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Top 10 Successful People who have Failed

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

(This article is a guest post by my brother Gene.  Gene has been working with me behind the scenes and on his own internet business for over a year now)

Failure.

That is a word that most people dread.  Everyone wants to be a success.  We want to be liked and admired.

But that dreaded “F” word always pops up. Failure.  This experience is strong enough to make you want to quit and start a new life.

Having an internet business is no different.

Success takes time and effort.  Yes, many times you will fail before you are successful.  Ask just about anybody who has become successful if they have ever failed at any aspect of their journey.  Chances are you will get quite a few stories of missteps and blunders.


The difference between long-term success and failure is the reaction to it.

People who, as Charlie Sheen says are “Winners,” overcome the obstacles.

Yes, failure happens.

Live with it.

Learn from it.

There is a need to change the view on failure.  It is not something that needs to be avoided.  It is a chance to learn something that does not work!

It is not always reaching the destination that defines the man (or woman), but the journey that is taken to get there.  The biggest successes have gone through the biggest failures.

If you are struggling in your internet business…or even if you’re looking for small business opportunities… do not be afraid to try things that are “new” “different” and perhaps even fly in the face of conventional wisdom.  The worst thing that can happen is failure… which is just a chance to learn and grow.

To illustrate the point, here is a list of 10 people who were all hugely successful in their fields.  All of them failed.  Not only did these people fail, but they failed on a massive scale. Yet history still views these successful people who failed as great success stories because they bounced back and succeeded in the end.

Successful People Who Failed:

Thomas Edison: Chances are you have heard of Edison in relation to overcoming failure before.  He was a master of “trial and error”.

When asked about the many thousands of failures he had when trying to create the light-bulb he famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  But there is even more to it than that.  As a child he was thought to be dumb and told that he would never be a success by many of his teachers, because his mind would often wander in class.

Good thing for us that the greatest inventor in history did not listen.

Elvis Presley: You do not need to be a Elvis fan to acknowledge the impact he has had on popular music.  They don’t dub somebody the “King” of a form of music without a great amount of success.

But even for Elvis success came after failure.  His first recordings went nowhere.  After that he tried to join a vocal quartet and was told he, “couldn’t sing”.  Finally, right before he became popular, he was told, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

Michael Jordan: It is hard to imagine it, but the Jordan, who is arguably the greatest basketball player ever, was once cut from his high school team.

As Jordan puts it, “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.”

Vincent van Gogh: Van Gogh paintings these days sell for incredible amounts of money.  Four of his paintings have sold for more than 100 million dollars.

Yet, Van Gogh is a cautionary tale. In his life he was a failure.

He slowly began to build a “reputation” while he was alive, but he also had a ton of critics.  He burned and destroyed many of his paintings out of frustration and was known to only sell ONE PAINTING.

He did not work to overcome his failure and killed himself.  Soon after his death his work began to garner intense critical and financial success.

Stephen King: King was working as a teacher in rural Maine when he wrote his first novel, “Carrie”.  King had some small success selling short stories previously, but nothing that anyone could create a “career” on.  King submitted “Carrie” 30 times.  King was rejected 30 times.  Before his 31st attempt he threw the manuscript out.  His wife rescued it from the round file and asked him to try one more time.  The rest…is history.

Fred Astaire: During his first screen test an RKO executive noted that Astaire, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”  Despite this initial rejection, Astaire persevered and ended up becoming one of the top actors, singers and dancers of his generation.

Abraham Lincoln: If Lincoln quit when the going got tough, the world might be a very different place.  As a young man Lincoln entered military service in the Black Hawk war as a captain.  Yet left as a private.

With very little formal education, Lincoln taught himself and became a lawyer and congressman.

His real rise to “national” prominence could also be viewed as a, “failure”.  In 1858 Lincoln tried for a seat in the Illinois senate.  This led to a series of hotly contested debates.  (The Lincoln-Douglas debates).  Lincoln lost the senate election, but really impressed a lot of the “right” people, even with his loss.   Two years later he ran for president and won.  Thankfully he did not let lack of formal education, initial failure or setbacks rattle him.

Albert Einstein: If asked to name a genius, most people would come up with the name Albert Einstein.  Yet even for Einstein genius did not come easy.  He had speech difficulties as a child and was once even thought to be mentally handicapped.

