in the right direction. Also notice how the failures below come in all shapes and sizes.

10 famous failures, 10 dreams fulfilled

J.K. Rowlingย 


The failure: At a point in her a life Rowling was nearly penniless, depressed, divorced and had to raise her child on her own. She was also on welfare back then while writing up the manuscript of Harry Potter. Adding to that, 12 publishers rejected the manuscript.

Success: She created Harry Potter, a global brand estimated to be worth $15 billion today.

Jerry Seinfeld


The failure: The first time Jerry Seinfeld went on stage at a comedy club, he was booed off stage.

The success: Determined, he went back to the same the next night to perform a successful set. Jerry Seinfeld saw success with his hit TV show Seinfeld and is now a famous comedian today.

Oprah Winfrey


The failure: Was fired from her television reporting job as she was deemed not suitable for television.

The success:ย Became what some might say the undisputed queen of television with her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah was viewed as an influential figure who inspired people with positive and uplifting messages. She’s also a billionaire.

Michael Jordan


The failure: Was cut from his high school basketball team.

The success: Became the greatest basketball player in history. He never let failure stop him.

โ€œI 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.โ€ – Michael Jordan

Albert Einstein


The failure: His teachers called him “slow” and “mentally handicapped”. He also didn’t speak until he turned 4 and didn’t read until he was 7. (That must have been extremely damaging to the soul as a kid).

The success: He won the Nobel prize in physics.

Colonel Hardland David Sanders


The failure: Despite having the now-famous fried chicken recipe, he was rejected 1008 times before a restaurant took it in. 1008! Oh and he also went to all 1009 restaurants on his own by driving his van and sleeping in it.

The success: You see it yourself today. KFC is a worldwide brand in the fast food industry and the finger-licking good chicken is here to stay.

Clint Eastwood


The failure: In 1954 Clint Eastwood was fired from Universal Studios when a couple of studio executives noticed his Adam’s apple was too big.

The success: He’s a badass today. And he has directed and starred in many movies.

Marshall Bruce Matters III “Eminem”


The failure: Dropped out of high school and had personal struggles with drugs and poverty. He also failed in a suicide attempt once.

The success: Is now one of the best-selling artists in the world, selling more than 100 million albums worldwide.

Steven Spielberg


The failure: His dream of making movies was put in danger when he was rejected by the University of Southen California, three times.

The success: You know him. He’s a world-famous film director with many movies under his belt.

Stephen King


The failure: His first book, Carrie was rejected 30 times. He proceeded to throw it in the trash.

The success: It was his wife who retrieved it from the trash and encouraged him to try again. And he’s another one you know! He’s the king of horror and his books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.

It’s going to hurt when you fail

But the champions pull through and rise up above the rest.

That’s why they rock and enjoy all the success they have today.

Ever failed and gone through a pain period? Let me know how you got over it in the comments.


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  1. Anthony Lee - January 16, 2013 4:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this. This is what I needed. Truly. Thanks.

    • alden - January 16, 2013 6:14 pm

      No prob Anthony!

      How have you been my man?

      • Anthony Lee - January 19, 2013 12:31 am

        I am good. Just super busy. Me and a friend are trying to get a web design/ hosting business off the ground. Been trying to learn as much as possible about html, css, graphic design, etc…while trying to find time to write. Getting close to revamping my book site, and launching a new site, and making how-to screen cast blogs for another tech site.
        So…..everything is coming along…just slowly.
        You? You been busy with your coaching? You decided to go in search of freelance writing opportunities? What fills your days?

        • alden - January 20, 2013 8:20 am

          Yo man,

          Nah man I didn’t even promote the coaching. Not my thing. Yeah I’m gonna start looking in freelance. I just left my part time job!

          Well you know if you aren’t passionate about certain aspects about work you should outsource them. I don’t know shit about design so I outsource it to my designer from India.

  2. Kie - January 17, 2013 7:31 am

    Oh wow, that’s absolutely amazing! Really inspires you to just keep on going no matter what life throws at you!

    • alden - January 17, 2013 3:10 pm

      Hey Kie,

      Yep! Just keep going at it. Welcome the pain! Embrace the uncertainty. Eventually it’d all blow over.

  3. Lusiyo - January 17, 2013 9:17 am

    Writing to you crying with emotions, i will forever remember you for this brilliant piece of collection,many heart felt thanks!

    • alden - January 17, 2013 3:10 pm

      Don’t cry yo!

      Glad it helped. Fight on.


  4. nick - January 17, 2013 9:56 am

    you keep me inspired, and bringing in the examples of people who have failed before………..later turned great? man u nailed it.
    I have always given the example of Colonel Sanders but i did not have his history on the failing part.
    Feel good

    • alden - January 17, 2013 3:11 pm

      Thanks Nick!

      Got to admit, it was my own take at the category of Famous Failures though. Do a Google search if you want more inspiration okay?


  5. Dana - January 17, 2013 8:18 pm

    Thank you, Alden! It is a great post! We all need inspiration and motivation in order to go on no matter what. Thank you again!!!

    • alden - January 18, 2013 6:20 am

      You’re welcome Dana! No matter what indeed. Welcome the pain… period.

  6. Sharon - January 19, 2013 3:16 pm

    thanks for the post Alden, really needed to read this, feeling like a failure at the moment, need to get some positivity going through my body.

    • alden - January 20, 2013 8:21 am

      Yo Sharon,

      Ahh man why feel that way? Anything I can help you with?

      Fight on Sharon ๐Ÿ™‚ This is your deciding moment. Pull through and you’re all good.

  7. Andrew Ross Long (@DrewRLong) - January 22, 2013 1:44 am

    Hey man, this is a great article. . . incidentally, it seems like JK Rowling has “failed” again, did you hear about her “adult” novel that’s currently flopping hard? That’s an even better example. . . just because someone has “made it” doesn’t mean they’re doing learning ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, just a quick typo alert . . . should be Marshall MATHERS.

    Keep on trucking man!

    • alden - January 22, 2013 6:22 am

      Yo man,

      Haha oh what’s that new novel? I always see it in bookstores today. It’s flopping?!

      Meh I think if anything she would pick her herself up anyway.

      Keep on trucking too!

  8. Pingback: The Most Inspiring Famous Failures | Megafounder

  9. sumit - April 21, 2013 6:04 am

    Thanks for the collection.
    Yes we need to follow your heart n world will follow us.

  10. sumit - April 21, 2013 1:19 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring collections.
    I am struggling and finding difficult in all segments of my life.But I have promised today that I will never look back n come back with very string personality.

    • alden - April 22, 2013 4:03 am

      Go for it.

      • sumit - April 23, 2013 7:35 pm

        Becoming very optimistic person after referring your collections.
        Life has just begun.
        Feeling good and m ready to top the world.

        • ashish - June 12, 2013 6:27 am

          see my page and let me famous…

  11. Gerry - August 12, 2014 3:57 pm

    Fabulous! Many Thanks!

  12. Wessam Elshazli - December 22, 2014 11:32 am

    This is caricature digital painting project about .. ” the famous failures ”
    CHECK IT .. Hope u like it ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Cherilyn - January 6, 2015 8:29 pm

    Thank you! We are doing an inspirational bulletin board at our school and the students are creating portraits of famous failures with a little background to inspire everyone at our school, and to remind them how they need to keep moving forward ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Shiela - September 7, 2015 6:06 am

    Thank you for this article. It really helped me to just do it. Try and not be afraid to fail, and if I do – I’ll keep trying.


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