Failure is a scary word, right? It is that one thing no one wants to come across in life. We strive and stove and work our minds off just so that we need have to say we even came close to that term ever in our lives. But life does not work that way. When there is flow, there has to be ebb.
If we want to achieve something and we are hell-bent on it, we should be prepared to tackle the F-monster. Failure not only makes us stronger in our resolve to achieve that thing we want, but it also shows us that it is not the end of the world. It is rather a test to check our resolve, our willpower.
Look at the most successful people in the world. Do you think they have never had to deal with failure? Do you think they have always seen success with every step of their way? Is that even humanly possible? The answer is no. Every single person has come across their lowest before they saw sky soaring success.
To understand the role of failure better, let us have a look at the biggest and most famous failures of some of the most famous people who overcame their obstacles and moved on from their failures and then went on to change the face of the world with their phenomenal successes. Looking at these famous failures, you will see that no matter how low a failure takes you, you can always come out of it victorious and reach your aimed destination with flying colors.
1. Thomas Edison
This is surely one of the most inspirational and famous failures that turned into a massive success story. Who hasn’t heard of the greatest inventor in history, Thomas Edison, right? Well, you will be truly surprised to find out just how many failures he had to overcome before he could become successful. When he was working on his novel storage battery, it is said that he failed as many as 9000 times in his experiments before he hit the jackpot. His close friend, Walter S. Mallory asked him why he was still trying after having had so many failed experiments to which Edison said his famous line
“ I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Edison’s biggest struggle was when he had to deal with the soaring prices of iron, which was needed for most of his experiments. So he thought of building an iron manufacture plant, which will give mass production of pulverized low-grade iron at a much cheaper price.
After the plant and the supporting town was built, the company couldn’t take through, and Edison lost a lot of money in the entire process. He still didn’t stop and kept on trying to build the plant. After successfully setting up the plant, it was found that mining at the Mesabi iron range in Minnesota brought down the costs of iron massively. He eventually had to close the plant.
A similar failure came across Edison when he thought of the automatic Vote tally system during the Senate session. He successfully created his first-ever patented invention, the electronic vote recorder. But his invention was rejected. We know what came out of the rejection, though. The system we use now to vote is all thanks to the great Edison.
2. Stephen King
This is one of the famous failures that are sure to move you. Probably one of the greatest writers of our times is Stephen King. He has a success story like no other. He started writing in high school and wrote a lot of short stories that sold a few copies, but never enough. He worked many odd jobs to pay his bills. He was also dealing with substance abuse, which brought him down further. When he tried to get his novel Carrie published, all he received was rejection, 30 times to be exact.
He used to pin down all the rejection letters with a nail on his walls, and they reached such an amount that he had to replace the nail with a spike. He got so frustrated with the rejections that he threw out the manuscript in anger.
It was his wife who rescued the manuscript and pleaded with him to give it another try. And we all know what went on from there. Finally, when Carrie got published, it sold over a million copies, which freed King from his day jobs, and he could finally take up writing full time. This is one of the famous failures that are inspirational.
3. Vincent van Gogh
The next of the many famous failures that turned into a success story is Vincent van Gogh. The best way to explain this massively renowned painter is that he was a man who was a failure in life but a success story in death. Quite literally. Vincent van Gogh was a man of many colors. As a boy growing up, he was always searching his calling.
He was always trying something new. He loved nature and would stay lost in his nature walks for hours. He was deeply into Christianity and theology and tried many times to become a pastor but failed the examinations repeatedly.
His parents never fully supported his curiosities and ambitions. His mother often ridicules his paintings, and his father went to the extent of trying to admit him to a mental asylum! It was only his brother, Theo van Gogh, who was there by his side every step of the way. At the age of 27, when Vincent van Gogh decided to leave his day job to take up painting fully, it was Theo who supported him financially and emotionally. But his painting career did not last more than a decade.
During his career, he did not receive any recognition. For that time and age, his art was too bizarre and almost insulting, and people never understood what to do with it. His paintings were not accepted anywhere. After trying and trying for nearly 10 years, while battling with mental illness, Vincent van Gogh took his own life at the ripe age of 37.
His sister in law, Johanna van Gogh made it her life’s mission to make the world aware of the genius that lived inside van Gogh. It was because of this woman’s efforts that today we know the miracle that Vincent van Gogh had been. The man who once couldn’t sell a single one of his paintings now has his paintings get sold for millions across the globe. Only if he lived to see his success!