As a teen he rebelled against his schools reliance on rote learning and failed.  He tried to test into Zurich Polytechnic, but failed again (although he did very well in the math and physics section…as you might expect).  Einstein buckled down, received the requisite training and applied to Zurich Polytechnic again, and of course was accepted.

A few years later he had a PHD and was recognized as a leading theorist.  A few years after that he had a Nobel prize for physics and began to be recognized as the genius of our modern era.

JK Rowling: Rowling is the perfect example that success can come to anyone at any time.  She is now doing the backstroke through a pool of Harry Potter money, but that was not always the case.  Before Harry Potter became a success she was a divorced mother, living on welfare, going to school and trying to write a novel in her spare time.

Rowling herself said she was the “biggest failure I knew” and credits a lot of her success to her failure.

At a Harvard commencement speech Rowling had this to say, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Affiliate marketing Without the BSSteve Scott: Okay, my brother is nowhere near as famous or lauded as the previous nine incredible stories.  But perhaps his story is more apropos to those of you trying to create an internet business.  Steve has had his share of failure.  He will tell you about mistakes he has made.  Buying into silly programs that didn’t work.  Maxing out his credit cards while struggling to make his internet business success.  All sorts of obstacles.

Online success is possible. But it is not easy or instant.  It takes hard work and dedication as well as time.

Don’t doubt yourself.

Obstacles are out there.  They are meant to be overcome.

No adventure worth undertaking is easy.  Everyone who achieves success faces obstacles.  What makes (or breaks) a person is how they react to the obstacles and roadblocks in their life and what they do (or do not do) to overcome these setbacks.

Take a hint from the successful people who have failed and do not let these obstacles hold you back.

Now let me know about YOUR missteps and failures.  What have you learned?

Perhaps some historic figure has inspired you the way that the successful people who have failed above have inspired me.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below

Take Action. Get Results.




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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane@How to use Google+

Very interesting and informative list. Your bro is awesome.

Success without a failure is somewhat useless to me because I cannot learn anything from the happening. More than success it is the “experience” that matters and failures give us a lot of that. However, no one would want to have multiple failures. We have to be quick learners.

Jane.

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Gene

Thanks Jane,

Yes, I agree, my little brother is quite a good guy!

It certainly is important to be a quick learner and if you do fail to really get the most out of it!

-Gene

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Rob Cubbon@Web Designer London

Hey Gene, really great post, and I don’t use the word “great” here lightly (although sometimes I do!) This is a real inspiration. I should bookmark it come back to this post when the going gets tough. I didn’t know even half of these stories, really interesting.

My failures are too many to go into. I was pretty much failing at everything from the age of 22 to 34 because I tried, failed and gave up. The secret, as you say, is to keep on trying and “failing” because at least you learn how NOT to do it, and then you carry on.

Thousand thanks.

Reply

Gene

Rob,

Thanks man! I appreciate the effusive praise! :)

I feel ya! I have had my share of failures. So many that I just have to become an incredibly huge success now!

Like they say, whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

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James Pruitt

Hey Steve, Great post and absolutely spot on. failure is just something that happens, and the difference between the people who hit the really great opportunities and the ones that don’t often depend on how they choose to deal with those events.

Some people take failure as a personal attack. As you said, take it as data of what not to do instead, and you can go far.

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Gene

Thanks James

Failure happens to the best of us. The difference is definitely in the reaction to failure.

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Mark @ TheBitBot Organic SEO & SEM Blog

I always find Einsteins example inspiring as I am a scientist at my day job and I am looking to somehow meld it with IM.

Cool article, Steve…:)

Mark

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Gene

Mark,

I too find Einsteins example very inspiring. Here is a guy that is certainly one of (if not the) smartest guys in the last 100 years, but because he did not conform as a child he was thought to be “slow” by some people.

Hopefully our education system is a little more in tune with understanding people that are smart but do not want to fit a ‘mold’ these days..

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Peggy Baron

Very inspiring, Gene!
I didn’t know that about Fred Astaire. All these people mentioned are… people. They failed, but they didn’t give up. They made it work, sort of like shoving their square selves in round holes. And if they can do it, so can we. Right?! ;)

Peggy

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Gene

Peggy,

You bring up the perfect point. These are all “people” first and foremost. Scratch the surface of 3/4 or the famous and powerful people and similar stories are probably there. They may not be common knowledge, but they exist.

If they can do it, we can too! Absolutely!

-Gene

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Chris

Wow! I didn’t know J.K. Rowling of all people had been the “biggest failure” she knew… That’s the way I feel about myself right now actually. While all my friends just graduated from college, I’m just getting started… But I’m catching up fast. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Gene

Right on Chris!

I never went to college, but I have always been a “reader” and taught myself far more than most people learn in college over the past 20 plus years.

It is not the path you take to get there, but the just the fact that you get there that matters.

Never think of yourself as a failure -or if you did have it be the fire that drives you.

Everyone falls down. It is the getting up that makes a man.

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Tom Ewer

These articles come along fairly regularly (I’m sure I’ll write one at some point ;-)), but I never get bored of them. They are a healthy reminder when you are feeling the pressure of potential failure. You’ve just got to keep pressing on…

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Gene

Tom,

It is nice to have a little inspiration at times. I know I love to read the occasional inspirational article myself.

I know my brother enjoys more specific articles. How to do -this- and -this-. But sometimes it is nice to have an article that makes you feel like YOU can do it too. (because you can!)

Thanks for the comment!
-Gene

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Susane D@Runway Model

Hi Steve,

This was very inspirational. I have been having a tougher time lately and this made me feel a bit better. The only people who don’t fail a lot are the ones that don’t try enough :)
Susane

Reply

Gene

Susane,

Absolutely. It is easy sometimes to get discouraged. But never let failure get you down.

It may be a little trite but, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” really is a true statement!

Reply

Andreas

I don’t any of them as a failure, they may have been a failure at some part in their life but they have ultimately become very successful, But these are only a few.
However many more people are failures and never recover, this is the more realistic image.

Reply

Gene

Andreas,

FOr sure! These are all huge successes.

I agree many people fail and do not recover. But if they picked themselves up…dusted themselves off and tried again; the next time, or the time after that, or even the time after that…they would eventually succeed.

Perhaps not on the level of these incredible successes…but enough to hold their head high.

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Ali Macaluso

What a great list! Had heard of some of them, but was definitely shocked by Elvis and Stephen King. 30 times being rejected!!! Insane…really just goes to show that you have to go with your gut and not listen when people shoot you down. I had heard J.K. Rowling’s story, and also heard that she was almost fired (or actually fired?) from her job because her boss accused her of daydreaming too much. Looks like that daydreaming did her some good ;)

Awesome post!

Reply

Gene

Ali,

Thanks. Glad you liked it. These are just a few of the stories that I heard over the years. (and quickly fact checked before writing the article)

There are so many more.

Natural talent matters a lot..but perserverance is often just as important…and very likely more important.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a great comment.

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ceejay

Inspiring post, Gene! I love how you quoted Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.“ It’s great that you included your brother in this line-up, I find him to be the easiest to relate with. Most of the postings on internet success never delve into the topic of failure. When you think about it, most of us who seek advice to achieve online success are failures to begin with. So it is somewhat reassuring to know that we are not alone in our failures as we strive to achieve a rewarding online career. I have failed many times in this endeavor, but also realizing that with every failure there was a lesson learned.For everyone still struggling and discouraged in this business, take a look at those famous folks who have failed and what a shame it would have been if they decided to give up.

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Calli

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.“ – That is exactly how we should view things in life. Having a positive perspective can really work wonders. I am addicted to Harry Potter but I don’t know anything about Rowling.lol Now I can say that she really deserve all she has now. The story of Harry Potter is “bloody brilliant”!

Reply

Gene

Ceejay,

There is certainly a lot of miss-steps and failures in working online. It is not a cakewalk. Even when you are doing something “right” they rules can quickly change on you.

Being flexible and overcoming these obstacles is essential. Ultimately it can lead to success for those who have the tenacity to stay that course.

-Gene

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Morgan@eBookVoice

Hi Gene!

LOVE this post! I am always on the look out for posts and people that have failed. When I know someone has failed, I know that they have tried. Which means that if we ever decide to do business together, I know that they’re not afraid of the possibility of failure.

Great post!!

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Timo Kiander

Great stuff!

Failure – success in disguise.

It is a misconception that successful people never fail – they do.

What they do after they have failed makes the difference. They decide to get up and move on.

This is something that an average person is not doing, because they think that once they failed, there is nothing that can be done anymore.

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paul wolfe

Hey Gene

Been a while…..Steve will almost certainly know this story as he reads the Fantasy Genre.

in the late 70s a writer called Stephen Donaldson wrote a very dark fantasy trilogy called The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant. The main character – he’s definitely NOT a hero, he does some bad shit – is a leper.