These kinds of famous failures teach us that if we hold on just for a while longer, with patience, we will be surprised at what life has to offer.
4. J. K. Rowling
The woman who gave us our most beloved round-glassed wizard has one of the most famous failures, which turned into a massive crazy success. When J. K. Rowling first conceived the idea of Harry Potter, she sat to pen it down, but her creative journey was soon interrupted by the tragic death of her mother.
She slipped into depression from which she couldn’t come out easily. She could not work on any job, nor could she continue her book. To force herself out of it, she traveled to Portugal and took up teaching English. This was a time she wanted to dedicate to her self recovery and resume writing her book. She made up her mind to finish the book by the time her trip to Portugal was over.
Things didn’t go as planned. She fell in love while in Portugal, got married and was blessed with a baby girl. But her life turned upside down when her marriage failed, and she ended up alone with a baby. She had to return with no money, no job, and a baby to raise.
She was living off unemployment benefits while fighting depression and raising a child all alone. She used to sit in cafes while her daughter was sleeping and write her book. Despite hitting rock bottom, she didn’t lose faith in her idea and her talent.
She finished the book and went on to send the manuscript of the first three chapters to as many as 12 publishers, all of whom rejected her work. As she was losing confidence, the editor at Bloomsbury publishing company took up her book for consideration. The editor’s eight years old daughter loved the script so much, which made the editor agree to publish the book.
The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone went on to sell over 120 million copies worldwide and made J. K. Rowling, the first female billionaire author in the world. This is one of the famous failures that are inspirational for budding authors
5. Albert Einstein
Einstein wasn’t Einstein from the very beginning of his life, and this is a story of one of the famous failures that are quite unbelievable considering the person in question. He learned to talk at the very late age of 9, which made his parents think that he would be very slow in learning.
He failed at everything he tried. He was irregular in class and would perform poorly in all subjects except mathematics. His professors thought he would not be able to go very far in his life. He performed so poorly in school that he almost decided to stop and sell insurance.
He wanted to go to the Swiss Federal Institute if technology but failed the entrance exam once and had to give it again and finally could get admitted. He was the only one in his batch who graduated without a job offer.
He, later on, he got a job as a patent clerk, where he had to review patents and the mathematical equations in them. This is where he truly started developing and growing his interest and curiosity. He would finish his work quickly so that he could study in peace in his office.
He had published six papers by the age of 26, but no one could him very seriously. It was not until his paper on the theory of relativity was published that the scientific world took notice of his true potential. This is one of those famous failures turned success stories that should inspire budding scientists never to take criticism to heart and keep going.
6. Harland David Sanders
You may not recognize the name, but if I say KFC, I am sure the face will come as clear as day to you. The face behind the revolutionary fried chicken had a life filled with tragedies and is one of the famous failures that turned into a billion-dollar success.
He lost his father when he was 5. His mother struggled to make ends meet from the young age of 10; he had to start working to make ends meet. He had to leave home at an early age of 13 due to frequent clashes with his stepfather. He worked at a local farm with a salary of $10 a month while balancing full-time education. He eventually dropped out of school after completing sixth grade and started working full time.
He then worked odd jobs, which included a brief stint in the army, a streetcar conductor, a railroad fireman, an insurance salesman, a secretary, a tire salesman, a ferry operator, a lawyer, and even a midwife!
His financial instability made his wife leave him with his three children. He lost his son, who was just 20 at that time to blood poisoning, which he contracted during a natural treatment of tonsillectomy. Unable to bear the loss, Colonel Sanders battled depression in his middle age.
He was still struggling when he was working at a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. To make ends meet, he started cooking and selling meals for the customers who stopped by the station. His meals usually consisted of pan-fried chicken, ham, string beans, okra, and hot biscuits.
This was the first time in his entire life that he saw a little bit of success when his customers started increasing, and he became famous for his cooking skills. Eventually, he decided to give cooking a proper try and set up his first restaurant in Kentucky, which the world knows today as Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC.
Success didn’t come so smoothly even after that. He had to fight a lot of battles like his restaurant losing customers due to the highway junction near the place being removed, after which he had to travel from one restaurant to another, begging people to try his chicken.
Legal battles to win the rights over his restaurant and its name, the hardships were endless. But as we know, he overcame all the struggles, and the rest is history. Colonel Sanders died a billionaire. This is definitely one of the most inspirational and famous failures that should teach us that success can come at any age only if you keep trying.