The trilogy was rejected at least 50 times. Donaldson had one bite when a major publisher said they’d be willing to consider it if he’d change the main character’s illness from leprosy to Asthma! (The leprosy is absolutely integral to the story).

Eventually he got published – and the books became a smash.

There’s a great post that touches on this here:

http://www.berklee-blogs.com/2011/07/john-mayer-2011-clinic-manage-the-temptation-to-publish-yourself/

It’s a Berklee school of music student’s post about a masterclass by John Mayer. Who knew John Mayer was this smart (because the media portray him as a dumb ass). Go check it out – you’ll enjoy it.

Finally, a quote for you:

“Failure is a cul-de sac on the road to success.” Peter Guber.

Without failure, success is meaningless….I could go on…

L8r.

Paul

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Lesley from lesley writes

Gene, this is a great post. I’ve written one that was similar, but your was better because you gave us examples we can all relate to.
I am a huge failure. I started an internet store, poured huge amounts of time and effort into it, it went nowhere and I lost, big time.
I am still learning from that experience, and trying to work out where to go next. The only comfort I have, and it is actually a big comfort, is that the only way is up. Thanks for showing me that others made it, so I can think of specifics when I really get down.

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Mario

What a great post. It is exactly what I need now that I’m struggling with my online bussines. I guess that many people fail trying to make a buck online because they think that this is a “make money while you sleep” world and if you fail you’re just dumb…

Reply

Turner

Inspiring quote from Michael Jordan, and was shock by his story. Didn’t expect he would have many failures in the past. There are many people who are afraid of failure and end up failing in the end. We must accept that this is part of life, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously,but we should look as failure as a trial and an opportunity to prove that we can still figh.

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Matthew Needham

Steve, great post. Some really inspirational stories here. There is an inventor in the UK called James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner (I don’t know know if you have it in the US?) anyway, he failed 4000 times in inventing his cyclone vacuum cleaner. Lesson is don’t give up.

For some folks though, giving up is not an option and whenever I need inspiration I look to Nick Vujicic – great inspirational video here:

http://bigredtomatocompany.co.uk/posts/need-some-encouragement/

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Tom

Steve-

Thanks for highlighting so many ‘failures!’ I am tired of seeing so many people give up when things get hard. We’ve gotten used to things happening fast…popcorn, drive-thrus, Google, etc…that we need reminders of people like Lincoln & Edison to show us what HARD WORK is.

I would love for others to share their stories about how they needed to show uncommon effort in order to reach their goals…

All are welcome to share their story at http://motorhard.com/motor-manifesto

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Duy

Gene, thanks for this wonderful post man :D

All of the above 10 people are really great. They know the secret to success. It’s to stand up every single time after falling down. And I think the person #10 is the best one to learn from. As he’s doing exactly what I’m trying to do lol!

Again, thanks for the great post, have a nice day both of you!

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Steve Scott

Thanks Duy,
:)

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TheGIJo

hello! I’m really dreading right now. For the past 3 years, I’ve been failing a lot. I flunked law school, flunked my thesis subject, uncertain if I could still enroll this school year, I got a job on a place which is the least of my options ( I resigned for law school), I’m kinda losing hope. Hope you could advice me. I’m thinking what kind of good am I? I think I’m good at screwing up things. I’m even thinking that I’m cursed. Hope you could advice me. thanks!

twitter: @thegijo

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Will

Very inspirational list! It’s nice to see that even successful people had to overcome their failures in order to get to where they are. One thing I’ve learned that’s helped me continue on my internet marketing journey is that I should fear regret more than I fear failure. Great read!

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Dane

What a great post!! This’s really mean to the FAILURE who feel hopeless in their life. Without the hardship, you will never learn anything and success will mean nothing to you. Though no one wish not meet that time, we can’t avoid it but we must try to overcome it. That’s called life.

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Abass Toriola

Hello Steve,

This post is very inspiring. I particularly love Thomas Edison’s perception of failure made manifest by his words: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

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Rocky

Hello! Steve
I have a great problem .i got success at last ( sort of luck from last 2 years) but have to face many problems throughout the year thing is that I get more motivation from every success but as get no result even after hard work I get demoralised after a failure and my mind sets that what to do after so much study as I get no result and begin to think that how I can reach my destination as I am dull and lot of competitors are before me to be selected

Reply

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